Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The Transfiguration is now, thanks to St. John Paul II, one of the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary; it is the Fourth Luminous Mystery. The specific grace assigned to the Fourth Luminous mystery is the grace of a greater desire for Holiness. Holiness, it can be said is simply “listening to Jesus,” and doing whatever He tells us with the help of His grace.
We have to remember that the historical event of the Transfiguration of the Lord occurred immediately after Jesus revealed to the twelve Apostles, His impending suffering and death—His Crucifixion. It was a devastating revelation to Jesus most intimate friends, who were the twelve future first priest and bishops. Only those who have had given to them the terminal diagnosis of someone they love can begin to understand what the Apostles must have been experiencing.
With the cross now revealed to them, it is then that the fearful, weak disciples climbed the mountain with Jesus. The climbing I think symbolizing the disciples ascending to God in faith and trust—it is climbing the mountain of Holiness seeking union with God. The ascent of faith can then be a difficult hard journey. At the top of the mountain, after the arduous climb, the three arrive and suddenly Jesus is transformed before them.
In His transfiguration, Jesus reveals just a tiny, minuscule hint of the incredible glory of His Divinity shining through His sacred Humanity. For the three, it was literally a tiny glimpse into heaven itself—it was to peak to behold the very face of God Himself glorified in Heaven. How awesome it must have been to be on that mountain. You would think that the Apostles would have wrote volumes about what they saw but they didn’t (they probably fell on their faces and ate the dirt). Words could never even begin to begin to express, for what they saw was a very glimpse into that of which, “eye has not seen, ear as not heard, nor has it even entered into the mind of man…”.
The Transfiguration filled the hearts and the minds of the Disciples with great hope and strengthened them. They had seen the glory to which they were called; they had seen a glimpse of their their goal, their final end—union with God. When one knows the goal, when one knows one’s end, it makes the journey, no matter how difficult, bearable and even joyful. And so, the vision of the Transfiguration would carry them through the upcoming passion and death of their dearest friend—Jesus. It would carry them through as well in their own sufferings to come, the crosses they would have to carry in their own lives. It would also carry them through in their own passion and death at the end of their lives.
But even more so, the Vision of the Transfiguration of Jesus instilled in their souls a great desire for Holiness, to become more and more intimate friends with Jesus, to become one with Jesus. And close to Jesus, they would be full of joy and happiness in this present life, which is so often a valley of tears. With Jesus accompanying them in their climb of the mountain of holiness, they began to experience here on earth what they saw on that mountain—heaven. This gave them the hope that one day they would finally be able to experience the fullness of that tiny glimpse into Heaven they had seen—to see God, to become one with Him and to possess and be possessed by Him forever.
The transfiguration is for us, like the Apostles a important event in our lives as well. The Transfiguration is given to us, as it was given to the Apostles, to strengthen our faith in Jesus and His divinity, to maintain our hope and to increase our love—to strengthen us not only in our crosses, but also in our own personal climb of the mountain of holiness. But how do we make the Transfiguration have effect in our own lives? Like all the mysteries of the life of Christ, the Transfiguration is a mystery not to be solved but to be lived. It is the details of the Transfiguration that give us the answer.
Appearing alongside of Jesus we are told were Elijah and Moses, the two great prophets of the Old Testament and the Old Law. Moses as you know received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai—the Ten Commandments were the Moral Law—the guide for right living in order not only to be happy but to chose and obtain life (set before are two path, chose life).
But Moses also received something else on that Mountain, something that hardly anyones speaks about. He received the Liturgical Law, that is the way to properly worship God, both as individuals and as a community of God’s People (this Liturgical Law from God is found in the Book of Leviticus). The Liturgical Law and the Moral Law are intimately connected. A person cannot live rightly without both. The moral Law give us what we must do to have eternal life, but the Liturgical law shows us how to obtain that which we need to follow the moral law, not only in letter but in the spirit of love, of charity. Right worship, that is offered according to the Liturgical Law, leads us to right living, that is according to the Moral Law and the teachings of the Church, wrong worship then leads to wrong living.
