Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Matthew 17:1-4
We’ve all had those “mountain-top” experiences. Ones that touch us so profoundly we don’t ever want the moment to end. Peter, in the presence of Jesus gloriously transfigured before them, tries to prolong the experience, “I will make three tents here.” How we long to pitch our tents, not just on the mountain tops of a glorious experience, but on the heights of our deepest desires and longings. If we truly understood what is offered to us poor fallen creatures, however, I believe we would take those tents, safely secure them to our backs, and trudge forward, never veering from our goal. C.S. Lewis captures our struggle perfectly when he wrote,
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” The Weight of Glory, pp 3-4.
What then is the infinite joy offered us? Redemption, yes. But it goes far beyond that singular act of redemption in Christ’s self-giving love on the cross. We are to share in the very life and love of the Trinity – eternally. “God became man that man might become God,” stated St. Athanasius. Christ’s Incarnation united the divine with humanity and “bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature.” (2 Pet 1:4) The words of St. Gregory of Nyssa show the extent of what grace can do,
“once he is adopted by the God of the universe as a son, he becomes part of the family of that Being…. Man surpasses his nature: mortal, he becomes immortal; perishable, he becomes imperishable; fleeting, he becomes eternal; human, he becomes divine.”
Divine, glorified. Not even the angels, pure spirits who behold the very face of God, share in God’s own Divine Nature. Have we ever contemplated the depths of what this means? Although the angels are exceedingly superior creatures than we are in the order of nature, humanity is higher by the order of grace. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae) We won’t just be spectators in heaven, watching the angels glorify God while we sit clothed in white robes in a state of ecstasy (although that paints a lovely picture). We are given the gift of divine participation in the eternal – what C.S. Lewis calls the “Great Dance.” God wrote His love story on our hearts to have us yearn for that very thing.
“We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it…At present… [w]e cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get in.” C.S. Lewis
Yes, God willing, we will dance. Our death is inevitable. Our life here is our choice. We can continue to make mud pies, thinking we are or will be filled and satisfied. Or we can venture out of the mud. We can start searching for that which is a foretaste of the promises God so very much wants to lavish upon us. The question at the heart of it all, is this – can we hold out? Can we let our hearts yearn a little while longer? And when we foolishly stop to make mud pies, can we learn to let them go and set our sights once again on the One who waits to dance with us?
I’ve splashed and played in the mud most of my life, eating my fill of my carefully crafted mud pies. I’ve felt the hunger that has never been satisfied. I’ve set my eyes on His promises, steadfastly marching forward, only to end up face first in the mud. But I know He waits. He waits patiently while I am foolish and stubbornly play in the mud. He waits with longing, hoping to take me into His loving arms. He waits for the day when He will lovingly gaze into my eyes asking, “May “We Dance?”
“You steady me
Slow and sweet, we sway
Take the lead and I will follow Finally ready now
To close my eyes and just believe That You won’t lead me
Where You don’t go
When my faith gets tired
And my hope seems lost
You spin me round and round And remind me of that song
The one You wrote for me And we dance”
Bethel Music, Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger
(For a more in-depth discussion and understanding of the topics raised in this reflection, read The One Thing is Three by Father Michael Gaitley)