Key to Transfiguration Comes at the End, Bishop Says

International Congress on the Face of Christ

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ROME, OCT. 24, 2001 ( The Transfiguration, in all its artistic, theological and spiritual forms, was at the center of reflection at the 5th International Congress on «Christ´s Hidden and Transfigured Face.»

The Oct. 20-21 congress was organized by the International Institute of Research on the Face of Christ.

Auxiliary Bishop Rino Fisichella of the Diocese of Rome, professor of fundamental theology at the Gregorian University, explained that «to understand more deeply the resurrection of Christ and, therefore, his allowing himself to be seen by the disciples, revealing his identity between the face of the crucified and of the resurrected, we must refer, in the first place, to the account of the Transfiguration.»

«To understand the essence of the account of the Transfiguration, we must begin at its conclusion,» Bishop Fisichella said. «The three evangelists record the words that come from the voice in the cloud: ´This is my Son, listen to him.´

«Although it might seem paradoxical, the whole account seems to compel us to listen rather than to see. The voice coming from the cloud allows one to see the meaning of what the disciples see, while the Transfiguration allows one to understand the profound meaning of what the voice testifies.»

The bishop continued: «Jesus´ mission must not be confused with that imagined by his contemporaries. Jesus is not a political Messiah but a Suffering Servant who brings salvation through his death.

«In a word, the scene on Tabor deep down has a decisive teaching on the life of Jesus: to make the disciples understand that his life was to do the will of the Father and that his mission unfolds as full and total obedience to God, to the supreme sacrifice of himself.»

The «account of the Transfiguration reveals one of the central points of the New Testament,» Bishop Fisichella concluded. «The Transfiguration states that for the Church the presence of Jesus is sufficient. We are the custodians of the mystery of the Transfiguration, because we are the believers in the Pasch of the Risen One.»

Father Heinrich Pfeiffer, professor of the history of Christian art at the Gregorian University, explained: «No task has been so arduous, almost unrealizable for Christian art, as the representation of the transfigured body of Jesus, according to the Gospels´ descriptions.»

In particular, the priest said that «the model of the face of Christ in Raphael´s Transfiguration was meticulously taken from Veronica´s veil, which is in the little shrine of Manoppello, in the province of Pescara.»

«Raphael´s work has become the classical formulation of the subject of the Transfiguration, never surpassed in the art of the entire Christian West,» Father Pfeiffer contended.

Speaking of Veronica´s veil at Manoppello, Sister Blandina Schlomer, iconographer and scientific researcher on the face of Christ, demonstrated that the proportions of the face of the Holy Shroud and the face of Manoppello are, in fact, the same.

Michelina Tenace, professor of dogmatic theology at the Gregorian University and of anthropology at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, said, «The explicit novelty of Christianity is faith in the Resurrection. The Lord Jesus has revealed the relation between the Resurrection and man through his Transfiguration.»

«The Transfiguration manifests that Jesus is the Son of God. The brilliant light of his garments and the light radiating from his humanity reflect the fullness of the Spirit in his body,» Tenace concluded.

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