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AHC C The Transfiguration of The Lord - Hebrew Catholics

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The Transfiguration of the Lord

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Lent 2           Year C

A Hebrew Catholic Perspective

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St. Luke 9: 28 — 36

 

Introduction

We are about to reflect on one of the most remarkable events in the history of the Lord’s earthly ministry. We are encouraged to read it always with profound thankfulness, for we are privileged in this event to hear proclaimed by the Father in Heaven the only Commandment He gave in the New Testament: “This is my chosen Son, listen to Him”. So let us walk slowly through the text as the event unfolds. It will take some time because it is so amazingly rich in its content. But it will truly bless us.

Luke 9: 28 — 36

28     About eight days after he said this, he took Peter,
         John, and James and went up the mountain to pray.

29     While he was praying his face changed in
         appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.

30     And behold, two men were conversing with him,
         Moses and Elijah,

31     who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that
         he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

32     Peter and his companions had been overcome by
         sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory
         and the two men standing with him.

33     As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus,
         “Master, it is good that we are here; let us
make three
         tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
         But he did not know what he was saying.

34     While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a
         shadow over them, and they became frightened when
         they entered the cloud.

35     Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my
         chosen Son; listen to him.”

36     After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
         They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what
         they had seen.

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Some Reflections on our Text

Verses 28

About eight days after he said this, he took Peter, John, and
James and went up the mountain to pray.

A week before this event, St. Peter was asked by Jesus to state openly who he believed Jesus to be. He declared Him to be the Messiah. The Lord was deeply moved and responded with some unique and very powerful teaching (Luke 9: 23 — 27). Our reading therefore opens with, “About eight days later,” signifying the first day of the week, which was soon to become the Day of the Resurrection. On this very day, our Lord took Peter, John and James up THE mountain (not ‘a’ mountain) to pray. We do not know which mountain, but it was known to them and was their regular place for quiet prayer. What is even more important is why they went up the mountain — to pray! We will frequently, in our Gospel meditation, come across references about Jesus going to a solitary place to pray. This is a very clear link with the ancient Hebrew tradition of prayer and meditation.

Our Lord is the example “par excellence” of Jewish prayer and the Gospel writers go to great lengths to emphasise the regular pattern and use of particular places in His prayer.

Verse 29

While he was praying his face changed in
appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.

Three great scholars help us understand the grandeur of this moment.

•    St. Maximus of the 7th Century, taught that the senses of
     the Apostles were transfigured to enable them to see the true
     glory of Christ.

•    Let it be noted that we are specially told that it was when
     our Lord was ‘praying’ at His baptism the Holy Ghost
     descended and the Father’s voice was heard. So also prayer
     ushers in the great vision of glory in this place. (Ryle 1830)

•    “The Transfiguration was not a miracle of superadded
     glory, but the removal of a veil which hid His state of natural
     glory from the eyes of His fellows — the real miracle was in
     the humiliation — the emptying of Himself, the shrouding and
     restraining of what was ever ready to shine forth.” (Sadler 1896).

St. Luke, clearly, is reflecting in his account, (which he wrote between CE 60 and 70), the infant Church’s attitude towards the event. Our forebears treasured the unique revelation of the Lord as he really is, in eternity. The miracle was not so much that he was revealed in great magnificence — but rather that such a One chose to spend His time among them as ‘one of them’, and that normally, His real appearance was masked.

Verse 30 and 31

And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses
and Elijah,

who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he
was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

The account continues with Luke writing, ‘And behold’ (sometimes omitted in modern versions) an expression which focuses the attention strongly on what follows. Two men, Moses and Elijah appeared in glorious splendour, and they were talking to Jesus. They spoke about his death, or (more precisely), ‘departure’ for which Luke chooses the Greek word ‘exodos‘. A new Moses and a new Exodus are coming into vision.

St. Luke displays a considerably greater knowledge of things most sacred in Judaism than the other Gospel writers recording this event. He understood that the two figures conversing with Jesus represent the Torah and Haftorah: the Law and the Prophets.

It is interesting to note that these two men appeared, likewise, as no one had previously seen them. Writers offer various interpretations of what the two represent. St. Luke displays a considerably greater knowledge of thing most sacred in Judaism than the other Gospel writers recording this event. He understood that the two figures conversing with Jesus represent the Torah and Haftorah: the Law and the Prophets. They represent the whole stream of God’s revelation to mankind, and are seen in total harmony with our Lord. This unity among them manifests powerfully, beyond any doubt, that the mission of Jesus is to fulfil the Law and the Prophets (i.e. the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures). Thus it is clear, Jesus had no intention of terminating the “Old Covenant” in order to establish a “New”. This event strengthens the unity between the Old and the New.

