The Transfiguration of Jesus, as experienced by Peter, James, and John, provides a profound insight into the sacramental nature of our reality. This event, where Jesus' divine nature was tangibly unveiled, invites us to transcend our everyday perceptions and recognise the divine presence interwoven within the fabric of creation. It's a moment that challenges us to see beyond the ordinary, urging us to find the extraordinary presence of God in our midst and understand that our sensory experiences only touch the surface of a much deeper, divine tapestry.
As recounted in Mark's Gospel, Peter's reaction to this revelation reflects a common human response to encounters with the divine: a mixture of confusion and awe, leading to actions that may not fully represent his experience. Liminal experiences of the sacred aren’t meant just to inspire awe and “terror”; they serve experiences of God’s glory that transform us into God’s image (2 Cor 3:18).
Divine Encounter in the Sacramental Reality
In Christian thought, the term "sacramental" refers to outward signs of inward grace, events, objects or symbols that point beyond themselves to the divine. The bread and wine of communion point to Jesus's sacrifice AND his divine body. It's a perspective that makes the boundary between the divine and the ordinary transparent.
But the idea of sacrament extends beyond the formal sacraments of the church: baptism, communion, ordination, anointing etc. If we allow ourselves to be “unveiled” (2 Cor 3:18) by opening our hearts and minds, it expands "sacramental reality" where we experience all creation as a manifestation of God's grace, where every part of the natural and human-made world can reveal the divine, Just as Jesus was to the disciples on the mountaintop.
Mystics and contemplatives, including Richard Rohr and Cynthia Bourgeault, emphasise this holistic vision. Rohr often speaks of the "Universal Christ" concept, suggesting that "everything belongs" and that the divine presence saturates all of existence. Similarly, Bourgeault points to the "wisdom way of knowing," which recognises the interconnectedness of all things through the divine embrace. This sacramental reality invites us to live with a heightened awareness of divine presence, urging us to see that every moment and every encounter holds the potential for a revelation.
Beyond Traditional Roles: A Broader Vision of Priesthood
My journey as a priest has been deeply guided by these moments of transfiguration – experiences of the ordinary being suffused with the extraordinary. It is in these moments of sacramental reality that I've felt most connected to God and my vocation. They have formed in me an understanding of my purpose as a priest, to reveal the hidden depth of God's presence, not just in the sacraments of the church, but in the ordinary of creation.
The ordination rites for a priest start with “In baptism, we are called to be a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God, to make Christ known in all the world” (APBA). Everything that follows in the rite supports the mission: to make Christ fully known. Christ is the cosmic foundation through which all creation is made and finds its reality. This vastness is incarnate in Jesus, who makes the infinite known in the finite. My purpose as a priest is to allow the divine to work through me to make divine reality known fully to the world.
This is fundamental to who I am. It is a humbling and terrible purpose that requires complete surrender.
Bring it to Everyday Action
How this manifests practically is a daily deep-seated need to break down the barriers that prevent others from perceiving the sacramental reality that envelops us. This involves more than just performing liturgical duties; it's about nurturing a community that is attuned to the divine presence in every aspect of life. My role is to facilitate, encourage, and support others in their own spiritual journeys, helping them to recognise and embrace the divine encounters hidden in their everyday experiences.
My daily activities, whether they involve evangelism, mission, pastoral care, or teaching, are all directed towards this end. It's about facilitating a communal journey towards recognising and embracing the divine, thus contributing to the unfolding of creation towards its ultimate union with God.
In this light, my priesthood is a commitment to being a catalyst for change, guiding others to see and engage with the world in a deeply spiritual manner. It's a journey of constant discovery, where every moment holds the potential for an encounter with the divine, urging us all towards a deeper communion with the sacred that permeates all of creation.
What a joy and a privilege to be called to such a thing.