Roots of Armodoxy: Angels unheard
From the angels at Geghart, to the stone angels of the khatchkars, to the baby angel of Nzhdeh, this week we have been looking at messengers who spoke and continue to speak to us. It is a natural lead-in to the Transfiguration, or what is referred to as Vartevar in Armenian. And if you think you’ve heard it before, you’ll be surprised to hear (or not hear) the angels in this story. This is part one of two.
The Transfiguration event is recorded in the three synoptic Gospels. (Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36) Taking a look at St. Matthew’s account we read, “… Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
Jesus was transfigured before this small audience. The change in his appearance is described in terms of light. “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” For this brief moment Jesus was radiating the Divine Light.
In the Biblical account of Creation (Genesis 1) it is noteworthy that God starts the process by saying, “Let there be Light.” This takes place two days prior to the creation of the stars and the sun. In other words, according to this account, the first day of Creation is marked by a Light that is not defined by the sun or any astronomical body. This is the Divine Light, one that shines bright – dazzling and pure.
During the last several decades modern science and medicine have advanced to the point of prolonging life even past a near-death experience. If you listen to the people who have had these near-death episodes, when they are revived or resuscitated, 98% of them return to life telling of a bright light that is not measured in lumens but by temperature: “A warm light,” they say. Could it be that this is glance and a feel of the Divine Light? Of course, it is not my place to comment on the two percent that don’t experience the light, but in the case of the Transfiguration, the three disciples had this experience.
And appearing with Jesus are two others, Elijah, the symbol of the prophets and Moses, the symbol of the law. In between the prophets and the law stands Jesus radiating the Divine Light. The words of the prophets were unheeded, and the law was ignored, hence the necessity to reveal “My beloved Son” as the voice of God is heard.
But it is the voice of the angel that is unheard. Tomorrow, we continue by finding the obvious that goes undetected, but not so in Armodoxy. Listen in.
Today we pray a prayer written for the Transfiguration, “Lord Jesus, we pray for those who are now with you in your eternal glory. As we rejoice in the fellowship of those who now see the fullness of your glory, be with us in our journey and transform our lives with the promise that you will grant us, with them, a share in your eternal kingdom. Amen.
Cover: Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.