Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Transfiguration Special
Volume 6 No. 361 August 5, 2016
III. Reflections on Transfiguration

The Transfiguration

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Rudolph G. Bandas

Our divine Redeemer, being in Galilee about a year before His sacred Passion, took with him St. Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, Sts. James and John, and led them to a retired mountain. Tradition assures us that this was Mount Tabor, which is exceedingly high and beautiful, and was anciently covered with green trees and shrubs, and was very fruitful. It rises something like a sugar-loaf, in a vast plain in the middle of Galilee. This was the place in which the Man-God appeared in His glory.

Whilst Jesus prayed, he suffered that glory which was always due to his sacred humility, and of which, for our sake, He deprived it, to diffuse a ray over His whole body. His face was altered and shone as the sun, and his garments became white as snow. Moses and Elias were seen by the three apostles in his company on this occasion, and were heard discoursing with him of the death which he was to suffer in Jerusalem.

The three apostles were wonderfully delighted with this glorious vision, and St. Peter cried out to Christ, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three tents: one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias" Whilst St. Peter was speaking, there came, on a sudden, a bright shining cloud from heaven, an emblem of the presence of God's majesty, and from out of this cloud was heard a voice which said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" The apostles that were present, upon hearing this voice, were seized with a sudden fear, and fell upon the ground; but Jesus, going to them, touched them, and bade them to rise. They immediately did so, and saw no one but Jesus standing in his ordinary state.

This vision happened in the night. As they went down the mountain early the next morning, Jesus bade them not to tell any one what they had seen till he should be risen from the dead.

Excerpted from 'Butler's Lives of the Saints', Benziger Bros. ed. [1894]

In the Transfiguration Christ enjoyed for a short while that glorified state which was to be permanently His after His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. The splendor of His inward Divinity and of the Beatific Vision of His soul overflowed on His body, and permeated His garments so that Christ stood before Peter, James, and John in a snow-white brightness. The purpose of the Transfiguration was to encourage and strengthen the Apostles who were depressed by their Master's prediction of His own Passion and Death. The Apostles were made to understand that His redeeming work has two phases: The Cross, and Glory - that we shall be glorified with Him only if we first suffer with Him.

Source: Catholic Culture

The Feast of the Transfiguration in the Western-Syrian Tradition

by Manuel Nin

In the Western-Syrian tradition, the great feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord highlights with beautiful images the divinity of Christ manifested through his humanity: "Lord God, make us worthy of celebrating in holiness, chanting psalms in purity, and singing of you with songs of joy, on the feast of the manifestation of the glory of your divinity on Mount Tabor. Your grace, in fact, moves us from evil to good, from sin to justice." The transfiguration manifests the divinity of Christ, in some way at the level of understanding of the disciples.

In the vespers of the sedro, a Syrian liturgical composition in poetic prose, the events which happened on Mt. Tabor are described, "You, Lord, wanted the human spirit to come closer to your majesty, and you wanted your eternal light, your Only Son, to shine on creation to illuminate those who sat in the shadow of death. And he appeared on earth in our human nature to restore to us the majestic image that you know." In a long series of phrases that begin with, "today," the sedro enumerates the salvific events: "Today, the angels come down to honor the Only Son who has changed his aspect to manifest to the world the richness of his glory. Today, Peter, James and John are delighted because they have seen the glory of his majesty and were frightened in front of his vision. Today, Elijah the Tesbite arrives and adore the Lord of prophets who came to authenticate his prophecies. Today, Moses, the head of the prophets, rises from the tomb and comes to see the Lord who appeared to him in the burning bush, that was not consumed. Today, the disciples know that your Only Son has power over the living and the dead and they know that he too will die and will live, and with his death he will save people and nations."

The texts use different passages from the Old and New Testament as a pre-figuration of the redemption of Christ: "Today, Elijah the prophet comes to your beloved Son to intercede for the salvation of men and supplicates him saying: Lord, if Issac’s climb towards sacrifice sanctified the altar, will not your climb towards Golgotha sanctify all men? Rise, Lord, on the altar of Melchizedek, because you are the living bread and the holy offering that accepts sacrifice and death. Come, Lord, to crucify sin and kill death, and may Adam be bathed in your life-giving blood. Today, Moses the prophet, begs your beloved Son, saying: come down, Lord, towards your beloved son Adam, and renew the image of his glory, because the likeness of your majesty had been cancelled. Adam awaits you and trembles, saying that you must come to give him back his joy, to him and to those who are with him are in prison."

