Transfiguration of Christ
Fr. Scott A. Haynes
On the second Sunday of Lent, the Church invites us to contemplate the mystery of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus. For at the time of the Transfiguration, Jesus appears in Glory, and this is the goal of Lent. Each time we receive the Holy Eucharist in a state of grace God is transfiguring our soul to reflect more and more His image and likeness. We cannot achieve this. We cannot transfigure ourselves in holiness. We cannot build this. Rather God achieves this in us. Does not the Psalm 127 say:
"Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it."
The Transfiguration of Jesus takes place six days after Peter's profession of faith, when he said to Christ:
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Mt. 16:16; cf. Mk. 8:29 and Lk. 9:20)
So, Peter has just had an interior revelation from the Father, instructing him on the identity of that Man called Christ, and who is - as Peter now knows in the Holy Spirit - the Son of God, the Word of the Father made flesh.
At the Transfiguration, Peter will receive heaven’s confirmation of this revelation. But he will not receive it alone, for this revelation will not be an interior one, as would be appropriate for a revelation that is received personally, but rather an exterior one: the revelation that the Father will make at the Transfiguration of his Son is a public revelation, which is destined to instruct several people at once, without distinction. In fact, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with him, and it is before these three that He is transfigured under the gaze of the Father.
"Now Peter and those who were with Him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him."
It is a strange thing, this sleep that returns every time that an important event in the lives of the elect of God is about to take place! For, when God decided to create the first woman,
"[He] caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh." (Gen. 2:21)
Also, it was while they slept that God spoke to many important people of the Old Covenant: Jacob, Joseph, Samuel, to name a few.
It was also during sleep that Joseph, the spouse of Mary, received from the Angel the revelation of the mystery of the Incarnation. But, what relates directly to the mystery of the Transfiguration is the sleep that fell upon the very same three apostles: Peter, James, and John, at the time of the Agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Indeed, after having prayed to his Father, Jesus said to Peter:
"Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?" (Mk. 14:37)
Truly, sleep is important in the life of a Christian, because the eternal life to which he is called consists precisely in rest and residing in God.
Although both Saint Matthew (17:1-13) and Saint Luke (9:28-36) speak of light shining from the face of Christ, Saint Mark mentions only the clothing of the Lord:
"His garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them."
The clothes we wear reflect the form of our body. However, our clothes are not our body. For Christ, too, there exists a reality which has the form of his body, but which, however, is not his own physical body: it is the Church, his Mystical Body. So one can see, in the clothing of the transfigured Christ, an image of the Church, the beloved Wife whom the Lord wants to present to Himself
"...in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." (Ep. 5:27)
Saint Augustine says that the Transfiguration is predicted in the psalms. Psalm 103 says:
"Thou art clothed with honor and majesty, who coverest thyself with light as with a garment!" (Ps 103:2).
You see Scripture is teaching us that
"[Christ] took the Church for his garment ; because in him she became light, she who before was darkness in herself, as the Apostle teaches: 'For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord (Ep. 5:8).'" (Saint Augustine, Patrologia Latina: 37, 1352).
Without doubt, the Savior's clothes were only ordinary clothes: nothing more. It was only in the Mystery of the Transfiguration that they took on such significance. Nevertheless, we who believe in this Mystery must see in this an invitation to innocence and purity, a call to conversion and to the change of one's life: with Christ, who wears us as his clothing, we must climb the mountain of perfection in order to be transfigured like Christ, living a new spiritual life, having been turned towards the realities of heaven.