Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Not only is Jesus transfigured before the eyes of Peter, James, and John, but they also hear the voice of the Father and “see” the Holy Spirit as the presence in the cloud. In this theophany, the entire Trinity is present. And, what are the instructions? Listen to Him.
Listening is not just hearing. To be sure, it is that. But, it is also being attentive to Him, keeping Him in the cloister of our hearts. And, keeping Him in our hearts is more than just a good feeling. It entails real transformation in Christ, a real conversion of every facet and aspect of our lives, great and small: from our prayer life and our worship of God to our relationship with Him and with one another, a conversatio morum if you will, essentially an ongoing, or continual, transformation of heart.
“Only by touching Jesus’ wounds and encountering the Resurrection are we able to grasp them, and then they become our mission.”*
Thus, that transformation also includes joyfully descending into the muck and mire of our human existence to encounter Christ in our brothers and sisters, to be with them in their daily lives in order to suffer with them and serve them, to mourn with them, hunger and thirst with them, be humiliated with them, and to lift their burdens and draw them to Christ, who alone is everlasting life.
The event of the Transfiguration marks a decisive moment in the ministry of Jesus. It is a revelatory event which strengthens the faith in the disciples’ hearts, prepares them for the tragedy of the Cross and prefigures the glory of the Resurrection. This mystery is constantly relived by the Church, the people on its way to the eschatological encounter with its Lord. Like the three chosen disciples, the Church contemplates the transfigured face of Christ in order to be confirmed in faith and to avoid being dismayed at his disfigured face on the Cross. In both cases, she is the Bride before her Spouse, sharing in his mystery and surrounded by his light. This light shines on all the Church’s children. All are equally called to follow Christ, to discover in him the ultimate meaning of their lives, until they are able to say with the Apostle: “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).**
It is important, then, to keep the long-range plan in mind: everlasting life with God. It is also important to understand that for Jesus–just as it will be for all of us–the scandal of the Cross preceded the Resurrection. In point of fact, the Cross is the mercy seat of Christ, to which He has been exalted and from which He reigns.
So too, for you and for me, there is no ultimate glory without suffering, no eternal life without the first death. We know that Christ has gone before us to prepare the way, so that where He is we, as God’s children, may also be. And, lest we grow weary and grow faint, we already begin to experience this heavenly life, even now: our taste of the cross, united to Christ, anticipates the extent of the glory and joy that will be ours in the life to come. To paraphrase the Apostles, “It will be good for us to be there.”
Thanks be to God for all He has done and continues to do for us.
* Joseph Ratzinger–Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (Doubleday, New York, 2007), 305.
**St. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano, 1996), paragraph 15.
Art for this post on the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord: Transfiguration, Corbert Gauthier, copyright 2006, used with permission.