Transfiguration of Christ

The Transfiguration of Christ is the culminating point of His public life, as His Baptism is its starting point, and His Ascension its end. Moreover, this glorious event has been related in detail by St. Matthew (17:1-6), St. Mark (9:1-8), and St. Luke (9:28-36), while St. Peter (2Peter.1:16-18) and St. John (1:14), two of the privileged witnesses, make allusion to it.

About a week after His sojourn in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them to a high mountain apart, where He was transfigured before their ravished eyes. St. Matthew and St. Mark express this phenomenon by the word metemorphothe, which the Vulgate renders trans-figuratus est. The Synoptics explain the true meaning of the word by adding "his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow," according to the Vulgate, or "as light," according to the Greek text.

Church of Transfiguration, Mt. Tabor

The inner Church of Transfiguration, Mt. Tabor

Location of the Transfiguration

Already in Apostolic times the mount of the Transfiguration had become the "holy mount" (2Peter.1:18). It seems to have been known by the faithful of the country, and tradition identified it with Mount Tabor. Origen said (A.D.231-54) "Tabor is the mountain of Galilee on which Christ was transfigured" (Comm.in Ps.lxxxviii,13). In the next century St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures II.16) and St. Jerome (Epistles.46,53 and 108) likewise declare it categorically. Later St. Proculus, Patriarch of Constantinople (d.447; Orat.viii, in Transfig.), Agathangelus (Hist.of Armenia,II,xvii), and Arnobius the Younger (d.460; Comm.in Ps.lxxxviii,13) say the same thing. The testimonies increase from century to century without a single dissentient note, and in 553 the Fifth Council of Constantinople erected a see at Mount Tabor (Notitif. Antioch......patriarch.)

Some modern writers claim that the Transfiguration could not have taken place on Mount Tabor, which, according to Josephus, was then surmounted by a city. This is incorrect; the Jewish historian speaks neither of a city nor a village; he simply fortified, as he repeats three times, "the mount called Itabyrion" ("Bell.Jud.",II,xx,6; IV,i,8; Vita,37). The town of Atabyrion of Polybius, the Tabor or Celeseth Tabor, the "flank of Tabor" of the Bible, is situated at the foot of Mount Tabor. In any case the presence of houses on a wooded height would not have made it impossible to find a place apart.

Moses represented the Law

Elias represented the Prophets

It is again objected that Our Lord was transfigured on Mount Hermon, since He was at that time in its vicinity. But the Synoptics are all explicit concerning the lapse of time, six days, or about eight days including those of departure and arrival, between the discourse in Caesarea and the Transfiguration, which would infer a somewhat lengthy journey. Moreover the summits of Hermon are covered with snow as late as June, and even the lesser peaks of 4000 or 5000 feet are likewise snow-covered in February and March, the period of the Transfiguration. Finally, the ancients judged of the height of mountains by their appearance, and Thabor especially was considered a "high mountain", if not by David and Jeremias, at least by Origen and St. Jerome and the pilgrims who made the ascent.

The Mosaic of Jesus revealing Himself in the sacrament of
Eucharist in the Church of Transfiguration, Mt. Tabor

 

Mt. Tabor

Published Date: 
Sunday, February 25, 2018