What does the word "transfiguration" mean?
● "transfiguration" comes from the Latin roots trans- ("across") and figura ("form, shape"). It thus signifies a change of form or appearance.
● Peter, James, and John, the three core disciples. (Andrew was not there or not included.)
● In Luke 9:27, at the end of a speech to the twelve apostles, Jesus adds, enigmatically:"There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."
● The kingdom is embodied in Christ himself and thus might be "seen" if Christ were to manifest it in an unusual way, even in his own earthly life.
● Pope Benedict states that it has been . . .
. . . convincingly argued that the placing of this saying immediately before the Transfiguration clearly relates it to this event.
● On the mountain—in the conversation of the transfigured Jesus with the Law and the Prophets—they realize that the true Feast of Tabernacles has come.
● On the mountain they learn that Jesus himself is the living Torah, the complete Word of God. On the mountain they see the 'power' (dynamis) of the Kingdom that is coming in Christ" (Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 1, p. 317).
● Jesus wasn't talking about the end of the world. He was talking about this.1
● This mountain is often thought to be Mt. Tabor in Israel, but none of the gospels identify it precisely.
● Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent onto the 'high mountain' prepares for the ascent to Calvary.
● Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: 'the hope of glory' [CCC 568].
● He notes that this happened while Jesus was praying.
● He mentions that Peter and his companions "were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him."
● He mentions that Peter made his suggestion to put up booths as Moses and Elijah were departing.
● Moses and Elijah represent the two principal components of the Old Testament: the Law and the Prophets.
● Moses was the giver of the Law, and Elijah was considered the greatest of the prophets.
● The fact that these two figures "spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem" illustrates that the Law and the Prophets point forward to the Messiah and his sufferings. This foreshadows Jesus' own explanation, on the road to Emmaus, of the Scriptures pointing to himself (cf. Lk. 24:27, 32).
● Peter desires to prolong the experience of glory. This means Peter is focusing on the wrong thing. The experience of the Transfiguration is meant to point forward to the sufferings Jesus is about to experience. It is meant to strengthen the disciples faith, revealing to them in a powerful way the divine hand that is at work in the events Jesus will undergo. This is why Moses and Elijah have been speaking "about his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem."
● It was meant to strengthen their faith for the challenges they would later endure. They may have been meant only as momentary glimpses of the joy of heaven to sustain us as we face the challenges of this life.