The Transfiguration by Raphael.
The Gospel for today is that of the Transfiguration (Mark 9:-2ff). Which makes sense in that it prepares us for the revelation of God's glory that unfolds through the season of Lent, climaxing in the blazing joy of the Easter Vigil. It is interesting that in Byzantine icons of the Transfiguration, the emphasis is light and the manifestation of the glory of God. Such icons try to convey the "uncreated light" of divine glory.
When we move from thinking that God is actually like our mental or artistic pictures of him/her/it, even in Christ, and recognising that our images (mental artistic, verbal or philosophical) are simply partial glimpses of the immense and incomprehensible nature of the Triune God, then we understand the idea of Transfiguration better . The Apostles saw and didn't fully understand but understood a bit more and grew somewhat in spiritual stature - they got a bit closer to God.
We often imagine that is closeness is only attained by "spiritual" means - prayer fasting penance etc. But St Maximus the Confessor begs to differ in a sermon he wrote on Charity:
"The Lord himself reminds us: Whoever loves me will keep my commandments. And this is my commandment: that you love one another. So the man who does not love his neighbour does not obey God’s command. But one who does not obey his command cannot love God. A man is blessed if he can love all men equally. Moreover, if he truly loves God, he must love his neighbour absolutely. Such a man cannot hoard his wealth. Rather, like God himself, he generously gives from his own resources to each man according to his needs.
Since he imitates God’s generosity, the only distinction he draws is the person’s need. He does not distinguish between a good man and a bad one, a just man and one who is unjust. Yet his own goodness of will makes him prefer the man who strives after virtue to the one who is depraved.
A charitable mind is not displayed simply in giving money; it is manifested still more by personal service as well as by the communication of God’s word to others: In fact, if a man’s service toward his brothers is genuine and if he really renounces worldly concerns, he is freed from selfish desires. For he now shares in God’s own knowledge and love. Since he does possess God’s love, he does not experience weariness as he follows the Lord his God. Rather, following the prophet Jeremiah, he withstands every type of reproach and hardship without even harbouring an evil thought toward any man. For Jeremiah warns us: Do not say: “We are the Lord’s temple.” Neither should you say: “Faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ can save me.” By itself faith accomplishes nothing. For even the devils believe and shudder.
No, faith must be joined to an active love of God which is expressed in good works. The charitable man is distinguished by sincere and long-suffering service to his fellow man: it also means using things aright."
Lenten observance? Don't just pray -do!