It is not a mission of creating a new religion. Clearly
God
could not have demonstrated more positively that
the
Church’s beginnings are to be found in the calling
of
Abraham. (St. Peter reminds us that we, in our turn,
are also ‘chosen’ — 1 Peter 2: 9 — ‘the younger sons of
Abraham’.)”                                               (Pickford)

 •     The document “Nostra Aetate” from the Second Vatican
       Council reflects this in its beautiful statement, that the
       Church cannot “forget that she draws sustenance
       from 
the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto
       which have
been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles
       (Romans 11: 17 — 24). Indeed the Church believes that by
       His Cross, Christ, our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles,
       making both one in Himself. (Ephesians 2: 14 — 16)

•     “The faith witnessed in the Bible of the Jews, is for
       us not 
a different religion but the foundation of
       our own faith.”                         
Pope Benedict XVI

Verse 32

Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but
becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men
standing with him.

Despite the incredible event occurring before their eyes, Peter, John and James “were very sleepy”. Sadler has a helpful comment on what at first may seem untimely sleepiness.

•     This was the effect of the vision, or rather of its beginning.
      There are several other instances of this sleep, or absence
      of distinct consciousness in the presence of some super-natural
      manifestation. Thus, it is said of Abraham when he received
      the remarkable revelation of God immediately after his
      justification, that “a deep sleep fell upon Abraham, and lo, a
      horror of great darkness fell upon him”. (Gen 15: 12.) And of
      Daniel, “When I heard the voice of his words, then was I in
      a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground“.
                                                                                            (Dan.10: 9.)

There are commentators who cannot accept this appearance of Moses and Elijah as ‘real’. To them it can only be a supernatural vision. This approach arises from an over-intensified linguistic analysis — somewhat alienated from the unbroken traditional Christian culture in which the New Testament was assembled. Knowing what we know about Jesus and His three comparisons, the event was no symbolic subjective vision. — It was real!

When the Lord caused the sleepiness to lift, they quickly became fully awake and saw Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus.

Verse 33

As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus,
“Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But he did not know what he was saying.

But by this time the two great leaders are about to leave. In a flash Peter speaks up implying: “Lord this is a great blessing to be present in such distinguished company. In keeping with our customs of respect, why don’t we erect a booth for each of you?”

It is commonplace to hear people today judge Peter’s remark as that of someone who blurts out before they think. One scholar challenges us:

“And should we ….. have said anything more to the point,
if we were fainting with fear at the immediate presence of
these glorified denizens of the eternal world? ….. we cannot
but admire the outburst of Peter’s delight when he saw his
Master surrounded with such glory, and with such glorified
companions. It was the outburst of a truly burning heart.”
                                                                  (Ryle)

In fact, we do not need to be puzzled by Peter’s comment. It is clear, he, more than the other two (yet again) is very profoundly stirred by the awe of the occasion. So moved was he by the significance of this unprecedented manifestation, he could only utter a weak hint of the spiritual meaning of it all. But he was on the right track. The mention of booths or tabernacles in a context where ‘exodus’ is mentioned and Moses is present, quite apart from other factors, indicates a spiritually perceptive disciple. With the Feast of Tabernacles only weeks away, our Lord may well have been preparing them with a deeper understanding of its future significance for the Church. Those who ridicule Peter’s response have yet to experience anything remotely similar in their lives.

Verse 34

While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow
over them, and they became frightened when they entered
the cloud.

While Peter was making his response from the depths of his being, a dense cloud surrounds them. This alarms them, but they do not panic. There could be no doubt in their minds, this was the Shekinah, the cloud of God’s presence, recorded in the Holy Books of the Torah — the first five books of the Old Testament. Peter had felt moved to provide a tabernacle for each of the three. But God provides it in the form of His own dwelling place, before Peter had finished speaking.

•     There is much written about the beautiful meaning of
      the Shekinah. In Rabbinic teaching the Shekinah refers
      to a dwelling or settling in a special sense, a dwelling or
      settling of divine presence. It was a special gift of God
      after the Exodus as He dwelt in their midst and led them
      to the Promised Land. This was given to increase their
      awareness of God’s presence and His pleasure in sharing
      that with those who are of His ‘household’.

Verse 35

Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my
chosen Son; listen to him.”

At a chosen moment the voice of the Father came from the cloud proclaiming, “This is my chosen Son: Listen to him“.

It is the spiritual climax of the Gospel according to St. Luke. This was a moment of supreme fulfilment for the three disciples.

