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Transfiguration for the Exodus of Light

Second Sunday of Lent – Year A – March 12, 2017

Transfiguration for the Exodus of Light.

Roman Rite

Gn 12,1-4a; Ps 33; 2 Tm 1,8b-10; Mt 17,1-9

Ambrosian Rite

Ex 20.2 to 24; Ps 18; Eph 1.15 to 23; Jn 4,5-42

Sunday of the Samaritan woman

1) Transfiguration of Christ

Last Sunday, the Lenten liturgy has made us relive the mystery of the three temptations of Christ in the desert and his victory over them. In this second Sunday of Lent, we are asked to understand what means to relive the mystery of Christ’s life through conversion. Conversion is to do, with the Redeemer, the new Moses, an exodus of liberation. It is not a physical “return journey” from the exile in Egypt to the Holy Land, but a spiritual one from the exile of falsehood and evil – provoked by sin – to the truth and the goodness of the House of the Father, “prodigal” of mercy.

In the story of the Transfiguration, Jesus is presented as the new Moses who encounters God “on a high mountain” (Mt 17: 1) in the “bright cloud” (Mt 17: 5) with his face shining (Mt 17: 2). Even Moses meets God in the cloud on Mount Sinai (see Ex 24: 15-18) with a bright face (see Ex 34: 29-35). Moses was the instrument, the collaborator of God in the liberation of the Jewish people. Jesus Christ not only frees, but transfigures the people of the redeemed.

In the history of Western Christianity, the advent of salvation has been often considered more in terms of liberation than of transfiguration. However, the liberation brought by Jesus is truly realized only in the transfiguration. Jesus leaves humanity with her weaknesses and suffering, loneliness, and death, but transfigures everything taking it upon himself and making the poorest human condition the very sign of the closeness of God in the world

Jesus is transfigured on Mount Tabor: the white robes and the shining face of the Son of God reveal to us that Jesus, though he is walking towards the Cross, is the Lord, the Resurrected. The “Via Crucis” that Jesus is walking hides an Easter meaning because it is a “Via Lucis”. The Transfiguration that we celebrate today is a charitable, but fleeting anticipation: the road ahead is still that of the Cross. In fact, to support the show of weakness of Christ, captured in Gethsemane and crucified on Calvary, the Apostles Peter, James, and John are called to see in advance the glory of Jesus.

The glory of the Only-Begotten, the Beloved of the Father, had been veiled, hidden in the mystery of his incarnation. He, in fact, did not considered his conditions of equality to the Father as a treasure to be jealously guarded, but he humbled himself (see Phil 2). In the transfiguration, that glory invests with all its might the humble humanity of Christ, and makes her full of the splendor of his divinity. Revealing to the three “privileged” disciples his face shining like the sun, full of grace and truth, Jesus prepares them to the drama of death that precedes the resurrection.

Beside the fact of being a support to face the passion and death of the Savior, revealing the identity of Jesus and the final positive outcome of his journey, Transfiguration also reveals the identity of the disciple and the way that must be taken by those who want to follow Christ. Even the journey of the disciple is directed to the cross and the resurrection.

The word of God today introduces us to a new dimension of our participation in the mystery of Christ. To relive the mystery of Christ, negatively means to deny ourselves and our egoism, positively it means to be transfigured in Christ and like Christ.

In short, in this second stage of the penitential journey, the Gospel reveals to us the mystery of the transfiguration of Christ and of our transfiguration. Transfiguration is an event which concerns us all not only because we must witness the glory of the Son of God, risen from the dead, but because we are one with Christ and his glory also invests us, transforming even our body, our soul and especially our spirit. Rightly, the Orthodox theology teaches that the Transfiguration changes nothing in Christ, but changes something in the eyes of the apostles, who finally see what Christ has always been: the Son of God.

Today the Church, in the celebration of the mystery of the Transfiguration of the Lord, shows us the goal toward which our penitential journey is oriented. With the Transfiguration, in fact, it “was given foundation to the hope of the Holy Church, so that the entire body of Christ could know what transformation would be donated, and the members could make sure to have part in that beauty that had shone in the head” (St. Leo the Great, Sermon 38,3.4).

