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The Feast of the Transfiguration
The Holy Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord on Mount Tabor
If love is anything more than the expulsion of a hormone into the bloodstream, if it is something real rather than illusory, then it must be something unselfish and self-giving. The one who loves, if his love is true, must wish the best things for the one whom he loves. A husband who loves his wife must want not only to make his wife somewhat happy, but as happy as possible; not only for a moment, but for as long as possible. He must want the best things for her.
It is impossible, therefore, that love should have anything deceitful within it, since a lie is something so much worse than the truth. Indeed, the truth is among the most valuable of possessions, and no true lover would be satisfied with giving his beloved anything less. This is especially the case in the Christian faith, where the Truth is not a concept but a Person. Here the Truth told is the deepest possible truth; the most valuable truth; the most intimate, self-revealing truth.
The Basilica Hymn for the Feast of the Transfiguration, the day which commemorates Christ’s ascent of Mount Tabor with three of his disciples, begins by reflecting on the love of Christ toward his beloved Church:
O Lord, when you wished, in your love, to show your kingship and the great glory of your coming to the chosen apostles Simon, James and John, you took them up with you to Mount Tabor.
The truth of Christ’s kingship and glory was one, at the time, too precious even to show to all the twelve; he picked, of them, only three to take to the mountain. But through the three he reached the Twelve, and through the Twelve he reaches us with this marvelous truth.
The truth does not lose power the more it is shared, like some worldly good. On the contrary, the more people share it the more powerful it becomes for each one of them. The truth of the Faith, the truth of the divinity of Jesus Christ, is not meant to be hidden away or locked up for fear of its being stolen; it is meant to be shared, and in its sharing the Faith expands and encompasses the entire world.
What was the reality that was shared first with Simon, James and John? What was so precious that it had to begin with such a small, select group?
Your face shone and your clothes were like lightning through the radiance of your Flesh, the Spring of Life. Your Father cried out and confirmed your Sonship, and made your authority known.
Indeed, the truth is that Christ’s humanity is not the whole story. Behind this simple appearance and within it dwells the Son of God himself. For this one brief moment, Christ showed who he truly was by giving the three apostles a glimpse of the radiance of his eternal Existence.
This glimpse comes down to us in the Gospels, and we share with those three blessed apostles the vision they had with their own eyes: the skin of the Lord shone so brightly that it was blinding, and even his clothing turned a dazzling white. In our hymn, the brightness of the clothing was a result of the radiance of Christ’s skin, which leads us to a deeper insight and a deeper sharing with Simon, James and John: the same Flesh which shone, which our hymn calls the “Spring of Life,” is the very Flesh we consume in the Eucharist at Holy Communion. Much less than being a historical event lost in the past, the Transfiguration becomes a current mystical reality for each one of us, and a sign of the glory we hope for in our own future. Indeed, as we share in the Flesh of Christ which shone so brightly on that day, we hope to share even in his radiance:
Therefore, make us worthy to delight in that same glory, and rejoice and be glad in you, as you spread over us the light of your Countenance!
Showing What Was Hidden
St. John describes the future in careful terms in his first letter: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) There is still something hidden of God, as there must be in this world, for St. Paul says describes God as the one whom “no one has seen nor can see.” (1 Timothy 6:16)
This hiddenness is to come to an end, however, in the vision of God we shall have in heaven. The Transfiguration, therefore, is also a peek into heaven itself, where all will be revealed:
O One who is marvelous in his works, and whose mysteries are revealed through his power, in all times and places, to glorious and chosen men, to the living and the dead together, prophets as well as apostles, those worthy of the mysteries of the faithful, until he comes in the open and radiates, that each man may be perceived openly in those things which were done hiddenly. Glory to that Power which was pleased and revealed his Mystery to his friends!