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Why talking about God is so hard

TRANSFIGURATION

Public Domain

Brother Silas Henderson, SDS - published on 02/24/18

Even the language of the mystics falls short.

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them… Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” —Mark 9:2, 7

In her Revelations of Divine Love, the medieval mystic Blessed Julian of Norwich wrote:

I saw Him and still sought Him,
For we are now so blind and so unwise that we never seek God
until He of His goodness shows Himself to us;
and when we see anything of Him by grace, then are we moved by
the same grace to try with great desire to see Him more perfectly.

And thus I saw Him and I sought Him,
and I possessed Him and I lacked Him.
And this is, and should be, our ordinary behavior in life.

Unlike Dame Julian and other mystics who experience the reality of God’s presence in a unique way, we are often very quick to try to note the distinctions—the boundaries—between the human and the divine. Even our ways of talking about God can make the divine realities seem far-removed from our daily lives. The Church’s greatest minds and grace-filled mystics have understood that our limited human perspectives, especially our words, fall flat when we are allowed even the slightest glimpse of the glory of God.

It’s easy to imagine Mark struggling with the limits of language as the apostles recalled what happened on the mountain that day as Jesus made his way to Jerusalem. Although we often think of the Transfiguration of Jesus—the wonderful way in which the divine glory of Jesus was revealed to Peter, James, and John—as having been for the benefit of the disciples, we can also understand that the Transfiguration, like his baptism by John in the River Jordan years before, was a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus.

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