All Saints Sydenham
The Eclipse and the Transfiguration
8th August 1999
On Wednesday of this week shortly after 11 o'clock in the morning a remarkable event is going to take place.
There is to be a total eclipse of the sun visible from this country - the first time this has happened for over 70 years and something which won't happen again until the year 2090.
The Moon will pass between the earth and the sun, cutting out most of the light. Even if it's a cloudy day darkness will fall, birds and animals and flowers will think that night has come and even some of the street lamps will switch themselves on as a result.
All told it will be a remarkable event which will serve to remind us how dependent we are on the light not only for seeing things but also for the way we regulate our lives. Light and darkness help us to get into a rhythm which is only broken by an event such as next Wednesday's eclipse.
The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ can be thought of as an eclipse in reverse. In the presence of three chosen followers, Jesus briefly revealed his glory upon the Holy Mountain. It's as if the veil of humanity which served to conceal his divine glory from men's eyes was for a short time drawn aside in such a manner that St John and St Peter, writing separately of their experience many years later Peter could say "we beheld his glory" and John adds "glory as of the only begotten them of the Father, full of grace and truth".
It's not everyone who looks at Jesus Christ who recognises either the grace or truth revealed in him. Pontius Pilate for example asked "what is truth?" (but did not stay for an answer!). Saint John reminds us that Jesus said there are many people who prefer darkness "because their deeds are evil". It's only those who "live by the truth" who "have no fear of coming in to the light so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God".
This is particularly true in an age such as ours when people ask questions like "is from evant?" Or "what does this mean for me?" Rather than "is this true?".
Curiously enough this fashion for ignoring the truth can be traced back to that movement in human thought which started in the 17th century and called itself (so of all things) so the Enlightenment!
For it was the followers of the so-called Enlightenment who were most keen to do away with what God has revealed to us about himself and to put in its place the Human Reason as the supreme guide to what is true or false and its "discoveries" as being beyond doubt.
Now to say this isn't to deny that human reason has a very important part to play in discovering certain aspects of the truth. All that we know about eclipses, for instance, we know as a result of human reason or scientific methods of observations by people like Isaac Newton.
The error of the Enlightenment was to suppose that the only truth that matters are the ones which are discernible by human reason alone. The fact is that the really important truths about "life death and the meaning of it all" have been revealed to us by God, not discovered by human reason.
Of course, once they've been revealed we humans have not only a right but a duty to bring our reason and intellects to bear upon these truths. But that sort of "Enlightenment" is something quite different from what the philosophers of the 17th century were talking about. It's more an "enlightened appreciation" or something we've been given rather than worked out for ourselves.
This is perhaps best illustrated by the two other persons who appeared at the Trans figuration, Moses and Elijah and the Voice which spoke from the Cloud which covered them and said "this is my Beloved Son, listen to him".
For Moses and Elijah, Lawgiver and prophet respectively, were men who recognised better than anyone that it was only by man paying attention to God that the truth could become apparent. Though neither Moses nor Elijah are during his lifetime was made party to the Supreme truth of God's plan for mankind, the incarnation of God the Son as Jesus Christ "reconciling the world to himself" they knew that by laying themselves open to the truth in whatever measure God chose to reveal it to them, they stood an infinitely better chance of making sense of things than their contemporaries him who were guided by their instincts to do whatever they happened to feel like doing.
The Law and the Profits as St Paul said are like Schoolmasters to bring us to Christ. In the darkness of this world we can only walk safely if we have the light which God has provided us with.
Next Wednesday's an eclipse should remind us that the Enlightenment is not something we can take for granted. The shadow of death will overtake each one of us all rural later, and it was about his own forthcoming death that Jesus was heard talking with Moses and Elijah, you remember.
"Whoever believes in him though he die yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in him shall not die eternally
Faced with death the Sons of Enlightenment just don't have anything to tell us. It's just a tragic fact. It's the Sons of Light to whom the answer to the greatest mystery of life has been revealed by God in Jesus Christ who is the resurrection and the life in all my also have a believes shall live though he die.
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