In today’s Gospel reading, we hear the story of Christ’s transfiguration on Mt. Tabor. Jesus brings his inner circle of followers, Peter, James, and John, with him as He heads up the mountain to pray. Then, before their eyes, Jesus Christ is transfigured, and they behold the glorified Body of Christ, a foreshadowing of the resurrection that is to come. They behold the risen Christ, but they are also given a glimpse of the eternal life they too will receive at the end of time.
As they watch, Moses and Elijah appear before them. According to Scripture, Elijah was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot, body and soul. And according to one Jewish tradition, Moses was assumed into heaven, body and soul, upon his death. So it’s appropriate that these are the two figures who appear with Christ at the transfiguration. They behold the splendor of the risen Christ and the promise of the resurrection of the body at the end of time.
But Christ is not a mere mortal whose flesh has been transfigured. He is God made flesh, and as Peter, James, and John witness the transfiguration of Christ, they experience the desire to hold on to this moment. They beg Jesus to permit them to build three tents on the mountain so that they might remain with Jesus Christ, Moses, and Elijah. The Lord is the fulfillment of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) of the Old Testament, the Old Covenant. The three apostles are in the presence of the New Covenant that is to come, and like any spiritual high, they do not want to leave. But Christ instead sends them down the mountain and back into the world.
We might not have had the opportunity to behold the transfigured or risen Christ in the flesh with our own eyes, but we all know what that spiritual high feels like. We have all had our “mountaintop” experiences of God- on retreat, in Eucharistic adoration, or during the Mass. We have all felt that desire to remain, to rest in the presence of Christ. And the need for rest is real. We need to be spiritually nourished, filled with the Spirit. But we are not meant to remain. We can’t build tents on the mountaintop. We are called to descend, to receive Christ so that we can bring Him out into the world. We are filled up so that we can be emptied out.
The Eucharist is our fuel. It is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC #1324). It is at the core of our faith and is our mountaintop experience. But we don’t receive Christ to hold Him within us, in the dark recesses of our soul. He comes into us to give us the courage and strength to go out, to be the light of the world. When we receive Him, we are transfigured. Our clothes might not become dazzling white, but our souls do. Our faces might not shine, but hopefully when people look into our faces, they see the face of Christ shining out. Christ was transfigured, and we are all called to be transformed by Christ, to become like Christ ourselves. That is the fundamental Christian mission and the vocation we were given in Baptism. That is our transfiguration.
Shannon Whitmore currently lives in northwestern Virginia with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, John and Felicity. When she is not caring for her children, Shannon enjoys writing for her blog, Love in the Little Things, reading fiction, and freelance writing. She has experience serving in the areas of youth ministry, religious education, sacramental preparation, and marriage enrichment.
Featured Image Credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/metamorphosis-transfiguration-church-1751376/