August 6, 2017: TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
August 6, 2017: TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
Rank: Double of the II Class.
“Christ Jesus, the brightness of the Father, and the figure of his substance, supporting all things by his mighty word, and cleansing away sin, vouchsafed this day to appear glorious on the high mountain.”
O God, who, by the testimony of the Prophets, didst confirm the mysteries of our faith in the glorious transfiguration of thy holy Son, and by a voice from heaven, shewedst us, that we are thy adopted children: mercifully grant, we may be heirs to the King of glory, and partakers of his bliss. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
GOSPEL – St. Matthew, xvii. 1-9.
At that time: Jesus took Peter, and James, and John his brother, and led them up into a high mountain apart; and he was transfigured before them. And his face became bright as the sun, and his garments white as snow. And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias, discoursing with him. And Peter answering said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And, lo, a voice came out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear you him. And his disciples hearing it, fell on their faces, and were very much frighted. And Jesus coming to them, touched them, and said: Arise, and be not afraid. And lifting up their eyes, they saw nobody, but only Jesus. And, as they went down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: Tell not this vision to any, till the son of man rise again from the dead.
All that desire with Christ to rise,
To Thabor’s Mount lift up your eyes;
See there what bliss, what charming rays
Of Glory God in heaven displays.
We see an object
That knows no bounds of place or time,
Gloriously high and infinite,
Elder then heaven and Chaos-night.
This is that King whose sov’reign sway
The Gentiles and the Jews obey,
Promis’d to Abr’ham and decreed,
To rule his num’rous faithful seed.
The law and prophets him unfold,
And sign the truth by them foretold;
Him God the Father from his Throne,
Commands the world to hear and own.
Glory to Christ, whose light displays
To little ones his saving ways;
To God the Father let’s repeat
The same, and to the Paraclete. Amen.
V. Thou didst appear glorious in the sight of the Lord.
R. Therefore the Lord clothed thee with beauty.
The Transfiguration of our Lord.
Our Divine Redeemer, in order to show us that the sufferings of his servants are usually intermingled with frequent spiritual comforts, and to give us a sensible demonstration of the truth of his promises of an eternal glory reserved for us in the world to come, was pleased to manifest a glimpse of his majesty in the mystery of his Transfiguration. Being in Galilee, about a year before his sacred passion, he chose to be witnesses of his glory the same three beloved disciples who were afterwards to be witnesses of his bloody agony in the garden, namely, St. Peter, and the two sons of Zebedee, SS. James and John. He took three, that their evidence might be unexceptionable; but he would not publicly discover his glory, to teach his followers to love the closest secrecy in all spiritual graces and favours. All pretences contrary to this rule are suggested by blind self-love, not by the Spirit of God; they are a disguised pride, and a dangerous illusion. Every true servant of God loves to be hidden and concealed; his motto in the divine gifts, even when he most ardently invites all creatures to magnify the Lord with him for all his unspeakable mercies, is, “My secret to myself, my secret to myself.” (Isaias, xxiv. 15) He fears lest he should even be considered or thought of in what purely belongs to God alone. Jesus, therefore, would exhibit this miracle in retirement, and he led these three apostles to a retired mountain, as he was accustomed to repair often to some close solitude to pray. The tradition of the Christians in Palestine, of which St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. John Damascen, and other ancient fathers are vouchers, assures us, that this was Mount Thabor, which is exceeding high and beautiful, and was anciently covered with green trees and shrubs, and was very fruitful. It rises something like a sugarloaf, in a vast plain, in the middle of Galilee. This was the place in which the Man-God appeared in his glory. He was transfigured whilst at prayer, because it is usually in this heavenly commerce that the soul receives the dew of divine consolations, and tastes how infinitely sweet and good God is to those who sincerely seek him. Many Christians indeed are strangers to this effect of that holy exercise, because they do not apply themselves to it with assiduity and fervour, or neglect to disengage their affections from creatures by perfect humility, self-denial, and mortification of the senses. Without a great purity of heart no man shall see God. A little birdlime entangles the feathers of a bird, and holds down the strongest pinion from being able to raise the body in the air. So the least earthly dust clogs the wings of the soul, the least inordinate attachment to creatures is a weight which hinders the perfect union of her affections with God, and the full flow of his graces upon her; but a Christian worthily disposed and fitted by the Holy Ghost to receive the spirit of prayer, by assiduity in that holy exercise purifies his love more and more, transforms his affections, and renders them more and more spiritual and heavenly. Of this, the Transfiguration of our Divine Redeemer was, among other transcending prerogatives, a most noble and supereminent prototype.
Whilst Jesus prayed, he suffered that glory which was always due to his sacred humility, and of which, for our sake, he deprived it to diffuse a ray over his whole body. His face was altered, and shone as the sun, and his garments became white as snow. By this glorious transfiguration of his flesh he has animated our hope, that even our bodies will share with our immortal souls in the bliss which he has promised us, and will inherit his glory. Do we often bear in mind this comfortable truth? Can we believe it, and not always be employed in the thoughts of it? Can we think of it, and not be ravished out of ourselves with holy joy? Yes: this heavy lumpish flesh, these infirm corruptible bodies, at present so often subject to sickness, pain, and wants, will one day be raised from the dust glorified, impassable; no more liable to heat, cold, diseases, torment, or tears; beautiful, transcending in lustre and brightness the sun and stars; endued with swiftness beyond that of light, and with strength equal to the angels; with the power of penetrating all bodies, as Christ did the stone of the sepulchre, and the doors when shut; with dazzling glory, with unspeakable pleasure in every part or organ; in a word, with all the communicable gifts and qualities of spirits, resembling the body of Christ glorified after his resurrection, which, as St. Paul tells us, is the model upon which ours shall be raised in glory. A glimpse of all this appeared in the splendour wherewith his adorable humanity was clothed in his Transfiguration.
