And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before (Matt. 17:1–2)
In the Lord’s life there were many wonderful works, significant events, and extraordinary manifestations of His divinity, but none was as striking as the glorious Transfiguration of the Lord. In the darkness of the night, the Lord prays alone on the top of the mountain, and while His three weary disciples are immersed in a deep sleep, the Lord perceives in Himself or, better to say, reveals the light of the sun from Himself. His clothes shone with the purest whiteness, and the two highest prophets of the Old Testament, Elias and Moses, reverently appeared to Him. The night itself brightened and the mountain was all in an unearthly, wonderful light. His awakened disciples marveled, admired and tremulously contemplated this unprecedented spectacle.
Now the question is: for whom and for what purpose was this glorious vision? Not for the people, of course, because the people standing under the mountain did not witness this miracle. And not for the disciples either, because they only had a few minutes to enjoy the vision. Therefore, it was for the Lord Himself that His Transfiguration took place. Let’s look into it. The end of His earthly calling was already approaching, and more than once He surveyed everything He had done and wondered about the success He had achieved. What did the Lord envision? Three years of His tireless service to the human race were behind Him: preaching, miracles of healing, appeals to the people; and in response to Him, unbelief, malice from some, indifference from others, the apparent affection of the multitudes—but only apparent, and fickle. And still more darkness lay ahead. A little while more, and the mighty powers of the earth would rise up against Him, would watch His every step with insidious malice; then the betrayal of one of His own disciples, the judgment—partial and malicious—the suffering and agony, and the shameful death on the cross.
With His divine eye He clearly saw all that was ahead of Him, and as a man He could not help but feel the gravity of His situation, could not help but be weary from exhaustion, troubled in His soul, and need reinforcement from above to finish His great work of saving the human race—sinful, unfaithful, and ungrateful. The Gospel directly reveals to us this state of the Lord’s soul before the hour of His suffering. My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Matt. 26:38), He tells His disciples. Whoever of us, friends, has ever suffered true sorrow, will understand these words, will feel the searing pain of the whole being that they cause, will realize, though not fully, what a cry it is for a soul that has suffered, that expects nothing ahead, that has lost faith in the future. And He fell on His face in deep prayer before His heavenly Father and asked: let this cup pass from Me (Matt. 26:39)!
How clear now are all the events of the Lord’s Transfiguration. He ascends the high mountain. He leaves the whole world, for whom He came with such holy goodness, for whom He so willingly accepted the greatest commission from His heavenly Father, and who met Him with such unbelief, who so frivolously gave Him royal honors, and then so mockingly cried out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” He is transformed. He is no longer the meek, humble, grieving Jesus that He seemed a moment ago, but His appearance is divine, the light of the sun shines from Him, His face, His clothes, and entire surroundings are illuminated with the glory of God. At this moment, it is believed, He sees all the future glory of the Kingdom of God on earth. Bypassing the terrible events of the last day of his life, He sees the holy faith spreading across the earth, sees his disciples regenerating the world—recently so faithless; He sees the saints of God performing great works of the Lord, sees the whole earth illuminated like the mountain by the light of truth, righteousness, and a great moral transformation. And at this solemn moment, a voice is heard from heaven calling Him the Beloved Son and commanding the earth to listen to Him. Oh, now the Lord will go out again to do His work and complete it. Let them lift Him up to the cross—He has seen the Heavenly Father; the glory that He had from the beginning of the world awaits Him, He is destined for victory over the world and triumph in heaven. This is the significance of today’s celebration in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord.
And for us, friends, there are many instructive lessons in this wonderful event. The Lord ascends a high mountain. Let us also learn to detach ourselves from the noise of the vanity of life and climb the mountain of solitude, theology, and prayer. Earthly life presents so many dark deeds, so many sad quarrels between brothers, so much troubling evil, untruth, and deceit. Oh, let us go to the mountain, to solitude; let us lift our eyes to heaven, silence all these passions, vanities, untruths, let us forget this world and immerse ourselves in quiet inner prayer. The Lord is transfigured. This means that peace, hope, and enlightenment were established in His soul, and all this rebirth of the soul was reflected in His face, on His garment, on the whole mountain. Behold, my friends, the power of man—his soul—awakened, enlightened, blessed! Look at a righteous, simply good person. His believing, simple, sincere soul shines in everything. He is not confused by sorrow, he is exalted by joy, he is encouraged by hope, he believes in a glorious future.
And why did these two great Prophets Elias and Moses join him here, conversing with Him? They are the two representatives of the future glorious Kingdom of God on earth. Moses is the great guide of the people of Israel to the promised land, and Elias is that denouncer of unrighteousness, wickedness and enmity, taken in a chariot of fire to heaven. There will always be teachers of goodness and light in the world, the best people will always shine as a model and teaching to the world; there will always be guides to a better world, to a blessed life in heaven. There is no need to be confused. Better times will come. The earth will be enlightened with the light of truth and righteousness. Our world, now still dark and weak, will be transfigured and transformed into the glorious Kingdom of God.
Let us pray together with the Church on this day of the Transfiguration of the Lord: “May Your everlasting light shine upon us sinners, O Bearer of Light!” Amen.
August 6, 1914