Mark 9:2-10: Jesus led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them
The great â€“ and difficult â€“ novelist Henry James was once taken to a Punch and Judy show by some mischievous friends. They were astounded at how totally absorbed he became in this very simple form of theatre. After the performance he was very silent until they asked him what he had thought of it. â€˜What an economy of means,â€™ he answered, and added wistfully â€˜what an economy of endsâ€™.
You could say the same of the gospel and all its stories, like todayâ€™s account of how Jesus was transfigured in light before the few close disciples he took with him up the mountain. The account is very spare (an economy of means) and the meaning is so simple that it defies an easy explanation (an economy of ends). When the Dalai Lama commented on this he didnâ€™t describe it metaphorically but spoke of it as an example of what Tibetan thought calls the subtle - or â€˜rainbowâ€™ â€“ body.
Truth usually has this economy. We to diverge from the truth the more we analyse, complicate and define. We usually speak too much about things we donâ€™t understand but much less about things whose truth we really feel. This is why meditation is so economical, cutting out the waste of thoughts and words in the work of silence and getting directly to the simple end.
In the Transfiguration story Peter (typically) gets it wrong by talking but without knowing what he was saying because â€˜they were exceedingly afraidâ€™. Why does the truth - and the simplicity which is the medium of truth - scare us so much? Why is silence (the letting go of thoughts) so challenging? Why is it hard to say the mantra faithfully? Why do the simple disciplines of Lent that we started recently often seem too much?
Is it because we find it too simple to harmonise the means and the ends in a way that brings us to ourselves in the radiant glory of the present?