Ephrem, too, parallels Tabor with Golgotha: "When Simon climbed up Tabor, he tried to persuade the Lord: Lord, it is beautiful to be up here, without those who could disturb us! It is beautiful for us to be with the just in the tent of beatitude. It is restful to be with Moses, Elijah and not in the temple, full of hate and bitterness." Ephrem then places Peter, with James and John, "Blessed are you, Simon, that you were like the head and the tongue of the body of your brothers! This body is made up of disciples and the sons of Zebedee were its eyes. Blessed are they who asked their master of the thrones after having contemplated his throne. In Simon, the revelation which comes from God was heard and became a rock that does not move."

Often Ephrem returns to the image of the body of the apostles with Peter as its head, and Tabor and Golgotha by its side: "The scent of the kingdom filled Peter, and it was sweet to him. He saw the glory of the Lord and he delighted in the presence of Moses and of Elijah and the absence of Caiphus and Herod. Simon, despite his ignorance, spoke with great wisdom, and recognized Moses and Elijah. The Spirit, manifesting itself through the mouth of Simon, said the same things that before he had ignored. Light of the Spirit and human freedom act together."

Source: L'Osservatore Romano

The Glory in Sight

by Dr. Scott Hahn

Gospel: Luke 9:28-36

In today's Gospel, we go up to the mountain with Peter, John and James. There we see Jesus "transfigured," speaking with Moses and Elijah about His "exodus."

The Greek word "exodus" means "departure." But the word is chosen deliberately here to stir our remembrance of the Israelites' flight from Egypt.

By His death and resurrection, Jesus will lead a new Exodus - liberating not only Israel but every race and people; not from bondage to Pharaoh, but from slavery to sin and death. He will lead all mankind, not to the territory promised to Abraham in Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18, but to the heavenly commonwealth that Paul describes in Philippians 3:17-4:1.

Moses, the giver of God's law, and the great prophet Elijah, were the only Old Testament figures to hear the voice and see the glory of God atop a mountain (see Exodus 24:15-18; 1 Kings 19:8-18).

Today's scene closely resembles God's revelation to Moses, who also brought along three companions and whose face also shone brilliantly (see Exodus 24:1;34:29). But when the divine cloud departs in today's Gospel, Moses and Elijah are gone. Only Jesus remains. He has revealed the glory of the Trinity - the voice of the Father, the glorified Son, and the Spirit in the shining cloud.

Jesus fulfills all that Moses and the prophets had come to teach and show us about God (see Luke 24:27). He is the "chosen One" promised by Isaiah (see Isaiah 42:1; Luke 23:35), the "prophet like me" that Moses had promised (see Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22-23; 7:37). Far and above that, He is the Son of God (see Psalm 2:7; Luke 3:21-23).

"Listen to Him," the Voice tells us from the cloud. If, like Abraham, we put our faith in His words, one day we too will be delivered into "the land of the living" that we sing of in today's Psalm. We will share in His resurrection, as Paul promises, our lowly bodies glorified like His.


by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

There are blessed or tragic moments when we can see a person revealed to us in a light with a depth, with an awesome beauty which we have never suspected before.

It happens when our eyes are open, at a moment of purity of heart; because it is not only God Himself Whom the pure in heart will see; it is also the divine image, the light shining in the darkness of a human soul, of the human life that we can see at moments when our heart becomes still, becomes transparent, becomes pure.

But there are also other moments when we can see a person whom we thought we have always known, in a light that is a revelation. It happens when someone is aglow with joy, with love, with a sense of worship and adoration. It happens also when a person is at the deepest point, the crucifying point of suffering, but when the suffering remains pure, when no hatred, no resentment, no bitterness, no evil is mixed to it, when pure suffering shines out, as it shone invisibly to many from the crucified Christ.

This can help us to understand what the Apostles saw when they were on the Mount of Transfiguration. They saw Christ in glory at a moment when His total surrender to the will of the Father, His final and ultimate acceptance of His own human destiny, became revealed to them. Moses and Elijah, we are told, stood by Him; the one representing the Law and the other one representing the Prophets: both have proclaimed the time when salvation would come, when the Man of suffering will take upon Himself all the burdens of the world, when the Lamb of God slain before all ages would take upon Himself all the tragedy of this world. It was a moment when in His humanity Christ, in humble and triumphant surrender, gave Himself ultimately to the Cross.

Last week we heard Him say that the Son of God will be delivered in the hand of men, and they will crucify Him, but on the third day He will rise. At that moment it became imminent, it was a decisive point, and He shone with the glory of the perfect, sacrificial, crucified love of the Holy Trinity, and the responsive love of Jesus the Man, as Saint Paul calls Him. The Apostles saw the shining, they saw the divine light streaming through the transparent flesh of Christ, falling on all the things around Him, touching rock and plant, and calling out of them a response of light. They alone did not understand, because in all the
created world man alone has sinned and is blind. And yet, they were shown the mystery, and yet, they entered into that cloud which is the divine glory, that filled them with awe, with fear, but at the same time with such exulting joy and wonder!

