Saturday, March 15, 2014

Transfigure us

The final painting of the artist Raphael was his painting of the Transfiguration. He painted it in Rome in 1520. He was 37 years old and not far from death. In fact, he died before he finished. In the background of the painting you can see the village of Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus first startled his disciples with the prediction of his suffering and death. In the upper center of the painting you see a flat, rocky mountain. The three disciples are there shielding their eyes from the glory all around them. Just above them are Moses, Elijah and Jesus. Jesus is shimmering in white, and everything in the painting seems drawn toward him. But down at the bottom, at the bottom of the mountain, you see a crowd of disciples. They are trying, but unable, to heal a young boy who suffers from the seizures of epilepsy. Raphael knew his Scripture because in Mark, right after the Transfiguration, Jesus comes down and encounters that boy.

But when you look closely at the child in the painting, you see that his eyes are wide and white, and focused on Jesus, and in fact, his right hand is stretched out as far as it will go. You realize that from the depths of this suffering and pain he’s trying to reach out and somehow touch the transfigured Jesus.