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Transfiguration of Our Lord - AD 2006

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our Sunday Masses will be at 10:00 AM (only).

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin & English

Epistle:  2 Peter i: 16-19

A reading from the second Epistle of blessed Peter the Apostle.

Brethren:  We were not following fictitious tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we have been eyewitnesses of His grandeur.  For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when from out of the majestic glory a voice came down to Him, speaking thus: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  And this voice we ourselves heard borne from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mount.  And we have the word of prophecy, surer still, to which you do well to attend, as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Gospel:  Matthew xvii: 1-9 (+10-13)

  The continuation of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

At that time, Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them.  And His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as snow.  And, behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking together with Him.  Then Peter addressed Jesus, saying, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.  If Thou wilt, let us set up three tents here, one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias.”  As He was speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him.”  And on hearing it, the disciples fell on their faces and were exceedingly afraid.  And Jesus came near and touched them, and said to them, “Arise and do not be afraid.”  But lifting up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.  And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus cautioned them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”  And his disciples asked him, saying: “Why then do the scribes say that Elias must come first?”  But he answering, said to them:  “Elias indeed shall come, and restore all things.  But I say to you, that Elias is already come, and they knew him not, But have done unto him whatsoever they had a mind. So also the Son of man shall suffer from them.”  Then the disciples understood, that he had spoken to them of John the Baptist.


“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him.”


    This morning we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  As we have just heard, the Apostles Peter, James and John went up to the summit of Mount Thabor (about five miles to the southeast of Nazareth).  The event is mentioned in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) as well as in the Epistle of Saint Peter that we just read.[2]  “His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as snow.”  According to Pope Saint Leo the Great, our Lord was glorified with all the “kingly splendor that was the special property of the human nature He had assumed”—“not the Divinity Itself, for that unutterable and inaccessible vision is reserved for the pure of heart in eternal life.”[3]  Through this vision, the Apostles would come to recognize the greatness of the human nature associated in Christ with the truly divine.

    Six days earlier, our Lord had revealed to the Apostles that He “would go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and the scribes, and the chief priests, and He would be put to death, and on the third day rise again.”[4]  The idea of His death was a terrible blow to the Apostles, and we immediately read that Peter tried to convince Him not to go to Jerusalem.  Our Lord rebuked Peter for His suggestion, but then arranged this display of His power and His glory, so that they might be strengthened in their belief in His ability to “rise again on the third day.”  That even though “the Jews might destroy the temple of His body, in three days He would again raise it up.”[5]  He had already told them that:  “Even as Jonas was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”[6]  This transfiguration was to give them faith in His kingly dominion over the life of man.

    It is significant, as well, that the transfiguration was witnessed by two men out of their proper time, the Old Testament figures of Moses and Elias.  The Old Covenant of God with Abraham and His chosen Jewish people was about to be replaced with “a new and eternal covenant, the mystery of faith,” which would include all who believed in Christ as the new children of Abraham, and that these Christians would become what Saint Peter called the “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation ... the people of God.”[7]

    Moses and Elias were there, representing Abraham and his offsprings, representing the Law and the Prophets, to rejoice with our Lord that the promises and prophesies of the Old Testament would be fulfilled in Him and in His Church—that “many would come from the east and the west to feast with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”  Some might be “excluded to the exterior darkness, with weeping and gnashing of teeth,” but only through the fault of their own incredulity—only through their refusal to believe what had been manifestly demonstrated;  the divinity of Jesus Christ. [8]

    Now, this morning, I read a few more verses of this Gospel to you than are found in the Missal.  If you are at all familiar with the first three Gospels, you probably noticed that the words of God the Father at the Transfiguration are virtually identical with those we heard back at the time of our Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan River:  “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him.”[9]  These two events, the Baptism and the Transfiguration, seem to be connected, even though one takes place at the beginning of our Lord’s public life, and the other takes place as His public life comes to an end.  Beyond the connection supplied by the common words of the Father, both events are referenced to Saint John the Baptist.

    It had been prophesied in the Old Testament book of Malachias:  “Behold, I will send you Elias the prophet before the day of the Lord comes.[10]  The Apostles asked our Lord about this prophecy, and His answer was that Elias had already come, had not been recognized for what he was, and had been put to death by the authorities.  And likewise, Jesus Himself would be put to death by the authorities, who would also not recognize Him for what He was, the Son of God made man.  It was clear to the Apostles that Jesus was not speaking of the vision of Elias which they had just enjoyed, but rather to the Elias whose role had been fulfilled in John the Baptist, who “came before the day of the Lord.”

    And it was John, after all, who had baptized our Lord in the Jordan, before God spoke those words which seem to connect the two events.  John is sometimes referred to as “the last prophet of the Old Testament.”  He was the son of the Jewish priest Zachary, himself a prophet in predicting John’s mission in the world (in the prayer we call the Benedictus, and recite each morning in the Office of Lauds.)[11]  He was a prophet to the Jewish people and not to the Gentiles, urging repentance from sin, and referring to his own role as predicted by the Old Testament Prophet Isaias:  “Make ready the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.”[12]  Clearly, as the Apostles knew, John was the representation of Elias, “coming before the day of the Lord.”

    One more thing before we continue the Mass.  The two events—our Lord’s Baptism and Transfiguration—are related, but differ understandably in their aspect.  By that I mean that, while, in His Transfiguration our Lord was glorified toward the end of His public life,  the beginning of that public life began in the humility of His Baptism.  John the Baptist, himself, recognized that “I (John) ought to be baptized by You (Jesus);  why do You come to me?”[13]  Our Lord answered that it would “fulfill all justice,” which is to say that it would be the appropriate order for all things, a model to be imitated by everyone who would be baptized after Him;  the model of humble submission to the will of the Father.  It was by living a life of humility that Jesus chose to be glorified.  An example, and perhaps a warning, to those who think they can live the spiritual life while foolishly pretending that they are “better” or “more important” than the people around them.

    So, today in this feast of the Transfiguration, let us be strengthened in our Faith, for we have seen the glory of the Son of God in His dominion over human nature.   We have seen that special glory which is derived only out of humility.   We have heard God’s words, and we must take them to heart:

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him.”



[2]   Matthew xvii: 1-13;  Mark ix:1-12;  Luke ix: 28-36;  2 Peter i: 16-19

[3][3]   Homily of Pope Saint Leo on the Transfiguration (Nocturn of the Second Sunday of Lent).

[4]   Matthew xvi: 21-23.

[5]   Cf.  John ii: 18-25.

[6]   Matthew xii: 39-41.

[7]   Cf. Galatians iii: 7, 29;  I Peter ii: 9 & 10;  also Luke iii: 7-18

[8]   Matthew viii: 11

[9]   Matthew iii: 13-17;  Mark i: 9-11;  Luke iii: 21-23

[10]   Malachias iii: 23 (iv: 5 in some versions).

[11]   Luke i: 68-79.

[12]   John iii: 3, referencing Isaias xl: 3.

[13]   Matthew iii: 14.


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