Ineffable lightness of being

Our imaginations are capable of and do, quite frequently, conjure up improbable visions, impossible realities, and as often as not are accompanied by inexpressible emotions. In the dark of night, we sleep—and we dream; fantasies are born on wisps, incandescent tendrils which quickly pass, slip away, and fast forgotten. Comes the dawn and dreams are but a distant memory, fading with the rising and the glory of the light.

The Transfiguration of the Lord

Within the soul there is a yearning, an aching need to know, to comprehend the unknowable, to reach beyond our own existence, to somehow touch that ineffable lightness of being which we can never seem to grasp; that existence beyond our own created lowliness which we can only poorly express as God.

There is always mystery in the transcendent which defies all understanding. What fails the mind to comprehend too often leads to resignation; absent means to quantify or measure, to justify or prove, we shake our fists and shout above the silent roar: “Thou cannot be and yet I know thou are.”

We understand, and yet, we do not understand at all. For we cannot describe the indescribable; we cannot know the unknowable; we cannot reach beyond the limits of our small impoverished minds to touch, to see, to imagine the incomprehensible.

We cannot resolve the mystery of the divine, but God, with but a thought, can reveal himself to us. One day he will reveal himself to us; one day we will understand fully as the apostle Paul tells us, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood” (1 Corinthians 13).

For now, we see as in a mirror dimly: indistinct images, blurred visions, through translucent windows. And we anthropomorphize the divine, granting human characteristics to the transcendent, as did Daniel in a dream.

Daniel’s vision was symbolic of being and existence which we can neither understand nor comprehend. The symbolic world becomes a way of speaking about the unseen spiritual realities that permeate the physical world. Manifested throughout history, divine forces work in and through their earthly counterparts, not over or above them.

God’s energy permeates and dwells within all that exists; all which by a single thought he brought into existence. There is a brilliance within all existence that shines forth because of God’s unseen presence. And yet, we largely ignore that which fills every molecule and atom, the presence of that ineffable lightness of being which is God.

It takes no genius to feel the energy that drives all that exists; beneath and within everything there flows a force, a sacred pulse which sustains all which God has so lovingly given thought.

We sense his presence, his energy, and yet, we remain steadfast in our focus upon the material, upon what we can see and touch, what we can vouchsafe to be reality; always seeing as through a mirror dimly, burdened by a darkness that shadows our vision.

We are pilgrims, travelers moving through time toward eternity. It is a long and arduous journey of which there is no turning back, no choice but to continue to our final destination.

Christians, on pilgrimage toward the heavenly city, should seek and think of those things which are above. This duty in no way decreases, rather it increases, the importance of their obligation to work with all men in the building of a more human world.”1

What are we to make of the transfiguration? Unlike Daniel’s dreams and visions, the disciples stood, not asleep, but awake, fully aware of their surroundings. They saw with their eyes and heard with ears; What they recounted was in no way symbolic.

What does Jesus mean when he called himself “the Son of Man?” The presence of Moses and Elijah are obviously important, but why? And the voice, hidden behind a bright cloud, what are we to make of it?

Jesus, as “the Son of Man” sees himself as the one who, before the throne of the Ancient One, receives dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages will serve him and his dominion will last forever, it will never end.

Standing atop Mount Tabor, Jesus is seen talking with Moses who represents the Law and Elijah, the greatest of the Hebrew prophets. But it is the heavenly voice which brings it all into proper focus. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” For the disciples, as it should be for us, this gives us the answer. Everything handed down through the law and the prophets—all that had been communicated before by God—was now fulfilled in the person and teaching of Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of man.

God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 9). And Jesus is the call. Thus, the voice from the clouds says, “Listen to him.”

But what are we called to? What happens if we listen to Jesus? Most of us have been listening for years. Supposedly that is one of the reasons we still show up in church. It’s his call we are heeding. He is our new Moses, our lawgiver. He is our greatest prophet, more glorious for us even than old Elijah. We’ve been listening to him. Now what?

So it is that we want to get on with it, to have things finished once and for all. Let there be a conversion, complete and dramatic. At least let there be some progress. We get tired of waiting. We’ve heard the call over and over, but not much seems to get done.2

As we grow older we begin to think more of the ending than of the beginning. We see the past as more or less complete; we have arrived; we have become all we were meant to be. Abraham was seventy-five when God called him to leave everything he had ever known, gather his family and possessions and travel to where, he did not know; God knew and that was enough.

Abraham and Sarah, our parents in faith, remind us that it is not so much a matter of when this life’s journey ends, as it is a matter of where the great hike of hope takes us.”3

Pope Saint Leo the Great taught that:

In the presence of chosen witnesses the Lord unveils his glory, investing with such splendor that bodily appearance which he shares with the rest of the human race that his face shines like the sun and his clothes become white as snow.

The primary purpose of this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of Christ’s disciples; the greatness of his hidden glory was revealed to them to prevent their faith being shaken by the self-abasement of the suffering he was voluntarily to undergo.

In his foresight, however, he was also laying the foundations of the Church’s hope, teaching the whole body of Christ the nature of the change it is to receive, and schooling his members to look forward to a share in the glory which had already shone forth in their head.

The pages of both covenants agree with one another. He who had been promised beforehand by mysteriously veiled signs was now revealed clearly and distinctly in the radiance of his glory, since, as Saint John says. “The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.”4

Through the transfiguration, Jesus proved his true nature and offered a prelude to his resurrection and ascension into glory. Jesus showed us that night is not forever; it is rather a prelude to day.


Homily #134
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Romans 8:28-30
Matthew 13:44-52


1 Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes: Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, December 7, 1965, § 57.
2 John Kavanaugh, SJ, The Long Haul, The Sunday Website of St. Louis University.
3 John Kavanaugh, SJ, The Long Haul.
4 Pope Saint Leo the Great, Sermon 51, 3-4. 8: PL 54, 310-311. 313.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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