One of Jesus' miracles in the Gospels is the transfiguration. This miracle is distinct from others recorded in the canonical gospels in that it occurs to Jesus himself. The transfiguration was called “the greatest miracle” by Thomas Aquinas because it supplemented baptism and demonstrated the perfection of life in Heaven. The transfiguration is one of the five major events in the life of Jesus recorded in the gospels, together with his baptism, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. The Luminous Mysteries, which feature the transfiguration, were included into the rosary by Pope John Paul II in 2002.
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The transfiguration is a significant moment in Christian teachings, with the location on the mountain shown as the meeting point of human nature and God: the meeting spot of the temporal and eternal, with Jesus himself serving as the connecting point, acting as a bridge between heaven and earth. Christians also believe that the transfiguration fulfilled an Old Testament prophetic prophesy that Elijah would return after his ascension (Malachi 4:56). .mw-parser-output.templatequote.templatequotecite.mw-parser-output.templatequote.templatequotecite.mw-parser-output.templatequote.templatequotecite.mw-parser-output.templatequote.templatequotecite.mw-parser-output.templatequotecite.mw-parser-
Malachi, the last of the literary prophets, predicted Elijah's coming to offer hope for repentance before judgment (Malachi 4:56)… Elijah himself would appear in the Transfiguration. There, he would appear beside Moses as a representative of all the prophets who had predicted the Messiah's arrival (Matthew 17:29; Mark 9:210; Luke 9:2836)…. Elijah's earthly ministry had been for the sake of Christ's redemptive sacrifice. It was about this goal that Elijah talked to Jesus during the Transfiguration.
What does the transfiguration symbolize?
Today is the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ for Western Christians and Orthodox who follow the New Calendar (that is, most American Orthodox, but not us Old Calendar people). The incident Christians celebrate is described in Matthew 17:
After six days, Jesus took Peter, James, and John the brother of James and led them by themselves up a steep mountain. He was transfigured in front of them. His garments became as white as the light, and his face gleamed like the sun. Just then, Moses and Elijah appeared in front of them, conversing with Jesus.
To Jesus, Peter answered, “It is good for us to be here, Lord. If you like, I can build three shelters for you, Moses, and Elijah.”
A dazzling cloud engulfed them while he was still speaking, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I adore, and I am very happy with him.”
The disciples were scared and fell facedown to the ground when they heard this. However, Jesus approached them and touched them. “He said, “Get up.” “Do not be alarmed.” When they looked up, the only person they saw was Jesus.
You may not be surprised to learn that this is my favorite of all Jesus' miracles if you've been reading this site for a while. It appeals to my Platonist side. The disciples were given the opportunity to perceive things for what they truly are, the reality that is normally obscured by the material. Dale Coulter has a great brief reflection on the meaning of the Transfiguration at First Things:
Christ's splendor on Mount Tabor embodies an indescribable joy. In other words, changes in human emotions have an impact on body states, resulting in a change in appearance. The beauty of the divine image is buried beneath the veils of the passions, yet there is a glow on the face of the joyful that draws forth the beauty of the divine image buried beneath the veils of the passions. When passion and desire are reintegrated and redirected so that perfect love prevails in the heart, holiness produces a delight that transforms human existence. The Psalmist's injunction to taste and perceive that the Lord is excellent is symbolized by the transfiguration. Every moment of delight is merely a taste of that deeper bliss, which emerges in unexpected ways, as C. S. Lewis discovered.
As a result, the transfiguration represents the life to come and, as a result, the aim of ascetic endeavor. It reminds believers that God's vision unfolds in the midst of holiness' glory, while simultaneously emphasizing how the final movement to ecstatic amazement is always grace-filled and joy-laden. It is the instantaneous rush of divine light that occurs when Helios peaks above the horizon, casting his rays over all of creation, causing the world to gleam translucently in the golden haze of dawn.
Every point of conversion for me has occurred as a result of a moment of Transfiguration: when I saw the world as it truly is, under God, and had my inner vision altered as a result of that revelation. For example, attending my sister's wake at the Methodist Church and seeing all of my town's residents come to show their love and respect for her and my family was a life-changing experience for me. It was then that all of my intuitions about Ruthie's cancer journey came to a head in that one instant in time, and I realized that things that had previously seemed commonplace to me were actually masking God's presence and action in the earth. My wife saw it as well, which is why we chose to relocate here.
Take note of the symbolism. The figure of Jesus is enclosed within a circle, which represents totality, completion, and infinity. A square, the traditional emblem of the earth, or mortality, is contained within the circle. A rectangle with sides bending towards Christ is closest to the figure of Christ, representing that in Christ, the circle has been squared that is, the paradoxical unification of matter and spirit, of the temporal and eternal, of the finite and infinite has been achieved. Of fact, it's impossible to square a circle but the symbolism of this emblem reveals the nature of the Transfiguration miracle to us.
