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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Reflections on the Transfiguration

Transfiguration by Rafael (Source: Wikipedia)
Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord which is described in all three synoptic Gospels. This year the Gospel reading is taken from Luke 9:28-36. I have collected a few commentaries and reflections on the Transfiguration to help in understanding its meaning.

Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Catechism explains that the transfiguration is a foretaste of the Kingdom.
554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master "began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. . . and be killed, and on the third day be raised."290 Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he.291 In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus' Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain,292 before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus' face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking "of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem".293 A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"294
555 For a moment Jesus discloses his divine glory, confirming Peter's confession. He also reveals that he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to "enter into his glory".295 Moses and Elijah had seen God's glory on the Mountain; the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah's sufferings.296 Christ's Passion is the will of the Father: the Son acts as God's servant;297 the cloud indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. "The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud."298
You were transfigured on the mountain, and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendor of the Father.299
556 On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus' baptism proclaimed "the mystery of the first regeneration", namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration "is the sacrament of the second regeneration": our own Resurrection.300 From now on we share in the Lord's Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ's glorious coming, when he "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body."301 But it also recalls that "it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God":302
Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: "Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?"303
Navarre Bible Commentary
The commentators of  the Navarre Bible quote St. Thomas Aquinas who reflects that:

By His transfiguration Jesus strengthens His disciples' faith, revealing a trace of the glory His body will have after the Resurrection. He wants them to realize that His passion will not be the end but rather the route He will take to reach His glorification. "For a person to go straight along the road, he must have some knowledge of the end--just as an archer will not shoot an arrow straight unless he first sees the target [...]. This is particularly necessary if the road is hard and rough, the going heavy, and the end delightful" (St. Thomas Aquinas, "Summa Theologiae", III, q. 45, a. 1).
 They conclude their commentary by drawing from St. John of the Cross.

"Listen to Him!": everything God wishes to say to mankind He has said through Christ, now that the fullness of time has come (cf. Hebrews 1:1). "Therefore," St. John of the Cross explains, "if any now should question God or desire a vision or revelation, not only would he be acting foolishly but he would be committing an offense against God, by not fixing his gaze on Christ with no desire for any new thing. For God could reply to him in this way: 'If I have spoken all things to you in My Word, which is My Son, and I have no greater word, what answer can I give you now, or what can I reveal to you that is greater than this? Fix your eyes on Him alone, for in Him I have spoken and revealed to you all things, and in Him you will find even more than what you ask for and desire [...]. Hear Him, for I have no more faith to reveal, nor have I any more things to declare'" ("Ascent of Mount Carmel", Book 2, Chapter 22, 5).
Mystery of Light
In 2002, Pope John Paul introduced the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary in his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. These five new mysteries of the rosary reflect on the public life of Jesus and include "the mysteries of Christ's public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion" (RVM, 19B). Although he had already died by the time these mysteries were proposed, St. Josemaria had previously written reflections on Christ's public ministry. The following is excerpted from his revised collection of Holy Rosary reflections.
Jesus, we want to see you, to speak to you! We want to contemplate you, immersed in the immensity of your beauty, in a contemplation that will never cease! It must be wonderful to see you, Jesus! It must be wonderful to see you and be wounded by your love! 
Lord, we are ready to heed whatever you want to tell us. Speak to us: we are attentive to your voice. May your words enkindle our will so that we launch out fervently to obey you. 
Vultum tuum, Domine, requiram (Ps 26:8). Lord, I long to see your face. I like to close my eyes and think that, when God wills, the moment will come when I will be able to see him, not as in a mirror dimly, but…face to face (1-Cor 13:12). Yes, my heart yearns for God, the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God? (Ps 41:3). (Holy Rosary, Fourth Mystery of Light)
Video Reflection
For you visual learners, I have included a brief video from the Apostleship of Prayer.