Transfiguration unveils the face of Christ, uncreated light and deifying glory, yet veils the revelatory Name from objectifying vanity or dualistic scrutiny. The countenance of God is unobstructed openness but remains hidden from self-interested reification. Saint Maximus the Confessor says that on Mount Tabor, the apostles beheld Christ transfigured, who “in appearing conceals himself, in hiding manifests himself,” (Ambigua to John 10). Revelation unveils wisdom and glory, but withholds the ineffable essence of unknowable Godhead. The Name reveals glory to wisdom but veils what the Name unveils, Godhead beyond God, whose mysteries of glory wisdom discerns. This paradox remains sheer and irreducible even when it unfolds as integral dialectic embracing veiling within unveiling. The transfigured face reflects light and glory, but conceals what it reveals to the awakened eye of the heart. It refuses itself to an objectifying stare yet gives itself to a loving gaze, a paradox which preserves the Name from the violations of vainglory. When wisdom steps back and takes in both the veiling and the unveiling as a dance of light and love, glory begins to reveal her divine play, her game of hide and seek, her playful seeking and finding. The gaze is a kiss of peace that embraces hiddenness and openness, a transfiguring gaze which embraces all in all, yet excludes all vainglorious profanations of the Holy Name. Transfiguration is wisdom’s paradigm, a prism of wise discernment, well able to sort out truth from vanity.
Transfiguration on Mount Tabor includes Sinai and Horeb, Carmel and every sacred symbol of ascent and descent, but fulfils them all as the unveiled face, revelation of the Name ‘I AM,’ opening incompleteness to great completeness both as presence and awareness. This unveils transfiguration as wisdom embracing glory, both gaze and kiss, mysteries of the Holy of Holies which remain veiled to vainglorious or malicious scrutiny. Christ is silent on Tabor but that silence unveils mysteries of glory which no proliferation of clever speech can divulge. Christ’s silent gaze purifies the heart, communicating glory as wisdom in illumination, opening wisdom to glory in glorification. The wisdom that inspires true stillness, hesychia, heals the hearts of hesychast elders so that prophecy inspires prayer, pure prayer that assimilates what prophecy reveals. Prophecy interprets two sacred ‘texts,’ scripture and creation, opening wisdom to glory as awareness to presence, co-inherent union both ecstatic and eschatological. The eschatological glory of the age to come is unveiled when the Name is hallowed, as in the ecstatic mysteries of the Lord’s Prayer, but hardened hearts remain closed to glory, preferring what can be possessed and controlled. Transfigurement stills vanity so that glory may rise from glory, as wisdom resurrects glory, from glory to glory.
The unveiled face of glory unveils a wisdom dialectic of disclosure and concealment, wisdom’s way of freeing glory from vanity without subjecting the Name to ever more subtle vanity. Vainglory cannot resist taking God’s Name in vain, because pride hardens the heart and refuses to give glory to God. The sacred dance of veiling and unveiling cures the heart of such addictions, opening to wisdom’s childlike play, revealing yet concealing the mysteries of glory in the Holy of Holies. Transfiguration is glory at play and perhaps wisdom is actually playing along with glory at play when she unveils the elusive intimacy of dazzling darkness in the awakened heart. The hermeneutical play of wisdom eludes rationalist scholasticism and its many offspring in an age of fundamentalism, preferring to dance along with the dance of glory, encircling wisdom with glory. Desert wisdom reveres a dance of ancient symbols in co-inherent configurations old and new, unveiling glory to wisdom anew in every generation. As ‘I’ awareness opens to presence of glory through the Name; ‘AM’ presence presents glory to awareness, unveiling the Name. Such Name hallowing reveals the Kingdom come, but conceals it from the unseeing heart so that the mysteries are not imprudently divulged. The paradox is never rationalised, even when the dialectic of the dance is embraced. Transfiguration reveres in silence the glory that is concealed, yet wisely revealed, whilst embracing in silence the wisdom that is revealed, yet wisely concealed.