Feast of the Transfiguration
August 6, 2017 (A.H.)
My sister, Morlane, and I share a PASSION for South Western, Native American, Art! That’s why, (like lemmings headed for the sea), we head for Santa Fe, New Mexico, each August, for “Indian Market.” (In fact, we leave next Sunday morning right after I baptize Gianna Scarpella!) —- While there, eight years ago, Morlane bought me the WEDDING VASE that is sitting on the altar (tonight/this morning)! It comes from the Santa Clara Pueblo, about twenty-one miles outside of Santa Fe.
It is called a “wedding vase” because of its unique, double-necked shape; and because, during a “traditional” Native American, wedding ceremony, both bride and groom take turns drinking water from it.
The process for creating “black ware,” as this particular type of pottery is called, was discovered, at the turn of the last century, by MARIA MARTINEZ and her husband JULIAN. Today, as then, the very BEST POTTERY is the product of a lot of HARD WORK! The potters dig and prepare their own clay; and “hand coil” their pots. (No pottery wheel is used in the process.) When the pot has dried in the sun, it is “slipped” with a fine coating of liquid clay; and then, hand polished, for hours, with a shell or a smooth stone. Finally, when the artist feels that it is ready, the pot is “fired” in an open-air kiln.
The secret for creating “black ware” lies in smothering the fire, (in the final stages), with sheep or horse dung! Without this essential step in the firing process, the pottery would emerge from the kiln a sort of “buff” or “terra cotta” color.
Sometimes, IF the pots have not been properly dried in the sun beforehand, they will explode during the “firing process”; and countless hours of intense labor are lost! But, when a pot has been carefully and lovingly made; a thing of RARE BEAUTY emerges from the fire.
I’d like to believe that this short lesson in Native American pottery making ALSO SPEAKS to the REALITY of today’s Feast of the TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD! St. Matthew tells us that in his transfigured “GLORY” – Jesus’ face was as dazzling as the sun; and that his clothes where as radiant as light! — (In other words, like the painstakingly crafted, “black ware’ wedding vase, Jesus was something BEAUTIFUL TO BEHOLD!)
But, his TRANSFIGURATION on Mount Tabor, was ONLY a “fleeting GLIMPSE” of the ULTIMATE GLORY that awaited Jesus! It was a sort of “divine preview of the coming attractions” which “would” and “could” ONLY BE REALIZED at the “cost” of his SUFFERING and DEATH! — In other words, BEFORE Jesus could become “beautiful to behold,” (in the GLORY of his RESURRECTED LIFE); Jesus, (like the CLAY of this vase), would have to be PURIFIED in the CRUCIBLE-KILN of: the rejection of his fellow country men and women; the violence of Roman oppression; AND the denial and abandonment by his friends. ——- BEFORE Jesus could become “beautiful to behold,” (in the GLORY of his RESURRECTED LIFE); Jesus would be mocked, scourged, spit upon, crowned with thorns, humiliated in every way possible, and finally crucified – dying naked on a cross, like a common thief! — THEN, AND ONLY THEN, was he “FULLY REVEALED,” in glory, AS GOD’S SON in his RESURRECTION from the dead!
Today, (with Peter, James and John, as witnesses), we are REMINDED, that JESUS’ JOURNEY TO GLORY (through the crucible of SUFFERING and DEATH), is OUR JOURNEY as well! — (Today, we are reminded that NO ONE – [not even God’s own Son] – gets out of this life WITHOUT a SHARE in the CROSS!) A FACT OF LIFE which none of us like to be reminded of! — And that, BEFORE you and I can become “beautiful to behold” (in the GLORY of the RESURRECTED LIFE, that God wants to give US); we WILL, and MUST, “taste” the SUFFERINGS that sometimes come from our following the way of Jesus; and that sometimes come, “simply” from our active participation in life!
Today’s message, in a nutshell? — The very BEST LIFE, like the very BEST POTTERY – is always the product of a lot of HARD WORK – SUFFERING and DEATH! But, if we, (like Jesus), are willing to TRUST IN GOD, the MASTER POTTER (if you will), and “stick with the process” (painful as that process might sometimes be); something absolutely EXQUISITE will emerge from the fire! —- That “thing of beauty” which is a “joy forever!”