Moses and Elias were seen by the three apostles in his company on this occasion, and were heard discoursing with him of the death which he was to suffer in Jerusalem. Moses represented the ancient patriarchs, and the first saints who lived under the law; Elias the later prophets; and they showed by their presence that all the just inspired by God from the beginning had given testimony to Christ as the true Messias. They had both been remarkable for their sufferings in the cause of virtue, Elias having been exceedingly persecuted by the wicked, and Moses having chosen rather to be afflicted with the people of God than to enjoy the greatest honours and pleasures of Pharaoh's court; and the cross being the constant object of the most ardent desires of our blessed Redeemer out of the excess of his love for us, they spoke to him of nothing but of the stripes, thorns, reproaches, and cruel death which he was to suffer. Our loving Saviour, in part to moderate his ardour to complete his sacrifice by the triumph of his love in his death on the cross, had made it frequently the subject of his conversation with his disciples, and even in this joyful mystery, would entertain himself and the witnesses of his glory upon it. If we truly consider and understand the spiritual fruits and glory of mortification and suffering for Christ, we shall rejoice in wearing the livery of our crucified Redeemer. The three apostles were wonderfully delighted with this glorious vision, and St. Peter cried out to Christ, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three tents, one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias.” This he spoke, not knowing what he said, being out of himself in a transport of holy admiration and joy; desiring never to be drawn from the sight of so glorious an object, and never to lose that sweetness and delight with which his soul was then overwhelmed. He truly knew not what he said, or he would never have desired that for the time of trial on earth which is reserved only for heaven. Neither would he have contented himself with beholding only the glorified humanity of Christ, which vision can bear no proportion to the beatific contemplation of the divinity itself. He tasted only a single drop of that overflowing river which inebriates the heavenly Jerusalem, and all its blessed inhabitants; yet was so much transported by it. What would he then have said if he had received into his soul the whole impetuous torrent of heavenly delights? He who has once tasted that spiritual sweetness which God sometimes bestows on souls in this life to strengthen their weakness, and to attract them to his love by the sweet odour of his ointments, must ever after live in bitterness, alleviated only by resignation and love, till he arrive at the fountain itself, which is God. No wonder, therefore, that St. Peter, after this foretaste, was unwilling to return again to the earth. How little do the lovers of the world know the incomparable sweetness of divine love, or they would despise from their hearts those toys for which they deprive themselves of so great a good! Yet so depraved is the taste of many by their passions, that they would be content, were it possible, always to live here, and never think of the joys of heaven. “How can it be good for us to be here,” cried out St. Bernard, “where every thing in worldly pursuits is tedious, empty, or dangerous? Here is much malice, and very little wisdom, if even a little. Here all things are slippery and treacherous, covered with darkness, and full of snares; where souls are exposed to continual danger of perishing, the spirit sinks under affliction, and nothing is found but vanity and trouble of mind.” To the just this life is the time of trials and labour; heaven is our place of rest, our eternal sabbath, where our patience and tears will find their reward exceeding great. Why do we seek repose before the end of our warfare?
Whilst St. Peter was speaking, there came, on a sudden, a bright shining cloud from heaven, an emblem of the presence of God's majesty, and from out of this cloud was heard a voice which said:— “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” By this testimony the Father declared Christ his only begotten and co-eternal Son, sent by him into the world to be the remedy of our sins, our advocate and our propitiation, through whom alone we can find access to his offended majesty. If through him we approach the throne of his mercy, we cannot be rejected, he being in his humanity the object of the infinite complacency of the Father: through him we are invited to apply with confidence for mercy and every good gift. By the same voice the Father also declared him the perfect model of our virtues, and commands us to hear him, and attend to his example, in order to square by it our lives, and to form in our souls a new spirit grounded upon the pattern he hath set us of humility, meekness, charity, and patience. He commands us also to listen with the utmost respect and docility to his saving and most holy doctrine, which is the word of eternal life. The apostles that were present, upon hearing this voice, were seized with a sudden fear, and fell upon the ground; but Jesus, going to them, touched them, and bade them to rise. They immediately did so, and saw no one but Jesus standing in his ordinary state. This vision happened in the night. As they went down the mountain early the next morning, Jesus gave them a charge not to discover to any one what they had seen till he should be risen from the dead. The Jews were unworthy to hear what many among them would have only blasphemed, and they had sufficient evidence by his miracles, to which they willfully shut their eyes; but Jesus would by this give us a fresh lesson of humility, and teach us that secrecy with regard to divine graces, and the exercise of all extraordinary virtues, is the guardian of those gifts.
From the contemplation of this glorious mystery we ought to conceive a true idea of future happiness; if this once possess our souls, it will make us not to value any difficulties or labours we can meet with here, but to regard with great indifference all the goods and evils of this life, provided we can but secure our portion in the kingdom of God's glory. Thabor is our encouragement by setting that bliss before our eyes, but Calvary is the way that leads to it. When Christ shall let us into the secrets of his love and cross, and make us taste that interior sweetness and secure peace which he hath hidden therein, and which the world knoweth not, then we shall find a comfort and joy in our sufferings themselves, and, with St. Paul, we shall think of nothing but of loving and suffering in what manner it shall please God to make us tread in the footsteps of his divine Son, being solicitous only to walk in the continual exercise of pure lore. The ninety-fourth sermon of St. Leo, which is on this mystery, shows this festival to have been observed at Rome in the middle of the fifth century. Pope Calixtus III made it more universal and solemn by a bull dated in 1457.
Taken from: The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II.
Glory and riches are in his house, and his righteousness abideth for ever and ever. Alleluia.