The collect appointed for today tells us why Jesus was revealed in glory, illumined, on the holy mountain.
The transfiguration of Jesus occurs just before the long passion narrative. In some sense, the transfiguration is a vision intended to strengthen the disciples in all they eventually witness in the suffering and death of Jesus. It helps them, no less, to bear their own cross, as all disciples of Jesus must. The vision, therefore, speaks to us. “Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory.”
“He was transfigured before them,” St. Mark says, “and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:2). Amid this radiant light, Moses and Elijah appear and speak to Jesus, a clear indication that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. “Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus” (Mark 9:7-8).
We are left with Jesus alone, whom, even now, we behold by faith in dazzling light, his face shining like the sun (Matt. 17:2). Jesus is the life that enlightens all people (John 1:4). “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9). This light may be opposed but not extinguished. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5). The gods of this world blind the eyes of unbelievers, but even the blind may receive their sight (2 Cor. 4:3). St. Paul, once blinded to the gospel and hostile to the followers of Jesus, was cast down, lifted, enlightened, and sent as an apostle. “Now as [Paul] was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:3-4) Emphasizing his new enlightenment, Paul was struck blind until “something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored” (Acts 9:18).
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). He also said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).
Jesus was clothed in light. “You wrap yourself in light as with a cloak” (Ps. 104:4). We too wear the light like a garment. We have put on Christ, and so we shine as his disciples and in the good works that give glory, not to ourselves, but our Father in heaven. St. John Chrysostom describes the Christian this way: “As if he were clad with the very sunbeam, so he shines, yet brighter than it; not spending his rays on earth (only), but also surmounting heaven itself” (Commentary on St. Matthew).
We are not the light in the sense that the Son is the light of the Father. But by adoption and grace, we receive the light of Christ and bear his light into the world. Recall that baptism was once called Illumination (Justin Martyr). Go forth and shine as brilliant sons and daughters of God and in the good works to which you have been called.
Look It Up: Ps. 50:3
Think About It: Jesus is a consuming fire to the Old Adam and a beautiful brilliance to the New Being.