Each year, on the Second Sunday of Lent, the Church invites us to reflect on the miracle of the Transfiguration. It’s a Biblical event that is no doubt familiar to us, which we also hear about on August 6, when we celebrate the Liturgical Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus. I think there are always certain questions that arise when considering this text. Why are Moses and Elijah present? Why does Peter want to build tents, and remain on the mountain? What lessons are we to gain from this reading, as we enter into the second full week of our Lenten Observance?
To answer these questions, we might find that turning to the other liturgical texts the Church gives us is very helpful. In the opening Collect of the Mass, we pray “O God, who have commanded us to listen to your beloved Son, be pleased, we pray, to nourish us inwardly by your word, that, with spiritual sight made pure, we may rejoice to behold your glory.” The Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer states that “after he had told the disciples of his coming Death, on the holy mountain he manifested to them his glory, to show, even by the testimony of the law and the prophets, that the Passion leads to the glory of the Resurrection.”
From here, we can begin to answer our questions. Moses and Elijah are present, because they represent the law and the prophets, which Jesus is the fulfillment of through his passion, death, and resurrection. Peter wants to stay on the mountain because he still doesn’t understand that the true glory that Christ desires to bring only comes through the Cross. He thinks “hey, this is pretty great! Why don’t we just stay here, and then we don’t have to worry about all that death stuff that Jesus was talking about!” However, what Peter fails to realize in that moment is that what he and James and John witnessed on Mount Tabor was only a glimpse of the true glory that is to be revealed through Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
That leaves us with the question of what this passage teaches us. That answer, I believe, is found in the command from the Father to listen to the words of His Son. We are called, as the Collect says, to allow ourselves to be nourished inwardly by his word, so that we may rejoice to behold God’s glory with minds made pure. If we can make that our focus during this Lenten Season, then this can be a time of great spiritual renewal for us all.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Steven Huber, CSB