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The Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord - August 6th

“After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There He was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters - one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’ Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mark 9:2-9).

The feast of the Transfiguration of Christ celebrates the revelation of Christ’s divine glory on Mount Tabor in Galilee (Matthew 17:1-6; Mark 9:1-8; Luke 9:28-36). After revealing to His disciples that He would be put to death in Jerusalem (Matthew 16:21), Christ, along with Peter, James, and John, went up the mountain and there “he was transfigured before them.”

The brightness was not something added to Christ but the manifestation of His true divine nature. For Peter, James, and John, it was also a glimpse of the glories of heaven and of the resurrected body promised to all Christians. As Christ was transfigured, two others appeared with Him: Moses, representing the Old Testament Law, and Elijah, representing the prophets. Thus Christ, Who stood between the two and spoke with them, appeared to the disciples as the fulfillment of both the Law and the prophets.

During the Transfiguration, God the Father pronounced the same words as at Christ’s baptism in the Jordan: “This is my beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17). (Matthew 17:5). Despite the importance of this event, the Feast of the Transfiguration was not among the earliest of the Christian feasts. It was celebrated in Asia starting in the fourth or fifth century and spread throughout the Christian East in the centuries following. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that it wasn’t commonly celebrated in the West until the tenth century when Pope Callixtus III elevated the Transfiguration to a feast of the universal Church and established August 6 as the date of its celebration.

Pope Benedict XVI tells us that we are all transfigured by the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. During his Angelus address on August 6, 2006, he reminded us that “it is Christ who constitutes the full manifestation of God’s light. His Resurrection defeated the power of the darkness of evil forever. With the Risen Christ, truth and love triumph over deceit and sin. In him, God’s light henceforth illumines definitively human life and the course of history: ‘I am the light of the world,’ he says in the Gospel, ‘he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (see also Jn 8:12).