Transfiguration- Luke 9:23-36

25 Oct

Transfiguration Icon, OConnor House, Windsor, ON

Transfiguration Icon, O'Connor House, Windsor, ON

There was a certain person who, by loving Me with his whole soul, learned the things of God and inspired many by the wonders of the things he spoke…To some I speak of ordinary things, to others special things; to some I appear in signs and figures, while to others I reveal mysteries in a flood of light…For it is I alone who teach the Truth, Who search the hearts- no thoughts are hidden from Me- I, the Prime Mover of all actions, giving to everyone as I see fit.

– Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, III.43.4

The Apostles Peter, James, and John were privileged witnesses to the Transfiguration of Jesus, an extraordinary revelation of God’s presence, but more importantly this event began with Jesus in prayer. (1) Chapter 9 of Luke’s Gospel opens with the first attempt at apostolic ministry by the Twelve. Upon their return, Jesus retreated with them to Bethsaida, a small fishing village. (2) After the feeding of five thousand people, as a recurring theme in Luke Jesus is again said to have been “praying in solitude” with his disciples in the background. There, Peter is able to vocalize the revelation he had received from above, that Jesus is “the Messiah of God.” (3)

However, the Twelve grasped only part of the Lord’s message; while the Son of God had indeed come to deliver the world from death, the Son of Man had come into the world as a servant who was to suffer the consequences of our sin only to conquer it. Jesus promises a share in His victory to all who freely partake in His Passion:

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. (4)

St. Luke is the sole synoptic Gospel writer to emphasize the “daily” commitment to participation in Christ’s suffering that is required of His disciples. (5) While this world values economic success and material accumulation, Jesus warns us that one might possess all the earthly riches possible, yet forfeit the most valuable of all- the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who are unwilling to deny themselves- who are too proud to recognize God’s primacy and supremacy- will be, as Jesus says, “ashamed of [Him] and of [His] words” when the Son of Man, who redeemed us by His Cross, appears “in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (6) Our Lord then concluded His first clear foreshadowing of His Passion and invitation to discipleship- a daily sharing in the Cross- with another prediction that further confounded His already shaken followers:

Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Kingdom of God. (7)

With some significant variations, the Gospels of Matthew, of Mark, and of Luke all include this verse. To emphasize the approaching end of time and the divinity of Christ, St. Mark writes of Jesus’ forecast of the coming of the Kingdom “in power” (8), whereas St. Matthew records Jesus’ reference to Himself as “the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom,” (9) suggesting a less eschatological slant in the Matthean Gospel (10) in favour of a greater accent on the extension of the Lord’s reign over the earth through the Church.  Luke is the most ambiguous of the three synoptic Gospel authors in his allusion to God’s Kingdom that occurs between the first prediction of Christ’s Passion and the Transfiguration. Since Luke’s Gospel continues into the Acts of the Apostles, its author probably intended an allusion to Jesus’ institution and sustenance of the early Church, especially considering the time of heightened persecution of Christians during which the third Gospel was likely written. In this respect Luke would have been in closer agreement with Matthew than with Mark. Furthermore, had Luke written his Gospel after A.D. 70, which Scripture scholars Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch admit as a strong possibility, he could have been referring in particular to that year’s sacking of Jerusalem that dispersed the Jews, “[marking] a turning point in salvation history that [signalled] the expiration of the Old Covenant Kingdom and the definitive establishment of the New.” (11) This view is supported by Jesus’ earlier words to the crowds that followed Him from Capernaum: “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, because for this purpose I was sent.” (12) On the contrary, Hahn and Mitch provide a cross-reference from Luke 9:22 to the first letter to the Thessalonians, in which St. Paul urges the Christians of Thessalonica to live lives of gratitude, of purity, and of charity, while they pray for the dead and await Christ’s Second Coming with hope:

Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from Heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore console one another with these words. (13)

Paul deals more directly with the Parousia in this and other letters than do any of the Gospel writers.  (14) Matthew ends his Gospel with Jesus’ promise to “be with [us] always, until the end of the age.” (15) This first book of the New Testament Canon most consistently portrays Jesus as “God with us.” (16) In this respect the ‘Emmanuel’ Gospel differs from that of Mark or of Luke. The latter two evangelists tend to be in closer agreement with  each other than with Matthew both in their presentation of Jesus to a largely Gentile audience as a servant who willfully submits to and redeems human suffering and defeats death itself, (17) and in the order of the events in each of the Gospels. (18) Each author’s reasons behind his inclusions or omissions are subject to speculation among scholars. St. John, whose literary style and theological development are radically different from those of the synoptic Gospel writers, implies that questions concerning the meaning of Jesus’ prediction that some disciples would live to experience the end of time ought to be of secondary importance to Our Lord’s call to discipleship. Jesus responds thus to Peter’s inquiry about “the disciple following whom [He] loved”: “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” (19)

Less pointedly, Jesus communicates this same message just prior to the Lucan Transfiguration narrative. In the first twenty-nine verses of Chapter 9, Luke intertwines his identification of Jesus and that of His Apostles. The initial ministry of the Twelve, followed by Jesus’ first prediction of His Passion and by His Transfiguration teach us two core values of discipleship: compassion and patience. Both words derive from  the common Latin root “pati“, which means “to suffer [or] to endure.” (20) Our daily Cross is therefore put before us as the essence of discipleship, just as Jesus’ death is the precondition for our salvation.

