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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Transfiguring the Liturgy

Today, the Universal Church presents us with the great feast of the Transfiguration.   One could make the case that this is the fourth Epiphany of our Lord,  as Jesus gives Sts. Peter, James and John a glimpse into His divinity.   As the Preface for the Feast of the Transfiguration notes:

For after he had told the
disciples of his coming Death,
on the holy mountain he manifested to them His glory
to show, even by the testimony of the Law and the Prophets
that the Passion leads to the glory of the Resurrection.

In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we once again return to Mount Tabor with Sts. Peter, James and John. Under the appearance of bread and wine Jesus gives us a glimpse of His divinity, much as He did to the three Apostles.  In the Sacred Liturgy, too, we hear from the Law and the Prophets, through Sacred Scripture.  In today's reading, from the Book of Daniel, when we see "one like a Son of Man" being presented to the "Ancient One", we are reminded that at every Mass, we go back to the moment when the Son of Man is presented to the Father, the "Ancient One" in  sacrifice,  when we come to the point of  of the Doxology.

Something else to consider is that, at least as far as I can tell, this is perhaps the only time of the year when the Church proclaims nearly the exact same readings several months apart.  On the Second Sunday of Lent, the Church marks the Transfiguration of the Lord.  This juxtaposition places the event in its proper context, as it occurs while Jesus and the 12 are journeying to Jerusalem where Jesus will suffer, die and rise again.  Through the Transfiguration, He reveals Himself to Sts. Peter, James and John in a particular way so as to help them understand the nature of the Passion that He will endure.  It is this same trio who accompanies him to the Garden of Gethsemane.

In today's case, the celebration takes on a more festive tone, as we contemplate that gradual unveiling, that Epiphany, that Jesus gives the Apostles (and, by virture of their testimony, as evidenced in the second reading from St. Peter's first letter, to us, as well) of His Divinity.  The same trio had already seen Jesus raise someone from the dead, as they were present at the miracle of the daughter of Jairus. They were there during the multiplication of the fish and loaves and the many miraculous cures that Jesus performed.  Now, they got a particular glimpse into Jesus' true identity.  St. John, in his First Epistle, writes that:


When Christ is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
And, so it is with the Mass.  At every Holy Sacrifice, heaven and earth are united and the veil between time and space is lifted.  We are just as much there, on Mount Tabor, as were Sts. Peter, James and John.  but, we are also present in the Upper Room, at Gethsemane, at the foot of the Cross and at the empty tomb. It bears repeating that the Mass is our "dress rehearsal" to hep prepare us to experience the fulfillment of the mystery of the Transfiguration. 

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