Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration. It is when Our Lord took St. Peter, St. James, and St. John up to the mountain to pray and He was transfigured before them; revealing a glimpse of His glory. These three Apostles—who would also be with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal—are invited into the intimate communion of Jesus and the Father in prayer through the Holy Spirit, but they are brought into this profound encounter only after Christ has revealed the demands of the Cross.
The Transfiguration, like all of Sacred Scripture, intersects with other events in salvation history. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in a Lenten homily in 2007, points out two crucial aspects of the Transfiguration that provide the keys we need to understand how we are transfigured in Christ. First, the Transfiguration occurs in Luke’s Gospel directly after Christ calls His followers to pick up their Cross and follow Him:
If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.Luke 9:23-24
St. Luke then tells us that “about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray (Luke 9:28).” It was only after Christ revealed the non-negotiable call to pick up the Cross and follow Him to Calvary that He takes His Apostles to the mountain to pray and they witness the Transfiguration while He is in prayer. The Cross is the first key. There is no Transfiguration without the Cross.
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