Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Second Sunday of Lent—24 February A.D. 2013

Wildflowers of the Jezreel Valley and distant Mount Tabor. Photo Creative Commons License Eliot.

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Lenten Observance

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification”[1]

    Apparently, the Church considers the transfiguration of our Lord to be very important, for today’s Gospel is read three times in the liturgical year.[2]  Moses and Elias appear with our Lord on Mount Thabor, as a recognition of the fact that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer promised in the Old Testament: Moses representing the revelation God’s Law to mankind, and Elias representing the prophets.  On this mountain, we have the meeting of the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel.

    There is a temptation to think that in this spectacular display our Lord was revealing His divinity to the three Apostles with Him.  But Pope Saint Leo the Great tells us that his is not the case.  What they saw, says the Pope was His

... kingly splendor, which is the right of the Manhood taken into God.... This it was that they saw, for the unspeakable and unapproachable vision of the Godhead Himself which will be the everlasting life of the pure in heart, (Matt 8) can no man, who is still burdened with a dying body, see and live. [3]

    What Pope Leo is saying is that Peter, James, and John were looking at our Lord’s glorified humanity—which, indeed, is the same humanity as they themselves possessed—indeed, the same humanity that we all possess.  Our Lord was not giving them a preview of the Beatific Vision of God enjoyed by the blessed in heaven, but, rather, something of the glory that the blessed in heaven would themselves possess.  Saint Paul testifies to the same thing in his Epistle to the Philippians:

... our Lord Jesus Christ ... will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of His glory....[4]

    We might ask why this would be important.  We might even imagine that the desire for such glory is inconsistent with that humility that the great spiritual writers unanimously urge upon us.  Clearly, we are talking about much more than just shining in the darkness.  The splendor of the transfiguration is a symbol of all that it means to be numbered among the souls in heaven—to be promoted from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant.  It will be a tangible recognition that the souls in heaven have achieved that sanctification willed by God, of which Saint Paul spoke about in today’s Epistle.

    The transfiguration was of primary importance to bolster the confidence of the Apostles.  Saint Matthew’s Gospel tells us that both before and after the transfiguration our Lord predicted His impending crucifixion.[5]  Before the transfiguration, Saint Peter even tried to persuade our Lord that He should not die.  This might even be Peter’s motive when he suggested that they build three tabernacles on the mountain—perhaps so that they could stay there and avoid going to Jerusalem.  After the transfiguration, they were still “troubled exceedingly” when our Lord spoke about it again—but there was no effort to persuade Him that He ought to avoid crucifixion.  They had heard what was obviously the voice of God, saying “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye Him.”[6]  Hear Him, and do not question the necessity of what He says He has to do.

    Likewise, we are to hear His voice, and not to question the necessity of the things He tells us are expected of us.  While we no longer keep the ceremonial customs of the Old Testament, Moses and Elias serve to remind us of the never-changing moral Law of God—something we can know through natural reason, but which God revealed directly because He loves His faithful ones.  As we hear through Saint Paul today, we are to “possess [the] vessel[s of our bodies] in sanctification and honor; not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles that know not God.”  And we are to respect our brethren, not seeking to outdo them in business or in any other way.  As Saint Peter tells us elsewhere, “having a constant mutual charity among ourselves.”[7]

    Again, this is the will of God: our sanctification, that we hear the voice of His Beloved Son, and ultimately our glory with Him in heaven.


[1]   Epistle:  I Thess. iv: 1-7

[2]   Yesterday, today, and on August 6th.

[3]   Homilia sancti Leonis Papae, de Transfiguratione Domini, from Matins.

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