Transfiguration is a beautiful word, calling to mind the story of the transfiguration of Jesus as recorded in the Christian Gospels of Mark, Matthew & Luke. The story goes that Jesus is dramatically changed and in the vision of his transfiguration, the truth of his inner being revealed. I’ve always loved the story, not only for what it teaches me about the great spiritual master, Jesus, but also for what it communicates to me in my depths.
For those of us who toil in this imperfect world where often we see more of our barbarous instincts played out in our day-to-day life, I cling to this story as one of hope. What it tells me is that as I work on my spiritual life, as I mature in knowing myself in my walk with the Holy and enter into the intimate depths of life in the Divine, transfiguration is also a gift for me.
Simply defined, transfiguration means that something or someone has experienced the gift of metamorphosis. Now, metamorphosis is a zoological term referring to the process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages, as it occurs, for example, in the lives of insects and amphibians. In the human creature, in us, it depicts our own maturation process in the life of the Spirit, a change in ourselves to something that is completely different from what we’ve known. Herein lies the hope. My goal in life is to become, as Rumi has so beautifully put it, a wonderfully surrendered person, a person surrendered (1) to my own inner depths and instincts, befriending those aspects of myself and offering them a place at the table where they no longer have power over me and (2) to God so that the Holy Mystery can do its work upon my heart. When that happens, and it is a befriending and surrendering that is ongoing, I become a changed person.
I’ve just returned from the Spring Intensive at The Haden Institute where I’m studying the deeper aspects of the art and craft of Spiritual Direction. I’ll be writing about this experience over the next few weeks sharing stories and insights. I have to say that this was one of the most powerful intensives I’ve attended where many seeds of transfiguration were sown. Our two main speakers were Poet Laureate of North Carolina, Cathy Smith Bowers and Dean Emeritus of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Rev. Alan Jones. Cathy and Alan are extraordinary sowers of insight and transformation. For me, each session built upon the other, bringing me to a deeper communion with God and a deeper knowing of myself in relationship to God.
With Cathy, we explored the use of poetry in Spiritual Direction and had two small group sessions where she shared her process of writing and helped us begin to write our own poetry using active imagination to call forth the deep and abiding images in our unconscious. Once called forth, we began a holy dialogue.
Alan’s presentation focused on the crisis of faith in our time and invited us into a dialogue on the human condition as we struggle to live faithfully in our technology-driven and media-saturated world. Alan also presided over the Eucharist on two different occasions, one of which moved the entire congregation, gathered in the chapel, to tears. The words and symbols were deep and rich and touched a tender place, a place of yearning, in all of us.
I am still processing the events of those five days and learning something new with each pondering. It was five days apart, immersed in the gift of transfiguration. I’m looking forward to sharing the treasure with you.