2) Our Transfiguration: to share the beauty of Christ.

At this point a question arises: “How can we transfigure like Christ and let shine in us His beauty? Saint Paul gave the answer in the second reading for this Sunday. The Apostle of the Gentiles teaches us that our transfiguration in Christ is possible “because of the power He has to subject all things to himself.” Christ, by sending his Holy Spirit, exerts on each of us the power to configure us to Him.

The Holy Spirit is the intimate force that, living in us, transforms us in Christ. Therefore, let’s call upon the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and to turn away all that prevents us from being fully transfigured in Christ.

Do not forget, though, that our cooperation and the consent of our freedom are required for the transfiguring action, as St. Augustine taught: “Who made you without you, will not save you without you.”

And do not forget even to contemplate the “great mystery”, Jesus Christ transfigured Lord, that during the passion was disfigured. He is the “great mystery” not only in the sense that effects salvation, but because he is the splendor of the Father in our humanity.

Then, with “spiritual eyes”, let’s contemplate the resplendent beauty of Christ, meditating on this verse of St. John of the Cross, “In your beauty let’s go to contemplate ourselves “. The Saint explains: ” Let’s act in a way to arrive to be reflected in your beauty through the practice of love, that is to say that we may be like You in beauty and may your beauty be such that, looking at each other interchangeably, I may appear to you in your beauty, and you see me in it. That will happen transforming me into your beauty. Then, I’ll see you in your beauty and you me in your beauty, and you will see yourself in me in your beauty and I’ll see myself in you in your beauty. May I seem you in your beauty, and you look like me in your beauty, and may my beauty be yours and yours be mine, so I’ll be you in your beauty, and you’ll be me in your beauty for your own beauty will be mine. “( see John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 35/3). 

3) Transfigured by love.

Jesus is “the fairest of the sons of men” (Ps 44.3), but he is also the one who mysteriously “has no beauty or majesty to attract us to him” (Is 53.2). Why, then, it is reasonable to look at Christ crucified? Because the Cross shows us that true beauty is the love of God who “can transform even the dark mystery of death into the radiant light of his resurrection” (Emeritus Pope Benedict XVII). To enter eternal life – then – you must listen to Jesus, following him on the way of the cross. We must listen to him as did the Ever-Virgin Mary, who gave her flesh to the Word.

On the example of the Mother of the Redeemer, the consecrated virgins in the world say a total yes to Christ, offering their bodies as pure temple and aa abode for the Bridegroom Jesus. “His full adherence to the Father’s will makes his humanity transparent to the glory of God, who is the Love that transfigures all “(Pope Francis). These virgins are of example in the listening to his Word, which is preserved in the Bible. The lives of these women are also a testimony of how we can listen to Christ in all the events of life, trying to read in them the plan of Providence. They testify that their virginal love of Christ does not separate them from the world, but pushes them to listen to him in our brothers and sisters in humanity, especially in the lowly and the poor for whom Jesus himself demands the concrete love of the Christian. Finally, they show that listening to Christ and obeying his voice of Bridegroom, is the true way and the only one that takes to the fullness of love that transfigures and gives happiness forever.

Patristic reading

Saint Leo the Great

Sermon LI. A Homily Delivered on the Saturday Before the Second Sunday in Lent—On the Transfiguration, S. Matt. XVII. 1-13.

  1. Peter’s Confession Shown to Lead Up to the Transfiguration.

The Gospel lesson, dearly-beloved, which has reached the inner hearing of our minds through our bodily ears, calls us to the understanding of a great mystery, to which we shall by the help of God’s grace the better attain, if we turn our attention to what is narrated just before.

