Scared Shoeless

Last Epiphany: The Transfiguration

click to enlarge

Jesus, transfigured in Uncreated Light, converses with Moses and Elijah outside of time. Peter, James, and John fall into a sleepy ecstasy. In iconography the disciples topple down the mountain in awe and fear.

A detail that always touches my heart is the sandal falling off the foot of the disciple on the right.  Does it mean that suddenly they find themselves, unprepared, on holy ground? Or does the shock of theophany knock him literally out of his shoe?

Jesus’ own sandal falls off his foot, dangling, as he runs into his mothers arms in the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, (or, in the Eastern Orthodox rendering, Theotokos of the Passion). In this icon (13th, 14th, or 15th century) Jesus clings to his mother for comfort as he sees a vision of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel carrying the instruments of the Passion: spear, nails, cross, and sponge.

When Moses approached the Burning Bush, he was instructed to remove his shoes because he was on Holy Ground.  Liminal spaces, “thin places,” sanctuaries set apart for solemn worship teach us to practice for the eventual realization that all places are holy. For the disciples, the Pentecost event opened the world to them as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Their shoes remained solidly on their feet, as they set out to proclaim the Good News “unto the ends of the earth.”



Moses removes his shoes/ Feti, Botticelli

One Response to “Scared Shoeless”

  1. Diane Stavrum Says:

    I liked this post Suzanne. A detail for sure…may truly be an insight. This reminds me of the washing of feet by Jesus to demonstrate humility and service by love. I am reminded also that the feet in those ancient days often represented ownership as to land. The ancient men would take off their sandal when land was exchanged; the kissing of Jesus’ feet by a woman. The feet were also a represented by Ruth who slept at the feet of Boaz. Apparently the feet and the sandals were very meaningful as to heredity, family ownership, which also touched on the union of man and women for new life.

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