The Western Church traditionally observes the Sunday before Lent by remembering the Transfiguration of Christ, as recorded in Matthew's gospel, chapter 17. There is much Wisdom in this.
As we enter a time where it is all too easy to focus out thoughts on ourselves as we apply ourselves to the disciplines of the season - traditionally fasting, prayer and Almsgiving, and more and more in the modern idiom, taking up some 'Good Work' - it is easy to lose sight of Jesus and get caught up in all the 'virtuous' things we are doing, being at home with ourselves, rather than allowing Jesus to take us on pilgrimage through the Wilderness, the only place where God's people learn faith.
There is a sense that the apostles felt this on the Mount of Transfiguration - "it is good for us to be here" - they are all too ready to pitch tent and stay there, but the 'lights' go out and suddenly
"they saw no one except Jesus himself alone."
No bright lights, no voice from Heaven - just Jesus. Lent is a time which asks us "Is He Enough?"
Matthew records that as soon as they come down from the mountain, the disciples find themselves floundering in the thick of the battle
When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, and said, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.’ Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.’ And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’
They are perhaps asking, What happened to that Light, the Voice - The Wonder and the Awe of the mountain - why couldn't we have stayed there?? But as Jesus tells them, they have little faith. The plain fact is that the Light, the Voice, The Wonder and the Awe are all present, but veiled in human flesh. He is still Present to them, but they have little faith, they cannot See.
Jesus has his own Mount of Transfiguration experience - his Baptism. There are signs, the Spirit, the heavenly voice. How easy it must have been to ask to pitch tent by this place of blessing. But as Mark puts it The Spirit "drives" Jesus out into the Desert. This Work is Vitally urgent for Him and it is for us too.
As we enter Lent we are called to go with Jesus, to let go of other supports, ease and food, money (as we give alms) - for it is a time of testing. But all we are doing is going with Jesus and in the path of His disciples. Lent mirrors Jesus' 40 days in the Wilderness - we do not go alone. As He was as present amongst the demoniacs and the chaos of his disbelieving disciples, he is present in our Wilderness walk
One of his disciples saw the lights going out, yet spoke faith
- ironically for he was known as the one who doubted -
'Let us go also, that we might die with Him'
Whilst we still long to remain comfortable,
whilst we have yet to learn to See him when humanly speaking the lights have gone out,
we need Lent