Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart

Second Sunday of Lent, March 17th, 2019

behind Him
up the mountainside,
about the growing madness
that would lead to the gallows,
about the vengefulness
of priests, scribes and elders
and the folly
of losing the world
to gain nothing,
Peter, James and John
against divine insanity
and stumbled in His footholds,
scraping fingers, toes,
against stubborn stone,
cursing out loud
while He, a little distance ahead,
turned to laugh at their distress.

"You won't die," He said
"before you see my kingdom!"

And He led them
to the solitude
of the highest heights
where His face
shone like the sun,
brilliant as lightning,
whiter than light,
bright as the whirlwind of fire
in which Moses and Elijah stood,
sharing His glory.

Peter, James and John
veiled their eyes
with shaking hands
seeking a cleft of rock
to shield themselves
until His splendour
passed before them.

"Now I know," said Peter,
teeth chattering
a tattoo of fear,
"that you are God.
The Word
of Yahweh in your mouth
is Truth itself...
How good it is to be here!"

Babbling in wonder,
he proposed three tents
to contain the searing vision,
but the smiling God
sheltered them
in the shadow of cloud
and terror faded
with His radiance....

Frost & Fire
Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, 1985


the beginning
YOU were
and all things
visible and invisible
You hold in You
and within EVERYTHING
especially us....

who seek
our completion
in Yours
rejoice in being held
for Your arms are strong.
Your torn hands caress
that mystery of ours
to which
we are not yet

You intimate
that when
all hidden things
cease to be,
so will the chains
that bind us...

Frost & Fire
Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, 1985

Greetings, SBT Readers:

The purpose of Lent, as I see it, is not to engage in 40 days of "mea culpa's," breast beating and guilt; nor is it merely a time for self-denial and for the myriad disciplines we impose upon ourselves. Rather, it is an opportunity to embark on a process of transformation, to become "a new creation" in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). Sin, of course, is one of our focuses during Lent. During this penitential season, we face who we are and all our shortcomings, but having done that, our next task is to "put on Christ" (Gal 3:27; Col 3:12-17; Rom 13:14; Eph 4:25 etc.) How can we die to self so it is truly Christ who lives in us and not the false self with all its ego needs? In the first place, we must consciously reject this false self-- that self which tyrannizes us with fear, greed, self-loathing, pride, intolerance, hatred and all other self-limiting beliefs and attitudes. Then, we must work on replacing these all too familiar destructive patterns with new ways of thinking, doing and being, that is, with all that Jesus modeled for us while on earth. Only when we can say, " It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:19-21) have we achieved our human destiny.

All that applies to the individual Christian journey also applies to the Church. Just as individual pilgrims battle with sin and stray from The Way , so does the Church. Sadly, this is not only apparent in the sex abuse scandals but also in rampant clericalism, elitism, sexism, cronyism etc. Just as we fail as individual Christians, so the Church has failed as an institution. Just as we must reject the old ways, so must the Church. Just as we must "put on Christ," so must the Church. And just as the end of human life is to embrace the Light of the Cosmic Christ, so embracing this Light must be the earthly fulfillment of the Church, the justification for its existence.

We live in a time of great turmoil and hopelessness, both on a planetary level and on a personal level, Writing in the aftermath of the bloody Easter Uprising in Ireland (1916), the Russian Revolution (1917) and World War I (1914-1918), Yeats captured the chaos of a world much like our own:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
From The Second Coming, 1919

Just as the medieval era and the industrial age, both eras of great upheavals, had to grapple with questions about human existence, so we of the technological age also have to explore what it means to be human: What is our place in the universe? What is human destiny?  C ataclysmic upheavals not only in terms of war, natural disasters and climate change lead us to ask, where is God? Living in what some have described as a "post Christian age," many experience a core disconnection from meaning and purpose-- and organized religion is doing little to mend the broken links. In the past, theology was black and white: generations of Christians were raised with the understanding that if you were "good" you earned a heavenly reward and if you were a sinner, you would end up in hell. Today, what is "good" and what is "evil" are less clear cut; moreover, contemporary thinking is more likely to present "heaven" and "hell" as states of being rather than physical places. John Milton, the C 17th English poet, had already figured this out when in Book IV of Paradise Lost , Satan declares, "Which way I fly am hell, myself am hell."