There is therefore the Liturgy to be celebrated and the Liturgy to be lived. As Catholics we can say it this way, we go to Holy Mass on Sundays, and through the divine grace we receive at the Holy Mass, we strive to live the Holy Mass the other days of the week by loving God first, with all of our mind, heart and strength and then our neighbor for love of God—the summation of the Commandments. But the Holy Mass must be offered and attended with great reference and devotion, we must put our hearts and minds into, we must directed out attention toward the Lord—it is not what we get out of it, but what we put into it—the totally offering of our hearts—it is not what we do, but what the Lord does for us-sacrifices himself for us in order to give us His heart.
Elijah the great prophet was the one chosen by God to recall the people back to proper worship of God so they could be one with God and He with them. And so, he was the prophet who called the people of God to Worship God in spirit and in truth, not according to their own dictates, that is not according to their own whims—not for entertainment for emotional fulfillment for the Honor and glory of God. The people of Elijah’s day had fallen into false worship; they wanted to worship God the way they wanted to worship God, not according to the Liturgical Law that Moses received from God Himself on Mount Sinai.
Elijah knew that this improper worship led to improper belief and so improper living—this led to the worshiping of Idols, of false Gods. Elijah took on the peoples false worship and false God’s and false prophets and called them to repentance and conversion—to worship God correctly, not only in word but also in deed, not only correctly in external ritual but also, and most importantly, in full internal participation; in other words, to worship God by offering their whole lives to Him, their whole heart and all that they had and possessed in this world.
In the Transfiguration we discover Jesus did come not to abolish the law (not even the tiniest letter of the law) but to fulfill it. Jesus didn’t do away with the Ten Commandments or the Liturgical Law, but He showed that the both Laws lead to and point to Him. He has come down to earth to do what we could not do, to follow the Law perfectly in love, to worship God perfectly in spirit and and in truth—And Jesus continues to do this for us in the Sacraments of the Holy Catholic Church.
It is through Him, and only through Him that we can glimpse into heaven; it is through Him that we can love perfectly by living the will of God on earth as it is in heaven and so experience the joy of heaven while we still walk in the body on this earth. It is through Him, and only through Him, that we can finally hope to enter into the fullness of vision of Heaven which is perfect unity with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and all the Angels and saints. This is our hope that carries us through the present darkness. But we must leave our idols behind, and leave our false worship behind-and turn toward the Lord.
Specifically then, the Transfiguration points us to the Holy Mass, where we too along with Peter, James and John can in spirit climb the mountain and through the Holy Eucharist see a tiny peak into heaven itself. We do this by Faith…We can see through the eyes of faith, Jesus, who is the Truth, truly present in the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is literally Jesus, transfigured before us, in the fullness of HIs Divinity shining through the fullness His humanity, both fully present in the little white Host.
It is through faith in the Holy Mass and the Holy Eucharist, that we can properly worship God in spirit and in truth, that we can with the help of the Spirit offering ourselves in union with Jesus on the Altar to our Heavenly Father as a living sacrifices of love. And it is in receiving ,if properly disposed, the grace to properly worship God as we go forth from the celebration of the Mass, and live the Mass, by following the Commands of God to the smallest letter of law, living the truth with our lives and in our lives—and leading others to this same truth which is ultimately Jesus Himself.
The Holy Mass is where we experience in reality the Transfiguration for our selves. It is where we are able to Listen to Him and receive the understanding and strength to do carry out all that He tells us. The Holy Mass is our Hope for whatever the future might hold in store, for it brings to us and gives to us the One who is our Hope, Jesus the Lord. And, it is at the Holy Mass, by participating with full, actual, conscious and fruitful participation that we are lead to and taken more and more into the fullness of the vision of the Transfiguration, the Holy Eucharist unveiled to behold, adored and love for all eternity.