Meditations on the Transfiguration

Richard Salbato

 Before Each Hail Mary

1.  In Caesarea Jesus asked, “Whom do people say that the Son of Man is?” The Apostles answered that some say He is Elias and others that He is Jeremiahs or one of the other prophets. All Judea was talking about Him because of His miracles.  But Simon Bar-Jona spoke up:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

“Blessed are you, Simon,” said Jesus. “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father, who is in heaven, has revealed it to you.  I say to you: you are Peter (rock) and upon this rock I will build my Church (kingdom) and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatsoever you bind on earth, it will be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth, it will be loosed in heaven.”

2. It was time for Jesus to prepare for His death.  He knew that the Apostles would not understand this and would be scandalized that a man they believed to be the Messiah could be arrested and killed.  He told them over and over that he would die and be raised from the dead but they did not understand. He had passed His authority over to Peter promising to be with him to the end of time, and now must prepare for his death on the cross.

3. Knowing that the Apostles would not understand why someone with so much power over life and death, even over the elements of nature, could be put to death by his enemies, Jesus resolved to strengthen their faith. He led the Apostles to the foot of Mount Tabor.  He told most of His Apostles to wait at the bottom of the mountain, but took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, up the mountain.

4. It took two hours for the four people to climb the mountain and by the time they reached the top the sun had set.  It was now dark and the stars were out.  Suddenly, Christ began to become brighter and brighter until His body lit up the top of the mountain.  The three Apostles could see that there were Angels around him.  Little by little He became so bright that He was transparent.

5. Christ’s face became as bright as the sun and his garments as white as snow.  Then there appeared with him both Moses and Elias, also bright and transparent. The Apostles heard Moses say how pleased he was to see face to face the man who lead him out of Egypt and who was about to redeem mankind. The real Elias talked with Jesus about his wait in Paradise and his return to earth at the end of time to fight with the Antichrist.

6. When Peter saw this he said: “Lord, it is good for us to be here, let us build three tabernacles, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elias.” Peter still did not understand that Moses and Elias were nothing compared to the living God, Christ.

6.  Suddenly Moses and Elias disappeared, and the Apostles saw a great light come down out of heaven upon Christ and at the top they could see a vision of the Holy Trinity. Down the light they could see Angels ascending and descending up and down the ladder.  Peter remembered what Christ has said to them earlier that day: “He who is ashamed of me and my words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in his majesty, and that of the Father, and the holy Angels. But I tell you that there are some standing here that will not see death, until they see the Kingdom of Heaven and the Angels ascending on the Son of Man.”

7.  As the three Apostles watched this vision of the Trinity and the Angels coming and going, a voice came out from Heaven; “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.”   The Apostles hid their faces and fell to the ground at the voice of the Father.

8. When they opened their eyes all the bright lights were gone and Jesus stood there alone as a normal human. Coming down the mountain Jesus told them to tell no one what they had seen until after the Son of man had risen from the dead.  But they still did not understand that He was to die and rise from the dead.

9. The entire reason for Christ showing the three leading Apostles the Transfiguration was to strengthen their faith before the passion and death of the Messiah. They still expected Him to be an earthly king  and not a suffering sacrificial lamb.

10. Now Jesus led his followers towards Jerusalem, where He would finish His three years of preaching, triumphantly march into the city on what we call “Palm Sunday”, and then begin the final sacrifice at the Last Supper.  In spite of Christ’s showing them His glory to strengthen their faith, these three Apostles would run away from Christ when He was arrested and tried.