The Light of the Cross by Anthony Esolen

Illuminations

The Light of the Cross

When Jesus took the chosen three to the top of Mount Tabor, he was transfigured before their eyes, and his raiment became dazzlingly white, purer than any fuller's soap could make it. Perhaps Jesus was what Milton called "dark with excess of bright," because Peter's first impulse is to contain the light, to house it. "Lord, it is good for us to be here," he says. "Let us erect three skenai," three structures with awnings, we might say, "one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elias." He didn't know what he was saying. Then a cloud from heaven overshadowed them, just as the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, and a voice came forth, saying, "This is my beloved Son; hear him." And when they came to, the apostles saw only Jesus, who commanded them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man should arise from the dead. They then wondered among themselves what Jesus meant by that.

The play of light and darkness upon the Mount of Transfiguration flashes back upon the history of the Jews and the immemorial early days of mankind, all the way to the darkness upon the face of the waters, when God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. It is also like a flash of sheet lightning in the distance, for an instant opening upon another mountain about to come, the bald skull of Golgotha. Darkness shall cover the land, and the earth shall tremble, tearing the hymen of the Temple in two, and graves shall give forth their dead, appearing to many.

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Anthony Esolen is the author of over thirty books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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