Friday, December 15, 2006

December 15, 2006 (L4) Threonine

Threonine - the Transfiguration (L4)

December 15, 2006

The Transfiguration is, far more than any of the others, a Mystery of Light. A whole book could be written on the scientific character in this mystery - on light, on the many things we have learned about it, on its strange dual "wave/particle" nature, on its superlative speed, on its unchanging qualities, on its relation to matter and to energy (expressed in the famous E = m c2, of course!). So much more... and here, a human being is luminous...

It is said that this view or glimpse of the Divine veiled in the humanity of Jesus - shall we call it a private epiphany - was granted to Peter, James, and John, in order to strengthen them for the coming Passion. It was about that Passion that Elijah and Moses came to witness, that the Law and the Prophets of the Old Covenant might be seen together with three representatives of the New Covenant. (Yes, the requirement of two or three witnesses (Mt 18:16) should leap to mind; here we have both two and three!)

But where, you ask, is the water? It's subtle - as well as Chestertonian. Both Matthew and Mark mention how the garments of Jesus became "as white as snow"... but snow, you may know, is not white! It is (as GKC says somewhere) a "transcendental colour" - no, he does not use the word as a mathematician! Snow is clear, but also reflective. Its "colour" is really that of its light source. In this case, then, we feel "the presence" of Mary, though she is not on the scene at all. Why? Remember what St. Francis wrote about water?

Praised be my Lord for our sister water, who is very serviceable to us, and humble and precious and clean. [from the Poetry Appendix in the Liturgy of the Hours]
This is another example of the humble character of water, which never shows its own color but is always reflective of the source of its light. (The main way in which water is humble is almost a pun: it always seeks the lowest place.)

With this watery character in mind, then, we turn to the remaining amino acids with hydrophilic side chains. Since I used Serine for L1, which was a great epiphany, I will use a close relative: Threonine.

Threonine (abbreviated Thr or T)
RNA Codes:

Threonine has four codes, each of which starts with AC (and then the usual wobble base).

(A humourous aside: the name of this amino acid may recall one of the "car" songs of the Beach Boys, though theirs was Fouronine.)

The side chain is the same as Serine, but with a methyl -CH3 substituted for one of its hydrogens. Thus the side chain is ethyl alcohol with one hydrogen removed. At one point I considered Threonine for L2, to associate with the wine, but the Marian indication of the the nitrogens of Arginine seemed more fitting. Both Serine (L1) and Threonine have the -OH (hydroxide, or for organics, alcohol) group. In certain enzymes, the -OH of Serine provides a reactive site, but this is not the case with Threonine. (This suggests the more public character of L1 versus the private character of L4.)

One observation I have pondered in my own consideration of L4 is the words of St. Peter. He suggests the building of three (no pun intended) tents, and states, "Lord it is good for us to be here." To me, this hints that perhaps L4 was somewhat more than a simple revelation of Jesus the God-Man - or, perhaps I should say L4 also reveals the direct result of being with Jesus Glorified. What I am trying to say is this: as Jesus revealed Himself as True God and True Man, the essential quality of His presence, which IS heaven, was also sensible in some manner. Hence, immediately Peter acknowledges that it is "good to be here" - that is, here, with Jesus - and so he thought to make arrangements to maintain that life. I wonder if any of them thought of this when after the Last Supper Jesus told them about the "many dwelling-places" in His Father's house...

Let us pray that we may have True Light and so come to live where "it is good for us to be"...


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