It is so very important for us to understand the power and purpose of this Commandment. Regardless of what language we think this Gospel account was originally written in or what Greek words were then or subsequently used, we must understand the Jewish cultural, Biblical meaning. The command to “listen” is given as a command of the One Who, at creation said, “Let there be light! And it was so”. This is not just a boss giving an order which the servant must instantly obey. This is the Father lovingly passing to His own family an all-important instruction containing within it the empowerment with which He wishes us to respond. He commands and we turn to Him with hearts and minds waiting on every word. We are to “be listening” constantly, and to “be hearing” the inner message He has for us. His Son is His Divine Word. We are to listen — to be constantly listening — to Him, and to sift out all distracting voices. This is the very same spirit in which God commanded His People Israel at Sinai, when He said — “Hear O Israel!” — and now God renews that same all-important way to reach the Life He has prepared for those who love Him: for those whom He calls His Household — His Family.

The words of Moses were well known to the disciples who were present: as recorded in Deuteronomy 18: 15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among them — your own brothers. You must Listen to Him.”

•     So here we have a moment of the greatest importance.
      The God of all proclaims the only Commandment He
      spoke in the New Testament, “Listen to Him”. All that
      the Torah, the Prophets and writings teach — all point
      to Jesus: Yeshua as He was called in His time. Some, in
      error, have deduced that God was saying, in effect, from
      now on you listen to Yeshua, not the Law and the Prophets.
      But this, of course, ignores our Lord’s own statements at
      various times that He came to fulfil the Law and the
      Prophets and that until His Return at the end of time,
      He would require us to continue His work.

•     In St. Matthew’s account of this momentous occasion,
      he records that the three men who were present with
      Jesus, “fell on their faces”. If one is frightened, one runs
      away, or hides under something. In Hebrew tradition
      (from the earliest Patriarchs) one prostrates in God’s
      presence. All through the Bible (Hebrew and Christian
      Scriptures) prostration refers to dropping to one’s knees
      and bowing down till the face (forehead and nose) touch
      the ground. This is a very Hebrew-Christian
      acknowledgement of God and His kingship. It continues
      to be practised on a regular basis by some groups of Jews
      as well as some Catholics and other Christians.

This moment in the Transfiguration is one of the great affirmations of Jesus by his Father. It is one of the cornerstones of our understanding of Jesus as the WORD of God, as our Torah. It is the basis of our approach to meditation — to which we constantly refer in our Gospel Reflections — for that is how we come to know our Lord, and through Him, God, our Father.

Verse 36

After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what
they had seen.

We can imagine the transition from being immersed in a timeless yet momentary vision of God’s presence, to suddenly realising all is silent, and there are only the four gathered, just as they were before Jesus began to pray. It is suddenly all over. But the lesson has been learnt; the new Moses and new Prophet would lead them, if they are faithful, to the fullness of God’s eternal presence. Interestingly, the three disciples kept the experience to themselves — at least till after the Resurrection.

•    St. Luke recorded that it was the next day that they
      came down from the mountain. No one in creation had
      ever seen anything like this. The disciples needed time
      to adjust.

•    Even for us today, as one commentator put it, “It lifts a
      corner of the veil which hangs over the world to come,
      and throws light on some of the deepest truths of our
      religion”.                                                (Ryle)

 

Conclusion

We are left, rather like the three disciples of the Lord: somewhat overwhelmed at the awesome splendour of the occasion. In the presence of His own companions our Lord is revealed as the embodiment of all the Torah (Law, or Teaching) and the Prophets represent. He is the Living Word of God who commands them: “Listen to Him!” As if to emphasise the presence of the Divine in what Jesus teaches, the Holy Shekinah descends and envelops them all.

One of the chief ways the Church has always encouraged and helped us obey God’s command is to call us to read or listen to Sacred Scripture reverently and reflect on it often, allowing the Divine Word to feed our soul and form in us the mind of Christ. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in us as we listen to the Word within the words — the Word behind the words. And we listen to make sure we hear. This is what we call meditation — learning to listen; learning to follow and learning to live in the love of God.

•     This is very much in the Hebrew-Christian tradition.
       St Maximus (7th Century) explained that the senses of the
       Apostles were transfigured to enable them to perceive
       the true glory of Christ. That is a privilege we too can
       look forward to at the Lord’s Return!

•     There is a sense in which we can (and should) prepare
       for that day. St. Paul wrote (in 1 Corinthians 3: 18) —  
       “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you
       considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool
       so as to become wise.”

•     We are a people who are united in preparing ourselves,
       and our world for the Return of Jesus the Messiah —
       Yeshua haMashiach. Everything in our daily prayer
       and our liturgical worship is oriented towards this great
       event. This is our Hebrew Christian calling and we invite
       all who would join us to work together, in harmony, for
       His Return.

In closing we recall St. Gregory Palamas who taught that to grow in the “true knowledge of God” we must be open, even in this life to transfiguration by the Holy Spirit. Indeed the Church calls us to persevere in this pursuit unto the Return of the Messiah at the end of time. Our constant feeding on the Divine Word, Christ our Torah and trying to put it into action — will undoubtedly prepare us for His Return. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

Further Reading

For those who would like a detailed study resource
on the readings for Sunday, please visit:

Agape Bible Study — Lent 2 ― Year C

If you require only the section on the Gospel reading,
just scroll down the page.

