Taste and See: Mystery and clarity

Christ the Teacher, Rome

The Gospel for Sunday last,the 2nd Sunday of Lent told of the Mystery of the Transfiguration. This year we read from the third year of the three-year Sunday Lectionary, Year C, the Year of Luke.

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem.

Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid.

And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.

Luke 9:28-36

This is an exceptional moment. Its principal features are

  • The transfiguration of Jesus himself
  • The appearance of Moses and Elijah
  • The cloud that envelops the group
  • The voice that comes from the cloud

Each of these is a mind-blowing experience: together they collapse time and space; overwhelming the the distinction between Creator and Created.

Of the four, it is the last and first that seem the clearest in meaning.

  • The voice from heaven has been heard earlier in Luke’s Gospel, at the Baptism of Jesus, declaring Jesus to be God’s well-beloved Son.
  • The change in Jesus appearance indicates his exceptional nature, his having the two natures – fully human and fully divine.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of these two mysteries – Baptism and Transfiguration – as interlinked, and of their significance for us:

On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus’ baptism proclaimed “the mystery of the first regeneration”, namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration “is the sacrament of the second regeneration”: our own Resurrection. From now on we share in the Lord’s Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ’s glorious coming, when he “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” But it also recalls that “it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God”

CCC 556

The Gospel account points too all that is achieved for us through Christ’s self-gift and our response in faith and Baptism. Our sharing in the Paschal Mystery of Christ achieves our incorporation into Christ.

As always we have freedom day by day to live to this en-graced state of life, or to turn from it, frustrating its potential, our potential.

  • In which way today will you embrace the godly?

Mosaic of Christ the Teacher (with Peter and Paul – but echoing the transfiguration?) Basilica of Santa Costanza, Rome. (c) 2002, Allen Morris

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