I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the upcoming Feast of the Transfiguration, namely because the feast is really under appreciated and examined in our harried and busied 21st century lives. The celebration is really the zenith point in Jesus’ earthly ministry, whereas Jesus is actually transformed by the power of the Father and offers us believers an anticipated view of the glory of the Resurrection. There is a lot going on here with Jesus on Mount Tabor. Jesus is actually revealed in the fullness of his humanity and divinity by the power of the Father and we are witnesses to the transformation of Jesus into the embodiment of the God/Man as the physical embodiment of the Deity. God’s light shines in Jesus Christ and the light brightens the world and our cognitive reality of what it means to be forever changed through our faith in the life of the Father. Just as Jesus’ natures of God/Man are fully revealed, our own humanity meets the life of God through the sacramental transformation of Jesus’ body and blood into the sacred Body and Blood that sustains all of us in our Catholic Sacramental life and journey. Bread and wine are transformed into Body and Blood and God Himself gives us God Himself as the embodiment of his love.

Transfiguration for Jesus is a metanoia, a complete and remarkable change that allows Him to offer Himself fully to the process of transfiguration, that is freely and without any reservations. As Catholic Christian believers we sometimes have a difficult time with freely and fully offering ourselves to the Father in order to be transformed. We are afraid of what will happen to us if we abandon ourselves to prayer and allow ourselves to be transformed into a new creation. Part of the difficulty arises with the fact that we are not quite comfortable in yielding up our entire essence of existence to an unknown God, so we might be recreated in a glorified form. However we do this every time we participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we offer our most intimate selves to the power of Jesus’ unconditional beliefs in the Father’s love, mercy and power and through his offering of himself to God, and we are also transformed through bread and wine, Body and Blood into participants in God’s life and light. This process of offering ourselves to Christ, who in turn offers us to the Father, is the perpetual transfiguration that happens in our lifelong process of transfiguration and conversion. Each time we partake of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, God is again and again transforming us through his divine love.

If this process of metanoia and conversion is such a positive experience for the life of the Catholic through our sacramental participation, why is it so difficult to experience? It seems that part of the human condition we call sin keeps us from committing ourselves fully to the life, light and love the Father offers us through Jesus Christ. Our nature as finite human beings sometimes does not lend itself to the positive development of a totally trusting and open relationship with each other and God. This I suppose is the direct result of the transgressions of Adam and Eve, original sin, which while forgiven through Baptism still partially obscures our objective comprehension of the Father’s love and mercy. In a sense, while it is forgiven, we never fully recover from the effects of original sin and wage an internal and external battle with its results throughout our entire faith inspired lives. However the Eucharist offers us a source that assists us in our constant progression towards the light of the Father’s love in so far as it offers both nourishment and participation…even for just a brief moment in the life of the Father.

We also participate in a material sort of Transfiguration when we enter into our Catholic Churches, our Sacred Spaces that permit us to “go aside” from the secular world and spend time in the kairotic or grace filled world of God through our sacramental rituals. One of the main reasons, I believe that we are constantly looking for a better form of our expression of faith is our desire to build churches that offer us a “sacred place” in which we might transform and be transformed through our ritual actions and sacramental observations as Catholics. Simply put, our physical Church buildings are themselves a lasting example of our desire to achieve a personal and ontological transfiguration which brings us closer to God. That is why it is critical for us as Catholics, and as faithful believers to design, build and maintain great places of worship that evoke both God’s life and His mystery in our ecclesial buildings.

The 20th century embodiment of our Catholic Churches neglected wholly or in part to appreciate this deeply seated theological pursuit of an appreciation of God’s sacred light and life. Maybe that’s why we lost a strong sense of the sacred in our Church buildings and architecture, God’s life was secularized through our inclusion of secular art and architecture in our Churches, our sacred buildings became merely gathering places for religious activities. What we need in our Catholic life in this new millennium is a restoration of a sense that God’s light and life is inexplicit ably powerful and consumes all of our human senses with our inability to adequately describe and illustrate our place of Transfiguration, our local Catholic Churches. Frequently when I write about issues and Catholic issues specifically, the entire notion of renewal and Transfiguration always comes to mind. As a practicing Catholic I am convinced that the renewal of the Catholic Church in the United States and the world will be successful only if we have a personal and institutional transfiguration that identifies us Catholics as a people set apart, just like on Mount Tabor and are willing and desire a complete Transfiguration of our Catholic identity to a participation in God’s sacred life and light.

During the past few years there have been many attempts in the American Catholic Church to rekindle the Catholic sense of the sacred in our liturgical art and ecclesial architecture. In particular, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin comes most clearly to mind, as a place where the sacred life of God and the tangible human expression of faith meet in one place. This magnificent church is intended as a place of pilgrimage for Catholics from all over the world to experience the majesty and solitude of Mount Tabor, and at the same time is infused with Catholic expressions and signs of our faith and sacramental love. Initially, this project was conceived by Archbishop Raymond Burke, the Church’s highest juridical authority once removed from the Pope. The project is still under construction and the plans are still evolving around how this Catholic Church might serve as a catalyst for personal and institutional conversion and transfiguration.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin is in this author’s opinion a significant undertaking of resources all directed toward a prayerful reemergence of our Catholic social image and institutional commitment to not only prayer and sacraments, but to the ongoing call to Catholic conversion and Transfiguration towards a deepening understanding of the Church’s Sacraments, it’s Mission and it’s global Ministry.

Ideally, if we as a Catholic community of faith are inspired to transfigure the collective beliefs of the secular world, then we should begin with the place so important and sacred to us, our Catholic Churches of worship. It is really critically essential that we design and build Catholic Churches to reflect, not only our artistic and cultural heritage as Catholics, but churches that resonate our daily need for reflective and prayerful places in which to worship. It seems that the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine encapsulates these motives most correctly and with great artistic detail. If indeed, the Catholic evangelization of the world is going to effectively occur, then we need to ignite the fire of the Holy Spirit in our sacred spaces, our Churches, which are our temporal Mount Tabors. The Transfiguration of the Lord not only implies a conversion of heart and mind, but also manifests a conversion of place and time through which we can celebrate and meditate on the Sacred Mysteries of our faith.

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist that writes on Catholic topics and issues. Hugh studied both philosophy and theology at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He writes daily at: http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com & http://catholicsacredarts.com & http://pewsitter.com He writes about Irish Catholic experiences  at http://graysferrygrapevine.blogspot.com  Comments are always welcome @ hugh.mcnichol@trinettc.com

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