Guest Columnist The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Detail from Raphael's Transfiguration (1516-20). Detail from Raphael's Transfiguration (1516-20).

At the Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John witnessed a transformative moment that reflects the life of the Christian called to their own transfiguration. St. Matthew described in his Gospel: “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.” 

Of this event, Benedict XVI noted, “According to the senses, the light of the sun is the most intense ever known in nature.” Despite this fact, Benedict said, “according to the spirit, the disciples saw for a short time a brightness more intense: that of the divine glory of Jesus, which illuminates the whole history of salvation.” 

Peter, James, and John experienced an intense beauty, the beauty of an experience of God, a small glimpse of the beatific vision. 

The Preface for Mass on the Transfiguration explains the significance of the event: “For he revealed his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses...that the scandal of the Cross might be removed from the hearts of his disciples.”

Benedict reflected this sentiment at an Angelus Address on March 20, 2011, saying, “We recall the Transfiguration of the Lord and how it prepared the Apostles for the coming scandal of the Cross.” The apostles' experience at the Transfiguration gave them the courage and hope in the Resurrection. As the Mass Preface ends, “that he might show how in the body of the whole Church is to be fulfilled what so wonderfully shone forth first in its Head.”

Christ revealed himself in a new way at the Transfiguration. 

“Strengthened by our faith in Jesus, true God and true man, may we be inspired, not scandalized, by the Cross given to our Savior and to our fellow Christians who suffer with him throughout the world,” Benedict added. Christ’s Transfiguration inspired more faith in the apostles, giving them the strength to face the cross. 

Ultimately, faith in Christ and his own Transfiguration leads the Christian’s life to be transfigured. 

“He is the only voice to listen to, the only one to follow,” Benedict said in a February 2010 Angelus address. “He that, going up towards Jerusalem, will give his life and one day ‘will transfigure our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.’”

As Pope Francis said at an Angelus Address on March 1, 2015, speaking about the Transfiguration, “The way of Jesus always leads us to happiness, do not forget it!”

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