A MEDITATION ON THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION
“After six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” Jesus took his disciples up a high mountain. Now there are many places in Scripture, geographic locations, where the most interesting and significant events occur. Like the sea, where the Gospels record Jesus having walked upon the water. Or in the wilderness, the barren landscape where Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights being tempted by the Devil who in an instance, somehow transports Christ to the top of the temple and the next minute, shows Him all the nations of the world in a single glance. So many incredible events throughout redemptive history are connected to these places and also to mountains.
It was upon a mountain that Noah and his family stepped upon dry ground after the flood waters subdued. It was upon a mountain that Abraham’s knife was stayed by God delivering Isaac by mysteriously providing a sacrificial ram caught in the thicket. It was upon a mountain where four hundred priest of Baal, were gloriously defeated by Elijah. And, it was upon a mountain where God spoke to Moses in a burning bush, a bush that mysteriously withstood being consumed by the fire within it. Mystery and mountains. Mountains… so very often, the place of God’s mysterious work.
Jesus brought Peter, James and john “up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” In contemplating this feast of the Transfiguration- meditating on what it means to us biblically and theologically- we must acknowledge that we are entering into profound mystery. Mystery because in this account we come face to face with the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ- the mystery of his being fully man and fully God.
And, at the top of the mountain, we encounter the manifestation and revelation of Christ’s Glory, the shekinah glory of God. The revelation of Christ’s divinity and the transfiguration of his body: the mystery of the incarnation on full display- magnificent, powerful, and yes, mysterious. Though we may see ‘dimly’ we can by the Holy Spirit, begin to understand the significance of the Transfiguration event. I want to share three insights as we prepare to ascend the mountain of God entering into the glory of Jesus, revealed in the mystery of the Eucharist.
First, the Transfiguration reveals the divine glory of Christ. The Transfiguration signified the long awaited return of God’s glory to Israel- to his creation- in the person of Christ. The transfiguration marks an important stage in the revelation of Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God. St. John tells us that Christ’s life was a manifestation of the divine glory, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
On the mountain, his glory is revealed...signifying the divine and royal presence, for the kingdom of God is truly in the midst of God’s people. Like St. Peter, we are not following a god made of “cunningly devised fables” but following the Light of Light, the very God of very God: Jesus Christ.
Second, the Transfiguration directs the worship of the Church. In the Transfiguration we see Moses and Elijah glorified on the mountain speaking with Christ, a clear picture of the Law and the Prophets agreeing with the Son, both converging in the embodiment of the Son. What the Law and Prophets have said is now understood in the person and work of the Son of God, Jesus Christ; he is the fullest and clearest revelation of the Father’s will and purpose to redeem a people for himself AND to usher in the salvation of the world. True Yahweh worship no longer occurs in the Temple BUT in the person of Christ. To worship in spirit in truth is to worship in Christ. The Transfiguration places the worship of the Church in Christ, our participating in Him, fulfilling the Commandments of God by the Spirit AND NOT by the letter.
Third, the Transfiguration gives hope to the Church. The glorification of Christ on Mt. Tabor reveals the truth about who Jesus is and what the Christian will one day become through participation in Him. We too will one day become as he is. We too will be transfigured, as the Lord Himself was transfigured, when our redemption is complete in the Resurrection of the Body. Then, we will forever be with Him in the new heaven and the new earth: in a transformed creation. This is a glorious truth! This promised hope, pictured in the Transfiguration, is our sure reassurance of what will be inherited at end of the age AND the consummation of all things.
Finally, if we desire to see Christ’s glory, we must do as the Disciples did. They went up into a high mountain apart. We also must try and get above this world, apart by ourselves, at a distance from the troubles and cares of the earth, “ASCEND THE MOUNTAIN” and fix our hearts on that heavenly land where Jesus now is. And yet, we must also DESCEND from the mountain as the Apostles did. But having encountered the glorious hope of Christ at the peak we now walk through the trials, tribulations, and valleys of this life with a strong and sure hope: beholding in our hearts a vision of what lies at the end of the road, our glorification and an eternity, basking in the glorious light of Christ. Amen