“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe…” (Mt 17: 1-7)
Today we have this reading in our Older Calendar churches, because we’re celebrating the great feast of our Lord’s Transfiguration. But what does that mean, to “celebrate” a certain moment in Salvation History, like the Transfiguration?
First of all, it means to gather together, because the word “celebrate” comes from the Latin “celebrare,” which means “to assemble to honor.” We “honor” the Transfiguration by “remembering” it, – hearing this well-known account of it (quoted above), passed on to us by eye-witnesses; seeing and venerating an icon of the Transfiguration, brought out to the center of the church; by singing and reading hymns that help us gratefully to understand and internalize the meaning of the feast for us; and, finally, to re-connect, in Holy Communion, with the Triune God revealed to us in this event – the Father, in His “voice from the cloud,” the Son, in His beautiful, transfigured face, and the Holy Spirit, in His uncreated, divine light. Today we are all made privy to an event witnessed, at that time, only by three disciples. We are all invited up the mountain, to witness that our God is “a God of the living, and not of the dead,” in this light-filled conversation of His Son with Moses and Elijah.
Let me not miss out today, and open up to the vision of this feast, which reminds me of my calling: to be transfigured in the light and lightness of Christ. This doesn’t happen overnight, or just on certain feast-days, because I am a work-in-progress, called to return, daily, through my ups and downs, to the light of His way and His word. “This is my beloved Son,” my Father in heaven says to me again today, “Listen to Him!”