Moses had entered that cloud and was allowed to speak to God as a friend speaks to a friend; he was allowed to see God passing by him, still without a name, still without a face, and now, they saw the face of God in the Incarnation. They saw His face and they saw His glory shining out of tragedy. What they perceived was the glory, what they perceived was the wonder of being there, in the glory of God, in the presence of Christ revealed to them in glory. They wanted to stay there forever, as we do at moments when something fills us with adoration, with worship, with awe, with unutterable joy, but Christ had told them that the time has come to go down into the valley, to l e a v e the Mount of Transfiguration because this was the b e g i n n i n g of the way of the Cross, and He had to be merged into all that was tragic in human life. He brought them down into the valley to be confronted with the agony of the father whose child could not be cured, with the inability of the disciples to do anything for this child, with the expectation of the people who now could turn to n o — o n e but Him — that is where He brought them.

And we are told that He had chosen these three disciples because together, in their togetherness they held the three great virtues that make us capable of sharing with God the mystery of His incarnation, of His Divinity, of His crucifixion, to face His descent into hell after His death and to receive the news of His resurrection: the faith of Peter, the love of John, the righteousness of James.

There are moments when we also see something which is beyond us, and how much we wish we could stay, stay forever in this blissful condition; and it is not only because we are incapable of it that we are not allowed to stay in it, but because the Lord says, You are now on the Mount of Transfiguration, you have seen Christ ready to be crucified for the life of the world — go now together with Him, go now in His name, go now, and bring people to Him that they may live!

This is our vocation. May God give us faith, and the purity of heart that allows us to see God in every brother and sister of ours! Didn't one of the Desert Fathers say, He who has seen his brother has seen God’? — and serve one another with love sacrificial, with the exulting joy of giving our lives to one another as Christ gave His life for us. Amen.

Source: Metropolitan Anthony Library
© Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh Foundation


by Jill Carattini

Barbara Krensavage insists that clams are not a regular part of her diet. Yet one snowy evening in December she found herself craving an old recipe, and so brought home four dozen quahogs - a clam particularly abundant along the Eastern shores of the United States, between Cape Cod and New Jersey. Mr. Krensavage was in the midst of shucking the shellfish for dinner when he discovered one that looked like it was dead. It had a different color to it and he thought it was diseased. As he was about to discard it, Mrs. Krensavage took a closer look.

It wasn't dead. In fact, inside the live clam was a rare, possibly priceless, purple pearl. Experts estimate that roughly one in two million quahog clams contains a gem-quality pearl like the one found by the Krensavages. Due to the great rarity of the find, it has been difficult to even place a value on it, though some have estimated the pearl to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The life and ministry of Jesus Christ unveiled something new to the world. He spoke of a kingdom, where, like this discovery of the Krensavages, all is not as it may first appear. In a world that would seem to some more marked by disease than promise, he spoke of a treasure hidden, a mystery revealed in this life, worth selling all we have to possess as our own. Even amid the sting of death and disease, he spoke of an abundant life somehow stronger than death itself. He spoke of his kingdom as present and real. He called it a pearl of great price: For the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.(1) Yet even holding it, he noted that we might completely miss its worth.

Yesterday marked a lesser-known Christian holiday called Transfiguration Sunday. It is the liturgical day that marks the disciples' encounter of Jesus transfigured, or metamorpho, on a mountainside - the Greek word from which we get the word metamorphosis. Jesus stood with Peter, James, and John - three men who left lives behind to sit and learn at his feet - and there he was transfigured before them.(2) These men knew Jesus better than any other. They were with him constantly, eating, sleeping, learning; and yet, we are told they were terrified in his presence on the mountain. As commentator Frederick Bruner describes what was happening on that mountain, "What Jesus was within was once made visible without."(3) Poet Malcolm Guite describes it similarly; terrifying perhaps, but terror stemming from a mystery revealed.

The daily veil that covers the sublime
In darkling glass fell dazzled at his feet.(4)

In the Old Testament, the face of God was readily spoken of as far too much, far too radiant, for a person to see and yet live. The veil was necessary. Early rabbinic reflection taught that Adam and Eve had lost the radiance of their faces in their fall from God, but that the Messiah would reestablish this radiance once more. Guite tells of that revealing in hopeful verse:

The Love that dances at the heart of things
Shone out upon us from a human face.

Here as the face of Christ "became like the sun," it portrayed vividly the glory of God, the Love at the heart of things. Here was a moment, a glimpse of the beginnings of God's restorative work, a preview of the gifted transfiguration awaiting those united with Christ. For the disciples in this new moment, the sound of God's voice and the reality of the Son were too much to behold standing. All three disciples fell facedown on the ground, until Jesus came and touched them - then they didn't want to leave, and were devastated to be told they couldn't remain. But they had to carry that moment of clarity back down the mountain, and into life amid the sting of death and chaos. This metamorphosis is built for sharing.

