August 6, 2018
by Eileen Burke-Sullivan
Creighton University's Mission and Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
Lectionary: 614

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 97:1-2, 5-6, 9
2 Peter 1:16-19
Matthew 17:1-9
Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Pope Francis on the Transfiguation in 2014

Today’s Feast dates from the 15th Century in the Western Church but was celebrated throughout the Catholic East from the 3rd Century on. It came into the Western calendar following the Crusades and was celebrated as a way of expressing the hope of the Church in the victory of grace for all believers in Christ, over sin and death.  All three synoptic Gospel writers recount the event in the lives of some of the disciples where Jesus takes three disciples and climbs a high mountain. This movement echoes both the biblical theme and symbol of receiving the fullness of the law on a mountain top – think of Moses on Mount Sinai, or Jesus’ “sermon on the mount” in Matthew’s version of the delivery of the Beatitudes.  Here the revelation of the teaching of God, the law of human flourishing, is the revelation of Jesus as God’s chosen one.  For humans to genuinely flourish, we must know that God is God, the author and ultimate authority of life.

The theme of the revelation of Jesus in the Transfiguration – the revelation of his resurrection glory before his death –  that is, his Messianic Mission, his participation in the Trinitarian Life of God, his prophetic fulfillment of the plan of God – has been pondered and written about by mystics, theologians and biblical scholars since the earliest days in the Church.  The event, revealed to Peter, James and John, challenges especially each one of us to embrace Jesus’ mission and to consider our mission with him as the disciples surely had to do.  St. Maximus, a Seventh Century theologian venerated in both the Eastern and Western Churches, suffered terrible persecution for his defense of the teaching of Chalcedon concerning Jesus’ two natures, both human and divine.  On this event of the Transfiguration her wrote:  The Lord does not always appear in glory to all who stand before Him. To beginners He appears in the form of a servant; to those able to follow Him as He climbs the high mountain of His Transfiguration He appears in the form of God, the form in which He existed before the world came to be. It is therefore possible for the same Lord not to appear in the same way to all who stand before Him, but to appear to some in one way and to others in another way, according to the measure of each person’s faith.

We are invited by the moment that this feast commemorates to explore our own personal relationship to Jesus.  Does Jesus disclose his humanity to us as well as his divinity, thus enabling us to find our own part in God’s great work of salvation?  Saint Ignatius of Loyola urges us to engage this event as a contemplation during the second week of the Spiritual Exercises – to imagine ourselves on the mountain top with Peter, James and John, and our friend and leader, Jesus: 

To begin the contemplation, we feel the strain of the climb – we notice the pull on our muscles, perhaps.  We fall into silence as we walk, saving our breath for the labor of walking and climbing.  We might wonder why Jesus has summoned us to the place.  Is this just an outing to see a great view? What is Jesus’ plan for us, for me? I might wonder.  As we arrive at the top we notice the little space or table top, perhaps with some stones, with hardier trees growing, are their flowers and grass or is this too high for that kind of natural beauty?  The breeze blowing some degrees cooler than it is down below cools the sweat that soaks my shirt from the climbing walk that brought us here.  Are we quiet or is Jesus or one of the others pointing out landmarks in various directions to anchor our sense of location, since our perception is so changed. 

 Is the air fresh and clean?  Can we smell the plants and trees of this part of the world, this season?  Can we hear birds or see them?  Is it early morning, full sun, or evening?  Is it a clear day or cloudy?  As we continue to contemplate this scene we want to let all our senses be engaged in “being here” fully.   How does the transfiguring event happen?  Does Jesus begin to “glow” from within?  Is there a light from above that shines on him?  This brilliance is clearly frightening to the other disciples, am I frightened?  Do I see Jesus’s face?  Do I hear the Father’s voice, Do I recognize the other prophets?  In Luke’s version we are told that this is Moses and Elijah, the two “greatest” of the Hebrew prophets – how do I perceive their participation here?

As this event unfolds in my prayer God allows me to know what He desires me to know of his triune nature, of Jesus’s place in Trinitarian love and action, in the mystery of God’s plans revealed to humanity.  There are many, many layers of “knowing” here – to be seen, contemplated, savored, considered – and in the time of prayer something important happens.  Perhaps I discover the great love and desire of the Father for all the created order . . . perhaps I only discover my own resistance to there being a God at all outside of my own ego.  Perhaps I am so blinded by the brightness of Jesus’ presence that I hide my face and hope he doesn’t notice that I tagged along.  Perhaps I am terrified like the disciples or perhaps it just comes to me like a good Video – a show that no more is real than some plot in a film.

If I pray with the deep longing to know what God desires for me, I discover, as Maximus points out, that there is something in this event for me to know but it may be different than what you discover.  In this contemplation – as in all others – be only where you are – because there is the “mountain top” on which Jesus can reveal what it is best for you to know now.

May you be transfigured in your new way of “knowing” Jesus this week.

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.

Sharing this reflection with others by Email, on Facebook or Twitter:

Email this pageFacebookTwitter

Print Friendly

See all the Resources we offer on our Online Ministries Home Page

Daily Reflection Home

Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook