Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Lectionary: 614


Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”



The Evangelists give us much graphic detail about the "transfiguration" of Jesus, and the Epistle of Saint Peter confirms the story. It was a key moment in Jesus' ministry and the Church underlines its importance not only with this mid-summer feast but also by its reading every year on the Second Sunday of Lent. 

I never noticed till now that Jesus said nothing throughout the incident, unless it was in conversation with Moses and Elijah. The gospels say he "went up the mountain to pray" and "while he was at prayer." They tell us of his appearance: his face changed... and his clothing became dazzling white. 

We hear the voice of Peter and the response of the "majestic glory," but Jesus said nothing until it was all over. In Luke's account, which we hear today, he offers no explanation or warning about the incident. Peter, James and John fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

Sometimes it's better to say nothing. In the early days of the Church unbaptized catechumens might prepare for two or three years for their baptism with no clue about the rituals of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. Only after they were submerged in water, anointed with oil and given bread to eat and wine to drink were they told what those symbols meant. 

Isn't it fascinating that Jesus said nothing on Mount Tabor? For a man who seemed to take command of every situation, he was strangely passive during this incident. 

I'm sure a thousand people could draw two thousand different meanings from his passivity. Here's what comes to me: Jesus was sent by the Father to gather us to the Father. When the Father addressed Peter, James and John, Jesus could add nothing more. After "Listen to him!" what could he say? 

Although we insist upon the equality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the mysterious Trinity of God, we should remember that the Father is the origin of all goodness. He has authorized the Son with our salvation and sent him to us. In his silence Jesus reminds us of the essential virtue of obedience. To be saved we fall submissive to Divine Authority; we let the Word and the Spirit take hold of our desires, needs, thoughts, words and deeds. 

If, occasionally, we see God's activity around us in which we are simply witnesses -- as was Jesus on Mount Tabor -- we simply watch. If we say anything it might be "Amen!" 

Saint Luke tells us that Moses and Elijah were discussing the "exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem." Jesus was again strangely passive throughout his passion and death. He had intentionally walked into the trap; once it was sprung he "submitted and opened not his mouth. 

In his silence there is much to ponder. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.