What happened during the Transfiguration according to Latin theology? Eastern understanding is that the light is the uncreated light/energies of God made visible to the apostles. Just curious.
I’ve never really thought about it very much, and I don’t think the Catholic Church defines what the light was. It’s funny, since the Orthodox are always accusing Catholics of over defining things when in reality very little is definitively defined by the Church.
I have never heard of such a definition.
I’d imagine that this light was the life shining through His skin; it was a Heavenly life, so everybody could see it.
At the Basilica of the Transfiguration, I was told that, “if our LORD had not dimmed Himself down to appear normal to everybody, He’d have been seen in this form all the time.”
From the Catechism:
A foretaste of the Kingdom: the Transfiguration
554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master "began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. . . and be killed, and on the third day be raised."290 Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he.291 In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus’ Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain,292 before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus’ face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking “of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem”.293 A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"294
555 For a moment Jesus discloses his divine glory, confirming Peter’s confession. He also reveals that he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to “enter into his glory”.295 Moses and Elijah had seen God’s glory on the Mountain; the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah’s sufferings.296 Christ’s Passion is the will of the Father: the Son acts as God’s servant;297 the cloud indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. "The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud."298
You were transfigured on the mountain, and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendor of the Father.299
556 On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus’ baptism proclaimed “the mystery of the first regeneration”, namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration “is the sacrament of the second regeneration”: our own Resurrection.300 From now on we share in the Lord’s Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ’s glorious coming, when he "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body."301 But it also recalls that “it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God”:302
Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: "Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?"303
568 Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent on to 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” (Col 1:27; cf.: St. Leo the Great, Sermo 51, 3: PL 54, 310C).
I believe it was to prepare the disciples for the coming passion which happened right after - Jesus allowed them to see his divinity so they would remember later on - he instructed them to tell no one when they left the mountain - they didn’t have to be there they witnessed it for a reason - so the question really is why did Jesus want the disciples ( and only the 3 not all twelve) to witness the transfiguration?
Catholic Encyclopedia Transfiguration
*]note, the reference to Caesarea Philippi? That’s where Jesus renamed Simon to Rock (Peter) and said He would build His Church on Peter. ~ a week later they are seeing Jesus transfigured, along with conversing with the 2 great OT figures as witnesses as well
The exodus from Egypt was the central event in Jewish history. Moses was the central figure. The transfiguration would have been understood many ways by the ancient reader but one of those would have been the start of a new exodus by Jesus who was the new Moses.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. (Luke 9:31 NAB)
Many people miss the mention of the exodus which is unique only to Luke. Some translations use the word “departure” which obscures some of the meaning. Moses led an exodus from bondage in Egypt and Jesus was about to lead an exodus from sin. Israel made a covenant with God but immediately fell into sin. Where the exodus of Moses failed, the exodus of Jesus was to succeed.
*When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tables of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. (Exodus 34:29)
And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. (Matthew 17:2)*
The parallel would have been very clear to the ancient Jewish audience who regarded the exodus from Egypt as the central event in all of history. Jesus is the new Moses who is about to accomplish a new exodus.
Moses asked to see God’s face but God only let him see his back. Jesus however, speaks with God face to face.
Moses never entered the promised land but died and was buried before crossing the Jordan. Jesus however, enters heaven where he intercedes for us.
Moses’ body is lost. Jesus ascends into heaven bodily where he sits at the right hand of the Father and from where he will come again in the flesh.
Wonderful post! Reading these details of Christs Transfiguration made my heart swell with love for Him.
Jesus IS the Christ
Jesus IS RISEN
Jesus IS the Son of the Living God
Jesus IS the MASTER
This Wednesday commemorates the mysterious event known as the Transfiguration.
This event is hard to understand. Why did it happen? What did it mean?
Here are 10 things you need to know.
1. What does the word “transfiguration” mean?
The word “transfiguration” comes from the Latin rootstrans*- (“across”) andfigura**(“form, shape”). It thus signifies a change of form or appearance.
This is what happened to Jesus in the event known as the Transfiguration: His appearance changed and became glorious.
Before looking at the Transfiguration itself, it’s important that we look at what happened immediately before it in Luke’s Gospel.
2. What happened right before the Transfiguration?
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.”
This has often been taken as a prophecy that the end of the world would occur before the first generation of Christians died out.
The phrase “kingdom of God” can also refer to other things, though, including the Church–the outward expression of God’s invisible kingdom.
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.
3. Did such a manifestation occur?
Yes, and it is the very next thing that Luke relates: the Transfiguration.
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.
Some—that is to say, the three disciples who accompany Jesus up the mountain—are promised that they will personally witness the coming of the Kingdom of God ‘in power.’
On the mountain the three of them see the glory of God’s Kingdom shining out of Jesus. On the mountain they are overshadowed by God’s holy cloud. 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).
We thus may have the key to understanding Jesus’ mysterious statement just before the Transfiguration. He wasn’t talking about the end of the world. He was talking about**this*.
In fact, Luke notes that the Transfiguration took place “about eight days after these sayings,” thus stressing its proximity to them and suggesting that it was the fulfillment of this *saying, concerning the fact that some of them would see the kingdom of God. Mark gives a different number of days, saying it was “after six days” (Mk. 9:2), but these both approximate a week.
4. Who witnessed the Transfiguration?
The three who are privileged to witness the event are Peter, James, and John, the three core disciples. (Andrew was not there or not included.)
The fact that Jesus only allowed three of his disciples to witness the event may have sparked the discussion which swiftly ensued about which of the disciples was the greatest (Luke 9:46).
5. Where did the Transfiguration take place?
Luke states that Jesus took the three “on the mountain to pray.”
This mountain is often thought to be Mt. Tabor in Israel, but none of the gospels identify it precisely.
Click here to learn more about Mt. Tabor*(though be aware that the gospels do not actually say which mountain it was).
6. Why did the Transfiguration take place?
The Catechism explains it this way:
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].
7. What does Luke–in particular–tell us about this event?
Luke mentions several details about the event that the other evangelists do not:
*]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.
8. Why do Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain?
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).
9. Why was Peter’s suggestion misguided?
The fact that Peter’s suggestion occurs when Moses and Elijah are preparing to depart reveals a desire 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.”
Peter misses the point and wants to stay on the mountain, contrary to the message the two heavenly visitors have been expounding.
As a seeming rebuke of this, a theophany occurs: “A cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’”
10. What can we learn from this event?
The Transfiguration was a special event in which God allowed certain apostles to have a privileged spiritual experience that was meant to strengthen their faith for the challenges they would later endure. But it was only a temporary event. It was not meant to be permanent.
In the same way, at certain times in this life, God may give certain members of the faithful (*not**all of the faithful, all the time), special experiences of his grace that strengthen their faith.
We should welcome these experiences for the graces they are, but we should not expect them to continue indefinitely, nor should we be afraid or resentful when they cease.
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, to help strengthen us on the road that will–ultimately–bring us into the infinite and endless joy of heaven.
Worthwhile since so many have expressed an interest in this topic.