There's a lot more to this icon's significance. Fr. Patrick Comerford, an Irish Anglican priest, has written a beautiful blog post about the theological meaning of the Transfiguration and how to interpret the symbolism in many Transfiguration icons.
Christ appears within an oval vesica piscis, or mandorla, in another typical sign used in Transfiguration icons. The recurrence of the mandorla in Orthodox iconography, especially the Transfiguration, is discussed in Icon Reader; one of the earliest representations of this can be seen in a sixth-century mosaic inside St. Catherine's convent. When two circles overlap, you obtain this symbol, which shows us that in Christ, heaven and earth meet and are linked. The mandorla, like the mandala, is not solely a Christian emblem; it was present in sacred geometry long before Christ.
The mandorla is common in Western medieval churches; for example, on the western front of the Chartres cathedral, there is a mandorla with an image of Christ Pantokrator (Ruler Of The Cosmos).
(When I returned to the Chartres cathedral in 2012 after a long absence, I was happy and startled to realize that learning to interpret icons as an Orthodox Christian opened up the medieval Catholic cathedral to me on a level I had not before been able to comprehend.) The cathedral as a whole is a three-dimensional icon, with icons within icons. Even if a medieval farmer was uneducated, he or she might have been capable of “reading” the cathedral's iconography.)
In a short piece about the mandorla in Christian iconography, Orthodox priest Father Stephen Freeman phrased it like way:
The Fathers instilled in us the following values: “What Scripture does with words, icons do with color.” The mandorla's iconic grammar guides us to the major mysteries revealed in Scripture and makes it evident that they can be known and participated into.
What lesson does the transfiguration teach us?
This story is also told in Matthew and Luke, and the most of us are familiar with it. This event instructs us on Christ's authority and splendor, as well as the transformation we should undergo as his followers.
Was the Holy Spirit present at the Transfiguration?
The Transfiguration occurs during the Dormition Fast in the Byzantine Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, but the fast is significantly lightened in celebration of the feast, and fish, wine, and oil are permitted on this day.
The Transfiguration is a feast of the Holy Trinity in the Byzantine view, because all three Persons of the Trinity are seen as being present at that time: God the Father spoke from heaven, God the Son was the one being transfigured, and God the Holy Spirit was present in the form of a cloud. The transfiguration is also known as the “Small Epiphany” in this context (the “Great Epiphany” being the Baptism of Jesus, when the Holy Trinity appeared in a similar pattern).
The Transfiguration is one of the Twelve Great Feasts in the Byzantine liturgical calendar, and it is commemorated with an All-Night Vigil that begins on the Feast's night.
On the day of the Transfiguration, grapes are usually brought to church to be blessed after the Divine Liturgy. If grapes aren't accessible locally, apples or another fruit can be provided instead. This marks the start of the year's “Blessing of First Fruits.”
The Transfiguration is the second of the “Three Feasts of the Saviour in August,” the other two being August 1's Procession of the Cross and August 16's Icon of Christ Not Made by Hand. The Transfiguration is preceded by a one-day Forefeast and is followed by an eight-day Afterfeast, which concludes the day before the Dormition Forefeast.
The Tabor Light is the light displayed on Mount Tabor at Jesus' Transfiguration, which is connected with the light seen by Paul on the road to Damascus in Byzantine theology.
What is the difference between transfiguration and transformation?
The distinction between transfiguration and transformation as nouns is that transfiguration refers to a significant change in appearance or form; a metamorphosis, whereas transformation refers to the act of transforming or the state of being transformed.
How do you celebrate the Transfiguration?
The Transfiguration Feast (August 6) commemorates and celebrates Jesus' revelation of his divinity to three of his closest friends, Peter, James, and John, on a high point on Mount Tabor. According to the stories in the Gospels, Jesus brought the three disciples up to the mountain to pray. A magnificent white light erupted from him and his garments, changing his appearance while they were praying. The greatest Old Testament prophets, Moses and Elijah, appeared with Jesus, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son.” “Pay attention to him.”
The Transfiguration story connects the Old Covenant (represented by Moses and Elijah's presence) with the New Covenant (foreshadowed by the revelation of Jesus' heavenly splendor).
- Listen to Veronica Scarisbrick's musical meditation, presented by Vatican Radio.
- Listen to Father Robert Barron's extensive study on the Transfiguration as a model for mystical encounters.
- Pray a decade of the Luminous Mysteries with your children, starting with the Transfiguration.
- Serve vanilla ice cream as a dessert or special treat, telling your children that Jesus' face and garments were whiter than snow (represented by the ice cream).