By Denise Trull
In this feast-filled month of August, we celebrate the great beauty of the Transfiguration. I always think of one particular Catechism question on this day. Where is God? God is everywhere. The Catechism could not put it any more simply. As I get older, the truth of that simple answer proves itself profoundly over and over. God is everywhere, and sometimes He appears in striking ways. All our "transfiguration" moments are different — those times when we suddenly see Jesus for who He really is. Sometimes they are like flashes of light. Sometimes they are moments as quiet as Nazareth.
We all encounter the brightness, and it is everywhere if we are attentive. I find God the smaller I go into the world of nature. His power is revealed more to me in the smallest and most delicate of things like flowers hidden in the grass. It is His intimate care of things that moves me, the care He took to make things beautiful for us. He shines there with especial brightness. I have a friend who finds His glory in the stark and suffering inspirations of the French poet Pierre Reverdy, and another friend who feels His presence whenever she holds a baby close to her cheek. Mother Theresa found Him shining up at her in the faces of the poor, St. Thomas found Him in the ordered world of Theological thought. St. Claude de Colombiere found Him most powerfully, not in consolations, but in desolations. St. Teresa, great mystic that she was, found Him revealed among the pots and pans in the kitchen. Some find His brightness in the beauty of music, and cannot contain their souls for the wonder of it.
All these different encounters with God have left traces of brightness on the faces of those who have seen Him in their own little corner of "everywhere.” It's like one big echo called out by one member of the mystical body to another: “He's here! No, He's over here, and here, and here!” And I wonder at the glory of it. Truly, it is good to be here where He continues to "pitch His tent among us” in such sudden and striking ways.
There was a time, however, when one particular transfiguration shone so brightly in my own life that it still gives me pause to this day. It came through my Dad, for whom I pray every year on this feast.
My father always had a great fear of his own death. He was really quite honest about it — that fear. It was a humility in him that I always appreciated and admired, and it has only grown as I get older. He prayed especially to St. Joseph for a happy death every day at the end of his rosary. I remember him doing this.
The shining and glorious Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain was to be the Apostles’ light on a dark Good Friday. It would be a memory that James, John, and Peter could have had flashing through their minds as they sat in the upper room filled with dread — a light that beat back the fear long enough for them to hold on to a tenuous hope in their great testing of faith. Jesus brighter than the sun. They remembered it together perhaps and forced back a dark despair.
We all need that Transfiguration; that moment of pure Heaven revealed to us in this blighted and sometimes devastating world we live in, telling us that it is all true, and to not be afraid. Jesus physically shining in light and as a King surrounded by Moses and Elijah. My Dad’s moment would come when he had to face his worst fear. And it was St. Joseph who would be his Elijah.
He was very, very sick and feeble and in the hospital. My husband and I came in the evening to be with him. All I did was hold his hand and smile every once in awhile when he opened his eyes. It was a very quiet and peaceful night, a night I will consider one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given.
At one strange but wonderful point, my Dad opened his eyes and looked right past me to the corner of the ceiling and started waving like a little kid. In a delighted and surprised voice and with a look of utter joy he just said, “Oh hi! Hi! Hi!" like he was greeting old childhood friends waiting for him at the park. He then went back to sleep with a smile on his face. I just sat there and felt awe creep across my tingling arms and face. He had just been "transfigured" from a very frail, old, suffering man into a spry and beautiful child when he saw who-knows-who up in the corner of the ceiling.
We left him that night sleeping in peace and the next morning he flew this sad, old world quietly and suddenly. Maybe St. Joseph came to get him. Maybe he came with all his old childhood friends. I don’t know. But I saw the light of Heaven shining on my father’s face that night, just for an instant, like Peter, James, and John. It leaves you wondering...what beauty must be there, if we carry our cross to the end.
Truly God is everywhere. We celebrate that truth on the feast of the Transfiguration. May we never stop seeking His face until this sad, old world shines brightly with the glory of Heaven’s sun forever and ever. Amen.