If, as Milton's Satan claims, hell is a state of being, then so is heaven. Just as we can live in hell on earth, so we can also dwell in "heaven" or the "reign of God" here on Earth. The goal of the spiritual life is not to win a heavenly reward but to experience union with God here in this life and to continue this ever-deepening love-life in the world to come. And this, my friends, is the meaning of human transfiguration and the purpose of Lent.

Lenten Blessings!
(And happy St. Patrick's Day!")


A reflection on creative approaches to sin.
Please note that "craven images" should be "graven images"!


Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. Lk 9:28b-36

One of the mistakes we make as Christians is to read the Gospels as history, that is, as events in the past which are over and done with. Interpreted this way, the Gospel narratives consist of stories of faith which help us understand the "Historical Jesus" -- his personality, his mission, his teachings, his miracles and the socio-political world in which he lived. The cast of characters draws us into the narratives: we rejoice with those who find healing, mourn with those who are weeping, repent with public sinners, marvel at the slowness of the apostles, and identify with Prodigal Sons, Lost Sheep, Good Samaritans ...
In addition, our liturgical year helps us remember key events in the life of Jesus -- his Birth, Ministry, Passion, Death and Resurrection. All this is good, but it is not enough.

On the one hand, remembering the Historical Jesus is a sacred activity. Mircea Eliade, in Myth and Reality, explains how commemorating sacred stories, whether ritually or through storytelling, allows us to actually repeat those events: "The protagonists of the myth are made present; one becomes their contemporary" (19). He goes on to say that through such remembering, we leave behind chronological time and actually participate in the events, as surely as the original participants. For example, by remembering The Last Supper, we actually take our places at the table to break bread, share wine and have our feet washed; then into the Garden of Gethsemane we go, ready to fall asleep among the olive trees while Jesus enters his Agony alone. All this is good, but it is not enough.

When we remember only "what happened" to Jesus we are missing the whole point of the Incarnation: his coming was not just a brief moment in time which his followers would commemorate until his Second Coming; rather, it inaugurated the Reign of God, inviting us to be transfigured as surely as he was on the Mount of Transfiguration. Luke tells us that as Jesus prayed, "his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white." At that moment, he manifested absolute love, absolute radiance, absolute goodness -- the very essence of divinity hidden under human form. Strictly speaking, what "happened" to Jesus was not a transformation but a display of his pre-existing glory, the fulfillment of the Law (Moses) and of the prophecies (Elijah). Now, we can rub our eyes in wonder or babble in terror, but, again, we will have missed the point. Peter, James and John went up the mountain with Jesus of Nazareth but when they finally woke up, instead of "Jesus," they saw the Cosmic Christ, the Lord of History, the Alpha and the Omega. And, just in case they thought they had been dreaming, this Theophany had an auditory dimension: " This is my chosen Son; listen to him" (Lk 9:35).

The transfigured Jesus reflects what theology has traditionally named, " the hypostatic union" (a complicated way of saying that Jesus is both fully God and fully human). What we see on the Mount of Transfiguration is not only Jesus' glorious divinity but also his perfect humanity. He is not only the Cosmic Christ but also the Cosmic Person and, as such. manifests for us what we, too, can become if we imitate him in the context of our own lives. For Christians, then, the purpose of this adventure on Earth is nothing less than for each of us to become the Christ so that his glory can be manifested in us and through us.

  1. How do you understand Jesus to be the Cosmic Christ?
  2. How do you understand Jesus to be the Cosmic Person?
  3. Do you relate more to Jesus of Nazareth or to the Cosmic Christ?
  4. How is Lent helping you "become" the Christ?
This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. I work "in person" as well as remotely by phone, Zoom or Skype; I am also available to facilitate retreats for groups and individuals.

Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | |

All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,