Today, on the Sunday when we tell the story of Jesus on the mountain glowing and joined by Moses and Elijah, I am fascinated by the role of awe in our lives.
Abraham Joshua Heschel says “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…. To get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
I wonder if this kind of radical amazement is an antidote to the grasping consumerism and the harried busyness of American culture. The paradox of true wonder is that when we experience it everything falls into its proper place, and we realize simultaneously that we are infinitesimal in the grand scheme of things and that we are infinitely valuable.
We know the posture of awe — what our bodies and hearts naturally want to do. We want to fling our arms wide open and let it wash over us like an all-consuming wave. When true awe comes, for a moment we cannot control anything, nor would we want to, because instead we are swept up into an uncontainable Wholeness. This posture is antithetical to manipulation and exploitation, antithetical to violence and fear.
But awe is so fleeting. No human can live in utter awe all the time. So my question to myself is how do I create the conditions in my life that I can be aware of more of this radical amazement? In these days before Lent, my prayer is that the Spirit might gently pry our beings open, turn us to face the mysterium tremens et fascinans full-on, and fill us with the holy foolishness to let go in the face of a God so holy and so close that She can’t help but soak everything in light.
Although it’s nice (and appropriate) to see the Transfiguration as a story about ordinary life being infused with goodness, a story about meeting God in the smile of a neighbor or the laugh of a child, this year the story for me has much more to do with the otherness of God and the watershed moments when we are humbled and exalted by awe-inspired worship of God.