The Saviour of mankind, Jesus Christ, in founding that faith, which recalls the wicked to righteousness and the dead to life, used to instruct His disciples by admonitory teaching and by miraculous acts to the end that He, the Christ, might be believed to be at once the Only-begotten of God and the Son of Man. For the one without the other was of no avail to salvation, and it was equally dangerous to have believed the Lord Jesus Christ to be either only God without manhood, or only man without Godhead1 , since both had equally to be confessed, because just as true manhood existed in His Godhead, so true Godhead existed in His Manhood. To strengthen, therefore, their most wholesome knowledge of this belief, the Lord had asked His disciples, among the various opinions of others, what they themselves believed, or thought about Him: whereat the Apostle Peter, by the revelation of the most High Father passing beyond things corporeal and surmounting things human by the eyes of his mind, saw Him to be Son of the living God, and acknowledged the glory of the Godhead, because he looked not at the substance of His flesh and blood alone; and with this lofty faith Christ was so well pleased that he received the fulness of blessing, and was endued with the holy firmness of the inviolable Rock on which the Church should be built and conquer the gates of hell and the laws of death, so that, in loosing or binding the petitions of any whatsoever, only that should be ratified in heaven which had been settled by the judgment of Peter.

  1. The Same Continued.

But this exalted and highly-praised understanding, dearly-beloved, had also to be instructed on the mystery of Christ’s lower substance, lest the Apostle’s faith, being raised to the glory of confessing the Deity in Christ, should deem the reception of our weakness unworthy of the impassible God, and incongruous, and should believe the human nature to be so glorified in Him as to be incapable of suffering punishment, or being dissolved in death. And, therefore, when the Lord said that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and scribes and chief of the priests, and the third day rise again, the blessed Peter who, being illumined with light from above, was burning with the heat of his confession, rejected their mocking insults and the disgrace of the most cruel death, with, as he thought, a loyal and outspoken contempt, but was checked by a kindly rebuke from Jesus and animated with the desire to share His suffering. For the Saviour’s exhortation that followed, instilled and taught this, that they who wished to follow Him should deny themselves. and count the loss of temporal flyings as light in the hope of things eternal; because he alone could save his soul that did not fear to lose it for Christ. In order, therefore, that the Apostles might entertain this happy, constant courage with their whole heart, and have no tremblings about the harshness of taking up the cross, and that they might not be ashamed of the punishment of Christ, nor think what He endured disgraceful for themselves (for the bitterness of suffering was to be displayed without despite to His; glorious power), Jesus took Peter and James and his brother John, and ascending a very high2 mountain with them apart, showed them the brightness of His glory; because, although they had recognised the majesty of God in Him, yet the power of His body, wherein His Deity was contained, they did not know. And, therefore, rightly and significantly, had He promised that certain of the disciples standing by should not taste death till they saw “the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom3 ,” that is, in the kingly brilliance which, as specially belonging to the nature of His assumed Manhood, He wished to be conspicuous to these three men. For the unspeakable and unapproachable vision of the Godhead Itself which is reserved tilt eternal life for the pure in heart, they could in no wise look upon and see while still surrounded with mortal flesh. The Lord displays His glory, therefore, before chosen witnesses, and invests that bodily shape which He shared with others with such splendour, that His face was like the sun’s brightness and His garments equalled the whiteness of snow.

III.the Object and the Meaning of the Transfiguration.

And in this Transfiguration the foremost object was to remove the offence of the cross from the disciple’s heart, and to prevent their faith being disturbed by the humiliation of His voluntary Passion by revealing to them the excellence of His hidden dignity. But with no less foresight, the foundation was laid of the Holy Church’s hope, that the whole body of Christ might realize the character of the change which it would have to receive, and that the members might promise themselves a share in that honour which had already shone forth in their Head. About which the Lord bad Himself said, when He spoke of the majesty of His coming, “Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in their Father’s Kingdom4 ,” whilst the blessed Apostle Paul bears witness to the self-same thing, and says: “for I reckon that the sufferings of this thee are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us5 :” and again, “for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. For when Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory6 .” But to confirm the Apostles and assist them to all knowledge, still further instruction was conveyed by that miracle.

About Francesco Follo

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