Sunday, March 4, 2012


James Tissot, Transfiguration
French, 1886-1894
New York, Brooklym Museum
"Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
"Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice,
"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."
Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant." (Mark 9:2-10)
Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent, Year B
The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus is read each year as the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent.  Each year, in accordance with the three year Sunday reading cycle, the reading comes from one of the three Synoptic Gospels.  This year, Year B, we are reading from the Gospel of Mark. 
The Synoptic Gospels are the three related narrative Gospels attributed to the Evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Mark is considered to be the earliest of the three.  The other two Evangelists incorporate large amounts of material from Mark's Gospel into their own narratives.  Thus, today's reading represents the earliest telling of the Transfiguration event. 
At the Transfiguration Jesus is revealed in at least some of the glory of the second Person of the Trinity, that is as much as the minds and hearts of the three disciples can stand at that point.  This is enough to make them "terrified" and barely coherent.   Full understanding of their experience would come later, when they finally understood "what rising from the dead meant". 

For the visual history of the Transfiguration, please see my recently updated article "He Was Transfigured Before Them".

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