August 6, 2015

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ

The Transfiguration of Jesus, Carl Bloch

Today, August 6, is the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. It was declared a universal feast by Pope Callixtus III to commemorate the raising of the Siege of Belgrade (1456). The Transfiguration is mentioned in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28–36 describe it, and 2 Peter 1:16–18 refers to it). It is the only miracle that exclusively involves Jesus, in which, he is transfigured (or metamorphosed) and becomes radiant in glory upon a mountain. The apostles Peter, James and John are the only eyewitnesses. From the Gospel of Mark:
Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. 
As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
The Transfiguration is a pivotal event in Jesus' life and ministry. The words of God the Father, "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" are a further revelation of the identity of Jesus as the Son of God and evoke God's words at Jesus' baptism. The significance of this identification is enhanced by the presence of Elijah and Moses. It means that Jesus is the voice of God "par excellence", and instead of Elijah (who represents the prophets) or Moses (who represents the law), He should be listened to, surpassing the laws of Moses by virtue of his filial relationship with God. The Transfiguration embodies Jesus as the person in whom human nature meets God: the union of the temporal and the eternal, with Christ as the bridge between heaven and earth.

The Transfiguration prefigures the Resurrection of Christ in his glorified body. Saint Thomas Aquinas called the Transfiguration "the greatest miracle" because it complemented baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven. Saint John Paul II included the Transfiguration as part of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, which he introduced in 2002.

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