On this occasion, which is found in Tuesday’s gospel reading, Jesus took three of the disciples up on a high mountain.
While they were there, his clothes became dazzlingly white, Moses and Elijah appeared, and they were engulfed in a cloud and heard a heavenly Voice.
This event, known as the Transfiguration, is mysterious and hard to understand. Why did it happen? What did it mean?
Here are 10 things you need to know.
1. What does the word “transfiguration” mean?
The word “transfiguration” comes from the Latin roots trans- (“across”) and figura (“form, shape”). It thus signifies a change of form or appearance.
This is what happened to Jesus in the event known as the Transfiguration: His appearance changed and became glorious.
Before looking at the Transfiguration itself, it’s important that we look at what happened immediately before it in all three fo the gospels that recored it.
2. What happened right before the Transfiguration?
In Luke 9:27, at the end of a speech to the twelve apostles, Jesus adds, enigmatically:
This has often been taken as a prophecy that the end of the world would occur before the first generation of Christians died out.
But the phrase “kingdom of God” can also refer to other things, though, including the Church–the outward expression of God’s invisible kingdom.
The kingdom is embodied in Christ himself and thus might be “seen” if Christ were to manifest it in an unusual way, even in his own earthly life.
3. Did such a manifestation occur?
Yes, and it is the very next thing that Luke relates: the Transfiguration.
Pope Benedict states that it has been . . .
We thus may have the key to understanding Jesus’ mysterious statement just before the Transfiguration. He wasn’t talking about the end of the world. He was talking about this.
In fact, Luke notes that the Transfiguration took place “about eight days after these sayings,” thus stressing its proximity to them and suggesting that it was the fulfillment of this saying, concerning the fact that some of them would see the kingdom of God. Mark gives a different number of days, saying it was “after six days” (Mk. 9:2), but these both approximate a week.
4. Who witnessed the Transfiguration?
The three who are privileged to witness the event are Peter, James, and John, the three core disciples. (Andrew was not there or not included.)
The fact that Jesus only allowed three of his disciples to witness the event may have sparked the discussion which occurred later in the same chapter about which of the disciples was the greatest (Luke 9:46).
Click here to watch a video about how Jesus answered this question.
5. Where did the Transfiguration take place?
Luke states that Jesus took the three “on the mountain to pray.”
None of the three gospels that record the Transfiguration tell us which mountain this was.
However, it is often thought to be Mt. Tabor, in Israel, and today two monasteries has been built there to commemorate the event.
Click here to learn more about Mt. Tabor.