August 6, 2016

Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Transfiguration

Transfiguration of Our Lord

Question 45 in the Summa theologiae:

1. In St. Matthew's Gospel (chap. 17) we read that our Lord was transfigured in the sight of his apostles Peter, James,and John. "And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun, and his garments became white as snow." Thus the three apostles had a glimpse of such glory as would come to them after their life of fidelity to God, through hardships and trials. Our Lord had told the apostles of his coming Passion before he gave them this encouraging experience of seeing the Transfiguration. Christ as man had the glory of the beatific vision from the first instant of his existence in Mary's womb. But he was not to have the "overflow of heavenly glory into his body" until his Resurrection from the dead.

2. In the Transfiguration, our Lord showed by way of anticipation the clarity of his bodily glory. This was the essential clarity of true heavenly glory, here manifested in a new mode, that is, as miraculously produced. In the glory following the Resurrection, the clarity of the glorified body is not a miracle;it belongs to the glorified body as such.

3. Our Lord chose as witnesses to the Transfiguration, not only the three apostles, but Moses and Elias who appeared visibly.

4. As at the baptism of Christ by St. John, so here on the mountain of Transfiguration, the voice of God the Father proclaimed the divine Son ship of Christ. The baptism of Christ by John foretold the true baptism which brings grace; the Transfiguration foretold the triumph of grace in glory. Both grace and glory are available to man, but only through the Son of God who became man. Hence it is notably suitable that the divinity of Christ should be divinely proclaimed on these two occasions: the baptism by John, and the Transfiguration on the mount.

"The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you."

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