To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:

www.agapebiblestudy.com

This website is highly recommended:

 

“Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature”

(Mark 16: 15)

The real Jesus, is the real answer to the real needs of the world!

Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in
doing so, remain close to Him. The following are only examples
illustrating how you can note the gems the Holy Spirit highlights
for your on-going reflection.

 The Transfiguration Of The Lord  

 Lent 2        Year C                    St. Luke 9: 28 to 36

1. We are very privileged to be able to witness, in a way, through the Gospel account, the unique event of our Lord’s Transfiguration, during a time of intense prayer. Moses and Elijah represent the living Word of God revealed to His people in ancient times. Our Lord is affirmed by God the Father to be the living Word now revealed to His people to help them be a “light to the Gentiles (or nations)”.

+ “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach the
     ends of the earth.”
                                               
                     (Isaiah 49: 6)

+ “…..a light to the Gentiles, and the glory for your people Israel.”
                                                                                       (St. Luke 2: 32)


2. We are also privileged to hear, through the Gospel account, the only Commandment given by God in the New Testament: “Listen to Him!” When we read everything the infant Church heard Him say (and which they wrote down) we see how faithful He was to the Torah, the Prophets and all the Scriptures. When we listen to Him, we hear and experience the whole of God’s message of love for mankind.


3. As we meditate on our Lord and His Teaching — on Christ our Torah — the Living Word — the Holy Spirit prepares us to be a people of God who await the Lord’s Return at the end of time. To this everything in our life must be oriented.

Let us pray for one another to persevere in our study of Jesus, the Divine Word, and to spend time devoted daily to “listening to Him” throughout the whole of Scripture and in the teaching of the Church.

Shalom!

 Click here for a printable copy of these Reflections

Luke 9: 28 — 36

Lent 2     Year C

NEW AMERICAN BIBLE


28     12 13 About eight days after he said this, he took Peter,
         John, and James and went up the mountain to pray.

29     While he was praying his face changed in
         appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.

30     And behold, two men were conversing with him,
         Moses and Elijah, 14

31     15 who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that
         he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

32     Peter and his companions had been overcome by
         sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory 16
         and the two men standing with him.

33     As they were about to part from him, Peter said
         to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let
         us make three tents, 17 one for you, one for Moses,
         and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he
         was saying.

34     18 While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast
         a shadow over them, and they became frightened
         when they entered the cloud.

35     19 Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
         “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

36     After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
         They fell silent and did not at that time tell 20
         anyone what they had seen.

12 [28-36] Situated shortly after the first announcement of the passion, death, and resurrection, this scene of Jesus’ transfiguration provides the heavenly confirmation to Jesus’ declaration that his suffering will end in glory (⇒ Luke 9:32); see also the notes on ⇒ Matthew 17:1-8 and ⇒ Mark 9:2-8.

13 [28] Up the mountain to pray: the “mountain” is the regular place of prayer in Luke (see ⇒ Luke 6:12; ⇒ 22:39-41).

14 [30] Moses and Elijah: the two figures represent the Old Testament law and the prophets. At the end of this episode, the heavenly voice will identify Jesus as the one to be listened to now (⇒ Luke 9:35). See also the note on ⇒ Mark 9:5.

15 [31] His exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem: Luke identifies the subject of the conversation as the exodus of Jesus, a reference to the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus that will take place in Jerusalem, the city of destiny (see ⇒ Luke 9:51). The mention of exodus, however, also calls to mind the Israelite Exodus from Egypt to the promised land.

16 [32] They saw his glory: the glory that is proper to God is here attributed to Jesus (see ⇒ Luke 24:26).

17 [33] Let us make three tents: in a possible allusion to the feast of Tabernacles, Peter may be likening his joy on the occasion of the transfiguration to the joyful celebration of this harvest festival.

18 [34] Over them: it is not clear whether them refers to Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, or to the disciples. For the cloud casting its shadow, see the note on ⇒ Mark 9:7.

19 [35] Like the heavenly voice that identified Jesus at his baptism prior to his undertaking the Galilean ministry (⇒ Luke 3:22), so too here before the journey to the city of destiny is begun (⇒ Luke 9:51) the heavenly voice again identifies Jesus as Son. Listen to him: the two representatives of Israel of old depart (⇒ Luke 9:33) and Jesus is left alone (⇒ Luke 9:36) as the teacher whose words must be heeded (see also ⇒ Acts 3:22).

20 [36] At that time: i.e., before the resurrection.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible,
revised edition (c) 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of
Christian Doctrine, Washington D.C. and are used by permission
of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the
New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission
in writing from the copyright owner.

Shalom!

 

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