As for the Transfiguration, the idea is fine, but it doesn’t stop with that, Jesus goes down the mountain with the lights turned off.
The real teaching is the difference between Jesus and Moses, representing the approach to God based on observance of correct behavior, and, Jesus and Elijah, representing the Prophetic approach to God, challenging people to actually hear what is said before doing what they are told is correct behavior because what they have been told is correct behavior is not at all what Jesus Christ taught.
The God of Jesus is not the bullying manipulative “god” character of the first reading. That story was probably created to try and help people understand that the Living God does not condone human sacrifice of children which had been a standard aspect of many civilizations and peoples as it still is today, sadly, not so much on altars or mountain tops, but in wars and poverty and horrible education systems and terrible nutrition and labor conditions.
Moses and Elijah are both murderers and one of the efforts of the Gospel creators was to try and begin to teach the Paschal Mystery and undo the role of murder as a standard operating procedure in human affairs by having Moses and Elijah vanish and the Beloved Son prevail as the only one to allow his own murder at the hands of people believing they were doing correct behavior and thus reveal the resurrection as the final destiny of the Loving God in this story telling the disciples of Christ to listen to him.
It obviously is not easy for most of us to listen to Jesus Christ, we have so many people telling us exactly what he said, even when he didn’t say anything of the sort.
Finding space and taking time is not an easy task, to be sure, but I want to tell of a place I found while I have been in Paris these last 6 weeks or so.
So, my go to place in Paris this year has been a small little park in what is called the Latin Quarter adjacent to the Cluny Museum and directly across the street from the Sorbonne auditorium/administration building of the University of Paris.
Since October 16, 2021, the park has been known as the Samuel Paty Square in honor of Mr. Paty, a high school teacher murdered and beheaded in front of his students by an 18 year old religious terrorist.
The weather was cold and snowy, not like your cold and snow, for much of January but since the beginning of February it has been mild and a couple days around 60 which has brought early spring flowers to bloom and this little park is filled with crocus and daffodils and another early spring flower that I do not know the name of but have seen on sale at Trader Joe’s.
The park is small with just seven benches set on a circular pathway around a center garden planted with not very well taken care of plants and flowers. There is a cabinet in the garden where people leave books, they have read for books they haven’t read.
There is a memorial sculpture celebrating the work of the artist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) who painted a large mural in the auditorium of the Sorbonne in the aftermath of many years of political upheaval and violence and large murals in the enormous church of Saint Genevieve (419-522), one of the patron saints of Paris.
That church is now known as The Pantheon, an entombment place for French literary and cultural notables just up the street from the park.
Puris de Chavannes has a few paintings at the Art Institute in Chicago that have always intrigued me, but I never took the time to learn anything about the artist until this year when I realized I frequently sat on a bench right in front of this memorial.
The Sorbonne was established in the 13th century by Robert de Serbon as a college for children from poor families to study and attain doctoral degrees. In the 13th century students paid professors directly and the better professors were, obviously, retained by wealthier students.
Robert de Serbon built the college and recruited priests of the Diocese of Paris, and he paid them himself to staff the college and teach the students that came as thoughtfully as wealthy students.
The Cluny Museum is the museum of Paris in the Middle Ages, originally the Paris residence of the clergy from the Abbey of Cluny Benedictine monastery in Cluny Saone et Loire, France, dedicated to Saint Peter.
This site in Paris was acquired in the 15th century, the original public baths, still visible in the foundations of the current buildings, had steam rooms and ice plunge pools in addition to bathing pools used by the public since founding by the Romans 1500 years earlier.
The area is called, The Latin Quarter, because Latin was the language of higher education, and the very beginnings of colleges and universities was an undertaking of the Catholic Church and Latin was the language of the Church.
In 1968 the Latin Quarter was the center of riots organized and initially directed by students at the University of Paris campuses against the strict policing of gender specific student dormitories and the prohibition against male and female students “mingling” in their dorm rooms, but it escalated to include trade and transportation unions and farmers all united in an effort to bring meaningful representation and voice to all sectors of French and Paris workers and students.
You might remember that at this same time in our own country there were riots and uproars on college campuses over similar issues but especially the Vietnam War.
At least for me, listening to the Beloved Son comes with being attentive to the details of my day and reflecting on what other beloved children of God have said and done and what they are saying and what they are doing and trying to touch life with a gentler hand.