I suspect it is telling that the clam which held the pearl the Krensavages now treasure was the one that had the most outward appearance of death. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, "[I]t is, I think, a gross exaggeration to picture the saving of a soul as being, normally, at all like the development from seed to flower. The very words, repentance, regeneration, the New Man, suggest something very different."(5) We do not lay our hands on the thought that we are made in the image of God and being presently formed by the love at the center of all things in the Person of Christ without laying down our entire lives before him, giving everything we have, being turned inside out by the glory that nearly blinds us - until we can see.


(1) Matthew 13:45-46.
(2) Matthew 17:1-9.
(3) Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew, A Commentary: The Churchbook, Matthew 12-28 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 167.
(4) Malcolm Guite, "Transfiguration," Sounding the Season: Poetry for the church year (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2012), 56
(5) C.S. Lewis, Transposition and other Essays, ch. 3.

About The Author

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Source: A Slice of Infinity
Copyright © 2016 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries,
All rights reserved.

I Have Sought Thy Face

by Fr. Mark


Genesis 12: 1-4
2 Timothy 1: 8-10
Matthew 17: 1-9

My heart hath said to Thee:
I have sought Thy Face.
Thy Face, O Lord, will I still seek:
turn not away Thy Face from me.

V. The Lord is my light and my salvation:
whom shall I fear?
Psalm 26: 8-9, 1.

Today's sublime Introit (Tibi dixit cor meum) summons us to lift our eyes to the transfigured Christ and to fix our gaze on His Holy Face. One who seeks the Face of Christ will find the strength to do whatever God asks of him.

To seek the Face of Christ is to place all one's trust in Him. It is to await from Him all that one needs. The contemplation of the Holy Face of Jesus

  • exorcises the fears that paralyze us spiritually;
  • frees us from anxiety and fills the soul with peace;
  • purifies us of our sins and opens us to an infusion of grace;
  • glorifies Our Lord because He desires that we should discover on His Face the glory of the Father (2 Cor 4:6), and the secrets of His Heart.

The Example of Abram

Abram trusted God with his life, his family, his possessions, his past, his present, and his future. It was Abram's faith expressed in an unconditional trust in God that enabled him to leave "his country, his kindred, and his father's house" (Gen 12:1). Abram consented to such a radical uprooting because he was deeply rooted in the faith that places no limits on God's faithfulness to what He has promised.

One who seeks the Face of Jesus is saying, albeit wordlessly, what Abram demonstrated by setting out as the Lord commanded him: "I trust Thee, Lord, with my life. I trust Thee with my family, my loved ones, my possessions, my past, present, my future . . . and even with my sins." There is no better place to do this than in the presence of the Eucharistic Face of Christ.

A Holy Place

In the little Convent of Drumshanbo in County Leitrim, Ireland, where I just finished preaching the annual retreat, people kneel before the Blessed Sacrament from the opening of the chapel doors at 6:00 in the morning to their closing at midnight, seven days a week. The Convent of Drumshanbo is a hearth radiating warmth and light to the surrounding towns, to all of Ireland and beyond. People from all over the world entrust their intentions to the "praying nuns" of Drumshanbo. It is, I think, one of the holiest places in Ireland, a country rich in holy places by any account.

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

In the Second Reading, Saint Paul says that grace is manifested in the "bright coming and appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Tim 1:10). Where does Our Lord appear for us here and now, and day after day, if not in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? The Irish used to greet the "bright coming and appearing" of Our Lord at the elevation of the Sacred Host in every Mass by wishing him "a hundred thousand welcomes."

Hard and Arduous Things

Saint Paul says that we are to "bear our share of suffering for the sake of the Gospel" (2 Tim 1:8), and Saint Benedict speaks in his Rule of the "hard and arduous things by which one goes to God." This is possible only by living from the Eucharist — celebrated, contemplated, and adored — by living from one Mass to another, and by saying to Our Lord with Saint Peter, "Lord, it is good for us to be here" (Mt 17:4).

Do this and sooner or later, in one way or another, two things will happen. First, you will hear the Father's voice saying inwardly, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him" (Mt 17:5). Second, Jesus will come to you. He will touch you, saying, "Arise, and fear not" (Mt 17:7), that is, "Arise, and get on with your life."

Only Jesus

Lifting up your eyes, you will see no one, "but only Jesus" (Mt 17: 8). Only Jesus: this is the secret to seeing Jesus everywhere and in everyone. It is this that transfigures all of life. It is this that will allow us to say when Our Lord calls us out of this valley of tears to Himself, "I have sought Thy Face" (Ps 26:8).

Source: Vultus Christi - Fr. Mark


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