As we know, the Transfiguration of Christ is one of the central events recorded in the gospels. Immediately after our Lord was recognized by his apostles as “the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the Living God,” he told them that “he must go up to Jerusalem and suffer many things … and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16). The announcement of Christ’s approaching passion and death was met with indignation by the disciples. And then, after rebuking them, the Lord took Peter, James, and John “up to a high mountain” — by tradition mount Tabor — and was “transfigured before them.”
His face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as snow and behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah. He was still speaking when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead” (Mt 17:1-92, see also Mk 9:1-9; Lk 9:28-36; 2 Peter 1:16-18).
The Jewish Festival of Tents was a feast of the dwelling of God with men, referring to their journey from Egypt to the promised-land where they always lived in tents whenever they camped. The Tabernacle, the house of their Lord, was with them always at the centre of their camp. The transfiguration of Christ reveals how this dwelling takes place in and through the Messiah, the Son of God in human flesh. Christ’s transfiguration took place at the time of the Festival of Tents, and that the celebration of the event in the Christian Church became a feast in a way similar to the feasts of Passover and Pentecost.
WIn the Transfiguration, the apostles see the glory of the Kingdom of God present in majesty in the person of Christ. They see that in him, indeed, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 1:19, 2:9). They see this before the crucifixion so that in the resurrection they might know who it is who has suffered for them, and what it is that this one, who is God, has prepared for those who love him. This is what the Church celebrates in the feast of the Transfiguration and hence she prays: “Thou wast transfigured on the mount. 0 Christ, our Lord and Savior, revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as they could bear it. Let Thine everlasting light shine upon us sinners. Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Giver of Light, glory to Thee. On the mountain wast Thou transfigured, 0 Christ God, and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could see it; so that when they would behold Thee crucified, they would understand that Thy suffering was voluntary, and would proclaim to the world that Thou art truly the Radiance of the Father.” – Prayers from the Feast of Transfiguration.
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