Transfiguration / the Holy Marriage of Alena Malulani Grobien and Andrew Robert Casey
St. Matthew 17:1-9
February 5, 2017 A+D
8:00 a.m. (No Wedding)
10:30 a.m. (Wedding)
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Six days earlier, the disciples had reported to Jesus that the multitudes said He was Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the Prophets. So the Lord brings with Him Moses and Elijah. At the very least Peter, James, and John should see the difference between the servants and their Lord. Even as John the Baptist was greater than Elijah, so also is Jesus greater than Moses.
The Jewish leaders were ever charging that Jesus was a transgressor of the Law, that He was a blasphemer, and that He was usurping the glory of His Father. Thus He brings Moses and Elijah to prove that He is the God of Moses and Elijah. He is the true author of the Old Testament. He is the very Lord of the Law and the Prophets.
He also brings them to show that He is the Lord of the saints who have passed over. He has the power of life and death. Moses had dead, but Moses is alive in Him. Elijah had been spared physical death but he is not wandering the earth. He is also alive in Christ. He is the Lord of His people for eternity.
Mostly, it seems, though that the Lord did this miracle before Peter, James, and John to show them the glory of His cross, and thus to soothe them and give them strength in the trials that they would face. What they saw there on the mountain was how the Lord will appear at the last judgement. It is markedly different than how He will appear in near future, naked and forsaken on the cross. While He did shine like the sun in that moment on the mountain, He did not set aside His bodily reality. Nor was He turning away from His Father’s mission and seeking glory in the way of men. The Light did not replace His Flesh nor was His flesh changed in substance. Rather the Light shone through the Flesh. Having taken up flesh in the virgin’s womb, He is now forever true Man, flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, come to be a Sacrifice for our sins and to make us His Bride by Blood. From the time of His conception until His resurrection, He denied Himself so that He did not always or fully use His Divine rights and attributes as Man. Because of this He was not always recognized by men, even by His own disciples, as their God. This He allowed so that He might suffer in our place, being sinned against in every way that we are and then being punished for all sins that we have committed.
It would be hard for Peter, James, and John to see glory in the gory death and weakness of the God-Man on the cross. So the Lord gave them a glimpse of His Divinity, a reminder of who He is, and a rebuke. “Listen to Him,” means, in part, “shut up. Jesus knows what He is doing. He is My obedient Son. He goes to fulfill My Will. It would not be good for you to stay here for you would be destroyed. But if He goes to the cross, then you can abide in My presence forever. His suffering is My own institution, for your highest good.”
Even as His divinity is not separate from His humanity, neither is His glory separate from His suffering. It is not as though His glory is temporal and only comes after the resurrection. In fact, His glory, though hidden, is always there. He doesn’t change His substance at the transfiguration, but merely pulls back a corner of the curtain. In a similar way, contrary to the limits of human eyesight, for those with eyes of faith, His glory is most clearly seen not in the transfiguration or in the Last Judgement, but in His self-giving on the cross, in His betrayal, torture, and agonizing death, for there He reveals the heart of His Father. And thus does St. Luke record that even as the disciples beheld this glory by physical sight, so at the same time they were also hearing the Lord discuss His cross with Moses and Elijah.
This is His glory: He lays down His life in obedience to His Father in order to reconcile Himself to the world. The prophets are eager to discuss this happy topic for it is precisely this into which they had always longed to peer.
We can relate this to holy marriage in several ways. First of all, there is glory in marriage that is hidden from the sight of men. What looks like two bodies and two souls, becomes one by the word and promise of God. This is a profound mystery, a Divine institution that confounds our mathematics, yet which orders society and makes families. There is no greater good in the company of men than the gift and unity of Holy Marriage.
God has made us male and female, that is, He has made us complementary of one another. We are to love one unlike ourselves, and we are to make the other our utmost priority, that for which we would suffer all and even die. The husband gives himself up for his wife as Christ has given Himself up for the Church and that giving up, that sacrifice and seeming weakness, is his glory.
Peter, James, and John were not ready for the cross. They were not ready to be apostles. But they couldn’t stay on the mountain and wait. Time moved on. God’s plan of salvation went forward. The office makes the man. God gave strength for what He called them to.
Andrew and Alena are not ready for Holy Marriage. No one ever is. And if you’re thinking that you’re sitting on some secret wisdom about Andrew and Alena and their lack of preparation, perhaps you should repent of your arrogance. We all know it. Only a fool would think he is ready because no one is ready or really knows what he is doing when he is yoked to another in holy marriage, when he enlists in US Air Force, when he enters into seminary or has a baby or take his first real job. Anyone who thinks he has wisdom equal to the stress and duties of Holy Marriage, that he knows what it takes, who is compatible, how to stop hardship and difficulty, is twice the fool for not knowing he is a fool.
God makes holy marriage. Through the office He makes the husband and the wife. Andrew and Alena will learn to love one another by loving one another. They will learn to be husband and wife, and father and mother, through suffering and growing together and giving themselves up. No good is accomplished by keeping them apart or lengthening the time of temptation. They have what they need. They have the Holy Spirit. They have God’s word and promise. They do not enter into this inadvisably or lightly, but they come to this Divine Institution in accord with the purposes for which God gave it, after knowing one another for years and years, having become close friends before they became romantic.
Don’t be fooled by their youth or what you’ve known of them in the past. They have grown in ways unseen by men. And there is something greater here than meets the eye, a hidden glory, a Divine plan. For the union of husband and wife in Christ is enough to thwart the devil and all his armies. It makes something greater than Andrew and Alena as individuals in their finest hours. It makes them an image of Christ and His Church. It gives them purpose and a service to be for their neighbors. It makes one out of two. Count yourselves most blessed today, for you behold a miracle of Christ’s glory: two become one flesh.
God is with His people. He keeps His promises. He didn’t abandon the apostles. He didn’t forget about Moses and Elijah. He was faithful unto death. He is with these two here, and He is with us who trust in Him. He has gone to Jerusalem and faced our foe and died our death. He has risen from the dead, victorious on our behalf, and He comes to us in the marriage feast of His Body and Blood, making us one with Him in His death and in His resurrection, that is, one with Him in His glory. Sorrows and crosses will come, but He is with us and He is for us and He will bring us through. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder. Listen to Him.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.