6th AUGUST 2022

The Transfiguration — The Bible: The Power of Rebirth



Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord


Dn 7: 9-10, 13-14;                  Ps 97; 2 Pt 1: 16-19;              Lk 9: 28-36




Today we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ. This feast became widespread in the West in the 11th century and was introduced into the Roman calendar in 1457. This day seems to have been chosen to be exactly forty days before September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This feast celebrates Jesus’ radical change of appearance while in the presence of his apostles Peter, James, and John, on a high mountain (Mt 17:1-8; Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36). It assured James, Peter, and John that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

The word “transfiguration” comes from the Latin roots trans (across) and figura (form or shape). It thus signifies a change of form or appearance. So why did the Transfiguration take place? The Catechism explains that Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent onto the ‘high mountain’ prepares for the ascent to Calvary. Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: ‘the hope of glory’ (CCC 568). Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain during this transfiguration as they represent the two principal components of the Old Testament: the Law and the Prophets. The Transfiguration is significant because it was the glorification of the body of Jesus. Those with Him saw Jesus in His glory.

Jesus appears with Moses and Elijah, who themselves encountered God on the mountaintop in the Old Testament. The Law and the Prophets are symbolized in the Transfiguration by the presence of Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets). In the Transfiguration, the disciples experience God’s presence in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The point of the Transfiguration was to reinforce the staggering faith of the apostles. The Transfiguration stood as a transforming event in the life of Peter, a man who would go on to lead the early church as they spread the Gospel message. As Jesus manifested himself to be God to Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, they were the eyewitnesses of his divine majesty. It was this staggering faith that enabled Peter to write about this transformation so convincingly in his letter (the second reading). He writes that as Jesus was transfigured before them, his face did shine like the sun – his raiment was white as the light, exceedingly white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can whiten them. Besides the visible glory that Christ was invested with here on earth, there was an audible voice from heaven.

With the Transfiguration, Jesus briefly revealed the glory of his resurrected body, which could only be achieved through the Cross. The Transfiguration event was probably the most definitive revelation of Jesus as divine next to the resurrection itself. It was a special event in which God exalted Jesus and had this honour put upon him when he was praying. When Christ humbled himself to pray, he was thus exalted. According to Daniel’s vision of the four beasts in the first reading, the Judge is here set forth by his garment, which was white as snow. This denoted his splendour and purity in all the administrations of his justice and the hair of his head clean and white, as the pure wool, that as the white and hoary head, he may appear venerable. Even the Psalm reinforces that the Lord reigns – that is a great truth here laid down. The Transfiguration was the glorification of the human body of Jesus. On this occasion, His body changed form, a metamorphosis. This event foretells the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ as God the Son, and His Ascension into heaven. The shining radiance of the transfigured Jesus, as well as the dazzling white garment, both serve to reveal Him as a heavenly figure. Though the event is recorded in each of the Synoptic Gospels, the gospels do not indicate the location of the high mountain. The early church tradition places the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.

The central message of the Transfiguration is to “Listen to him”. This invitation at the Transfiguration, for the disciples as well as for the faithful today, is to listen to Jesus and to follow him. It invites us to encounter Jesus.

Response: The Lord is king, most high above all the earth.

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