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The Transfiguration of Our Lord: Why We Stand at the Reading of the Gospel

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There is an argument to be made that the Apostles’ Creed is so called because each of its articles were eye-witnessed by the apostles. And recall, a witness needed two or three to be substantiated according to biblical law. It’s an interesting discussion to be had, but if it is true, the transfiguration event is a big component of the argument. Several articles of the creed are eye-witnessed by three apostles: the Fatherhood of God, the Sonship of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Those latter two call for an interesting case to be made and will so in future devotions.

The Christian faith is not a philosophy, or a teaching, or an esoteric revelation. It’s not something a single person comes upon by a private revelation or by unique insight. It’s a truth witnessed to. It’s something seen. And once seen, it’s something proclaimed. These elements of the faith come out strongly in the transfiguration.

Transfiguration is like a bookend to the baptism of Christ. At the baptism the Lord declared, “This is my beloved Son.” Here the same thing is declared, with these added words, “Hear Him.” That adds a whole new dimension to the revelation of Who Christ is. It’s one thing to hear that a man is God’s beloved Son – Israel was called God’s son, and so was King David.

But it’s another thing altogether what develops at the trasfiguration.  Consider the situation. Here are Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Each of them are great prophets, obviously. Peter rightly represented the attitude of a typical Jew. The tabernacle was where God met His people, particularly Moses, in order to speak with Him. Peter recognized that three great prophets were present. One wrote the Torah. Another typified the Prophets of the Old Testament. And Jesus clearly was the Messiah (as Peter had confessed the previous chapter). Wow! Three great personages, how wonderful to tent them among us, so as to benefit from their every word, these prophets of God.

And what does the Lord do? He overshadows them and singles out Jesus. Hear that one. Not Moses. Not Elijah. Jesus. Hear Him. He will be the fount and source of all Word and wisdom. He will be the builder of a new world. He will be the tabernacled Word, as St. John realized and wrote down.

And beautifully, after the voice speaks, the three disciples see no one but “Jesus alone.” Just Jesus. Of Him we need not be afraid. We listen to Him, but not on our faces in fear. We listen to Him standing up, just like at the Gospel reading.

We can stand in confidence, boldly, just as Hebrews says, “ Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

We’ve used the expression before: Words build worlds. Jesus’ Word builds the world to come, just as it built the creation in the beginning. The world He builds, which we enter by faith, we enter standing up. That means something.

We’re not falling on our faces in fear. We’re not running away. We’re not running toward Him ready to help Him build the kingdom of God. We’re standing, receiving and reflecting His glory like the ones standing in Revelation: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ ”

Yes, we reflect His glory. We reflect His transfiguration, joining in His transfiguration. As St. John says, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

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