The Transfiguration of Christ, by Raphael.

The Transfiguration of Christ, by Raphael.

I have always enjoyed Renaissance art, especially the three great masters of the Italian High Renaissance: Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael. This is a nice piece by Raphael (1483-1520) depicting the Transfiguration of Christ, which is celebrated today in the Catholic Church on this second Sunday of Lent.

The depiction is not completely accurate. For instance, there was not a crowd of people present witnessing this event, nor was Jesus raised off the ground. Rather, depending on the slightly different account of which Gospel you chose to read, he went up to a mountain to pray and there, in the presence of the Peter, James and John, his face became radiant as the sun and his clothes dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared and began conversing with him. Then God spoke through the clouds and said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to Him.”

But Raphael was an artist and is not trying to be scientifically accurate. Rather, he is depicting the spiritual dimensions and meanings of the event more than anything else. Like all his paintings, this one has a certain classical calm, balance and harmony. I love Italian Renaissance art so much because it is the most perfect balance of the classical and the spiritual.

One of the reasons I am such an advocate of classical balance and harmony, not only in the art work I post, such as this painting by Raphael, but also in the nude photographs of women I post, is that I studied and majored in Classics (Greek and Latin) in both undergraduate and graduate school, and have always been deeply influenced by the aesthetics of ancient Greece and Rome. I plan to do a post on the relationship between the aesthetics of classicism and what I find pleasing in the nude photos of women I post here. But I digress…

Once again, as I have often experienced on my lifelong spiritual journey, and especially after my heart attack, I have a renewed appreciation for the power and comfort of God. How much better life is when we walk close to God. After so much promiscuity in my own life, after so much chaos and pain and suffering, after being in so many situations that were ultimately empty and even detrimental to my all around well being, I am happy to have found, once again, the peace and love and joy of Christ. As much as I enjoyed them, the sexual pleasures I once sought so ardently are nothing, nothing compared to the presence of God in my life. This is not to deny or reject the power of sensual, sexual and erotic pleasure, and as a deeply sexual being eroticism will always be a part of my life, and I do believe the Catholic Church in particular and most Christianity in general needs to update their understandings of human sexuality, but the presence of God in my life is by far the greatest experience I can have.  It is truly an amazing thing to experience, as I am sure Peter, James and John were amazed when they saw divinity briefly make itself manifest in a most spectacular and concrete way through the Transfiguration.

“Listen to Him.”  I know that when I listen to Him my life is infinitely better.