The Transfiguration

August 6, 2007

An underappreciated element in the Rite of Baptism, of both adults and infants, is being clothed in white. It is often done in a perfunctory way, simply because the ritual order calls for it, but with little catechesis. As you pray about the story of the transfiguration, consider how the white garment in which you were dressed at your Baptism links you to the “dazzling white” garment that the disciples saw when Jesus was transfigured before them. As members of the church, we are still wedded into the body of Christ as we were on that first day of baptism. We change some of our habits and values not to earn God’s love, but to enable us to be more ready to recognize God’s love in the many and sometimes odd ways it is made known. As the voice in the cloud said of Jesus, so does God say of you, united to the body of Christ at baptism: “This is my daughter,” “This is my son.” — Martin Connell, Asst. Professor, School of Theology, Saint John’s University

The Transfiguration appears in all three Synoptics, but Mark is the least complicated, textually. In modern scholarship, there has been controversy whether or not the Transfiguration was a post-resurrection occurrence which was transferred to this point, but most people do not subscribe to that theory. Elijah (prophet from the Messianic Age) and Moses (Law) are both strong presences in the story. The Transfiguration in Mark, as well as in the other two Synoptics, functions as a manifestation of Jesus’ divine nature following Peter’s declaration of Jesus’ Messiahship (8:29). That the Transfiguration occurs after Jesus predicts his passion (8:31) and after Jesus’ rebuke of Peter for interpreting Jesus’ mission from a human angle (8:32-33) undergirds the scene as a foreshadowing of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Excerpt from The Committee on Illumination and Text Theological Briefs, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University


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