The Transfiguration by Raphael
To celebrate the Transfiguration is not easy for most contemporary Americans, Catholic or not. Mystical experiences are not one of our daily concerns or experiences. We are a "here and now" people. Mysticism is different. It demands a movement from the business of the moment to something or someone outside ourselves, the exigencies of the moment or the environment where we might be.
Peter, James and John accompanied Jesus as he climbed Mt. Tabor. Little did his companions expect to be witnesses of a miracle. Even more stupefying was the reality that the miracle was done to Jesus. It is this event that is described by St. Thomas Aquinas as "the greatest miracle."
When the disciples awoke, presumably from their siestas, they were quietly overwhelmed by what they were privileged to see. As Luke comments "becoming fully awake they saw his glory." As well, they saw two men standing with him, Moses and Elijah. At one point a cloud descended upon "them." Scholars are not certain whether it was an all-inclusive cloud or one that covered only Jesus, Moses and Elijah.
Once in the cloud "they" hear the voice of God: "This is my chosen Son; listen to him." After these words only Jesus was visible to them. St. Luke comments that after this "they fell silent." Obviously the disciples were stunned. There were silent -- even the impetuous Peter. It seems evident that they understood the need to remain silent -- lost in wonderment.
Can you possibly enter into the mystical moment we are celebrating today? Take a few moments to understand it, to "get into it." It is a gift.
Today is also the anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI.