Dear Friends: I have the privilege of being a sponsor for a friend entering into the Catholic Church this year. Subsequently, my friend and the RCIA leader tasked me to do a small presentation during one of their sessions. I wanted to share that information with you. (Please click HERE if you would like to see the slide-show I developed, in case you ever get asked to do a lesson yourself).
I must admit, I knew little of the Transfiguration prior to my own RCIA class. One of the reasons for this is that I learned most of my Christianity via movies (e.g., King of Kings, Jesus of Nazareth). No film could really capture the visuals associated with this: 3 And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. I did a search on YouTube to see if I had missed a cinematic wonder. A look at the videos listed revealed these gems:
A classic EWTN production:
A LEGO-based retelling:
A classic church-pageant production:
During my review of the material, several key points struck me:
- This is the only miracle prior to the Resurrection that actually involved something happening to Christ himself.
- The Transfiguration is rich in duality (e.g., references to biblical prophesies in the past AND future; spiritual contemplation and worldly activism; law and prophecy).
- I was moved by the power of “illumination” as presented in biblical passages and what it represents, as well as the idea that the presence of God is conveyed by a cloud.
- The event marks a transition point between Jesus’ ministry and his primary mission: “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he die, yet shall live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall not die.
One of the parallels that I found most fascinating was the fact that after the Transfiguration accounts in Mark, Matthew and Luke, Jesus was promptly asked to heal an ill/possessed boy. After his death and during the Transfiguration process, Christ descended into Hell to heal the souls therein.
95. What do we mean when we say in the Apostles’ Creed that Christ descended Into hell?
When we say that Christ descended into hell we mean that, after He died, the soul of Christ descended into a place or state of rest, called limbo, where the souls of the just were waiting for Him.
(a) Heaven had been closed by the sin of Adam. The just among the dead could not enter heaven until Christ satisfied for man’s sin and repaired its injuries. They awaited their redemption in limbo.
96. Why did Christ go to limbo?
Christ went to limbo to announce to the souls waiting there the joyful news that He had reopened heaven to mankind.
97. Where was Christ’s body while His soul was in limbo?
While His soul was in limbo, Christ’s body was in the holy sepulchre.
(a) Man dies when soul is separated from body. When Jesus died, His soul and His body were separated from each other but His divine Person remained united both to His body in the tomb and to His separated soul in limbo.
The Feast Day for the Transfiguration is August 6th. The feast commemorates the 1456 victory of the siege of Belgrade. Thanks to the Deadliest Blogger, my go-to guy for military history, I learned some fascinating background. It seems the newly-crowned Turkish Sultan Mehmet II thought it would be a wonderful idea to add Belgrade to the list of conquered European cities after the fall of Constantinople. The recently elected pope at the time, Calixtus, asked Wallachian warlord and bane of the Turks, Janos Hunyadi, to come to the city’s aid. Calixtus also sent a Franciscan monk, John of Capistrano, to arouse the people of Hungary. A great speaker, John succeeded in recruiting thousands of fairly energetic warriors.
Talk about dynamic duo!!! The siege turned out to be a complete loss for the Turks, whose forces lost an estimated 75,000 men out of an original contingent of 100,000. The Sultan was badly wounded and never quite recovered from the spanking. The victory preserved Hungary from further Turkish attention for another 70 years. Sadly, both Hunyadi and John of Capistrano succumbed shortly after this to an enemy far more viscous that Turks: The Black Death.
After the victory, Pope Calixtus tagged the relatively obscure Feast of the Transfiguration to greater prominence. Why?
Meanwhile, Turkish heavy artillery bombardments breached Belgrade’s walls in several places and rubble filled up the trenches. On July 21, Mehmet ordered an all-out assault, which began at sundown and continued all night. The Janissaries led the attack, and the ferocity of their charge carried them within the walls. Hunyadi, however, directed the defense with great resourcefulness. He ordered the defenders to throw tarred wood, sulfur-saturated blankets, sides of bacon and other flammable material into the moat, and then set it afire. Soon a wall of flames separated the Janissaries fighting in the city from their comrades outside the walls. Those caught in the moat were burned to death or seriously injured, and the Janissaries remaining inside the city were massacred by Hunyadi’s troops. On the morning of the 22nd, a lull in the fighting set in, allowing more reinforcements to cross the river and relieve Belgrade’s defenders.
One of the key features of the Transfiguration is Christ’s divinely luminous appearance. Since the Turks experience a whole lot of luminosity that day, it seemed to be a natural fit for a celebration.
Finally, I would like to cite specific links that provided a lot of insight into this topic:
- Sunday Homily: The Manifestation of Divine Glory, the Son of God
- The Transfiguration Explained – 29 Mins
- Understanding The Transfiguration
- The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