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Monday, August 6, 2012
Purpose of the Transfiguration of Christ
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Transfiguration by Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo, 16th century 

Each year on August 6th the Church recalls and celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we recall Christ's divinity showing forth on Mount Tabor. This event foreshadowed the glorious Resurrection and Ascension of Christ that would occur after His death on the Cross.

The Transfiguration wasn’t in and of itself the greatest part of this mystery, but what is even greater is that Christ humbled Himself and hid His immense glory while on earth.

As Our Blessed Lord ascends Mount Tabor and is transfigured before His closest disciples, there appears to Him both Moses and Elijah -- symbolizes the Law and the Prophet, surrounding the Son of Man. The radiance of Jesus in the presence of Moses refers to Moses' radiance in the presence of the Lord.  St. James the Greater, along with Peter and John, was one of the few that witnessed Our Lord's Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and Our Lord’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane before His passion.

As the beginning of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s section on the Transfiguration states: “Three important scenes of Our Lord’s life took place on mountains.  On one, He preached the Beatitudes, the practice of which would bring a Cross from the world; on the second, He showed the glory that lay beyond the Cross; and on the third, He offered Himself in death as a prelude to His glory and that of all who would believe in His name” (Life of Christ by Fulton J. Sheen, p. 158, © 1970)

The following commentary is excerpted from the Navarre Bible Commentary:
2-10. We contemplate in awe this manifestation of the glory of the Son of God to three of His disciples. Ever since the Incarnation, the divinity of our Lord has usually been hidden behind His humanity. But Christ wishes to show, to these favorite disciples, who will later be pillars of the Church, the splendor of His divine glory, in order to encourage them to follow the difficult way that lies ahead, fixing their gaze on the happy goal which is awaiting them at the end. This is why, as St. Thomas comments (cf. "Summa Theologia", III, q. 45, a. 1), it was appropriate for Him to give them an insight into His glory. The fact that the Transfiguration comes immediately after the first announcement of His passion, and His prophetic words about how His followers would also have to carry His cross, shows us that "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

What happened at the Transfiguration? To understand this miraculous event in Christ's life, we must remember that in order to redeem us by His passion and death our Lord freely renounced divine glory and became man, assuming flesh which was capable of suffering and which was not glorious, becoming like us in every way except sin (cf. Hebrew 4:15). In the Transfiguration, Jesus Christ willed that the glory which was His as God and which His soul had from the moment of the Incarnation, should miraculously become present in His body. "We should learn from Jesus' attitude in these trials. During His life on earth He did not even want the glory that belong to Him. Though He had the right to be treated as God, He took the form of a servant, a slave (cf. Philippians 2:6)" (St. J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 62). Bearing in mind WHO became man (the divinity of the person and the glory of His soul), it was appropriate for His body to be glorious; given the PURPOSE of His Incarnation, it was not appropriate, usually, for His glory to be evident. Christ shows His glory in the Transfiguration in order to move us to desire the divine glory which will be given us so that, having this hope, we too can understand "that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18).
To continue reading, please see my prior post on the Transfiguration and consider the online course through CatechismClass.com on the Life of Christ, using Fulton Sheen's text as one of its many resources.

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