6th August 2017

The Transfiguration


In the holy readings today we hear Matthew's account of the Transfiguration, we also hear about it in the words of St Peter who was on the mountain with our Lord and the vision of Daniel in the first reading reminds us that as well as an historical event and something to which we have an eye witness the transfiguration is also an event of profound mystery which can only be put into words with difficulty.

As with all the church's feasts the preface, the words the priest addresses to God the Father just before the Eucharistic prayer gives us the basic meaning of the mystery we celebrate. The transfiguration reveals that Jesus is God which strengthens the disciples faith, this divine glory is revealed through Jesus' human nature which teaches us that in him our own human nature can be glorified and that as members of the church we have the hope of sharing divine glory in heaven, finally this strengthened faith and hope helps the disciples to endure the scandal of the cross when Jesus reveals the full extent of divine love.

There is a further aspect emphasised in the final prayer of the mass: We ourselves are to be transfigured by the mass. O Lord we pray: May the heavenly nourishment we have received transform us into the likeness of your Son whose radiant splendor you willed to manifest in his glorious transfiguration.

There are three aspects to this glory and likeness and transfiguration. There is the glory of God. And the Glory of God is God and that Glory is divine self giving in love. The Glory of God is that from all eternity God the Father gives himself and all he has to God the Son, eternally begetting him in love. God the Son receives that gift in love and returns it to God the Father and that exchange of love as gift is the exchange of God, it is God the Holy Spirit.

Then there is the Glory of Jesus in his human nature. The human soul, human heart, human will, human desires, the full humanity which Jesus unites with his divinity is perfectly united with God. In his human nature Jesus desires, wills, does everything in complete accord with the will of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the Glory of Jesus' human nature and it relates to the third aspect, our transfiguration, by recognizing Jesus at Mass, hearing his word, uniting ourselves with his sacrifice, receiving his gift of himself, becoming part of the great act which is a work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are caught up into the Glory of God which is divine self giving in love.

This transformation happens at mass. But if has truly effected a change in us we will find its consequences in our lives. To use again that useful analogy of the Sacrament of marriage, though as always trying to use expressions suitable for all ages present here, in an ideal marriage the sharing of the marriage bed is the heart, the great moment of mutual self giving and respect in love, it is the moment of transformation, the source and summit of the married life. But if husband and wife never speak, if they forget the existence of their spouse, feel no obligation or duties towards them, if they always put themselves first and their spouse second, if there is no desire for life and growth in the marriage then the sharing of the marriage bed for all its transformative power has clearly not been entered into fully by the couple.

The transformation at mass, our transfiguration, should lead to prayer, to awareness of God's presence in our lives, to the desire to do God's will in all things, to care for those he loves, in short it should makes us Christ like. It's not magic and it's not necessarily instant. Don't forget that St Peter, even though he was an eye witness to the Transfiguration denied Our Lord three times. But he found forgiveness and so can we. The fact that we are at Mass is such a great privilege and like the transfiguration was for Peter James and John is both an encouragement, and invitation and the means to share the Glory of God.