Patience is a notably difficult virtue to practice contemporarily. We are bombarded by brief technological sound bytes and increasingly respond to a constant drive toward individual achievement. As a result, patience and the ability to engage in conversation, whether among people or with God, becomes diminished. Yet the Transfiguration is all about patience, conversation, and prayer. St. Luke most clearly emphasizes that Jesus “went up the mountain to pray,” and that He was transfigured while in the very act of prayer. (21) Nowhere does the Lucan account of the Transfiguration involve a monologue; Jesus is always in communion and in conversation with the other figures who are present.

Only Peter, John, and James were chosen from the larger crowd of disciples to climb the mountain, the usual place of prayer in Luke. (22) These three Apostles watched the Transfiguration, which showed the intimacy of the Trinity in prayer. They also exclusively saw the appearance of Moses and Elijah alongside Jesus. Questions might arise, then, as to God’s justice in singling out these three men while leaving the majority of jesus’ disciples in the valley below to grapple with the gloom of His pre-announced death. God, at times, confounds all human notions of justice. In addition, according to Luke “about eight days” pass between the first prediction of Jesus’ Passion (23), so conceivably, as they were invited up the mountain to pray, even James, John and Peter had been confused and saddened by the prospect of their Master dying at the hands of “the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes.” (24) After witnessing such a foretaste of Jesus’ victory over death as the Transfiguration, one would expect the three most prominent Apostles to have an increased understanding of the purpose of Christ’s ministry but as they descended the mountain  they were unable to speak of the events above, and their comprehension of their mission and of that of Jesus was as uncertain as before they had seen Our Lord transfigured. (25) The Apostles, like us, would come to see the justice of God only in the context of His mercy in Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection in which we are also called to participate.

Besides the analysis of God’s justice in the announcement of Jesus’ forthcoming death to all followed by the selection of only three men to observe the Transfiguration, the section between the first Passion  prediction and the ascent of the mountain abounds in symbolism, especially in references to other passages in the Bible. For example, the Lucan inclusion of a timeline in which these events took place- “about eight days” (26)- is generally accepted as foreshadowing of the period between the Passover subsequent to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and His Resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead on the day after the first Sabbath following the Passover. (27) While this is the most accepted explanation for the approximately eight-day lapse prior to the Transfiguration, there may also be a connection to the octave between the birth of a male child and his presentation to a priest to signal the completion of the mother’s purification under Jewish law. (28) Pertinently, Matthew and Mark differ from Luke on the number of days- six in the first two Gospels, which recalls the six days in which God created the world, as per Genesis (29)- and on the exactitude of the interval between the first mention of the Passion and the Transfiguration. (30) Although St. Luke frequently  refers to Jewish customs and history, his accomodation of mainly Gentile readership enables him to be more ambiguous than St. Mark and especially St. Matthew about dates and timelines. Nevertheless, all three synoptic Gospel writers agree on the presence of Peter, James, and John where Jesus was transfigured. (31) St. Hilary argues that Jesus’ choice of only three Apostles to accompany Him on the mountain is an allegorical comparison to the three sons of Noah- Shem, Ham, and Japheth- from whom the human race decended after the flood. Likewise, Peter, James, and John were to be witnesses to the spread of the Christian faith; they were to bring Christ, the salvation of humankind, to the world. (32) If, in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, our Christian initiation that echoes Jesus’ Baptism is “the mystery of the first regeneration,” then “the Transfiguration is ‘the sacrament of the second regeneration’: our own Resurrection.” (33)

From now on we share in the Lord’s Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. (34)

In the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist, the Body of Christ- the Church- celebrates her unity but recognizes the divisions that do exist, most sadly between the many denominations of baptized Christians. While we hope for an end to this disunity, there is also discord between fellow Catholics that must be overcome if the Church is to become an even greater example of the transfigured and risen Christ to the world. In the Eucharistic Prayer during Mass, the priest repeats Jesus’ words of consecration, drawn from the Gospels of Matthew and of Mark:

…Take this all of you and drink from it: This is the cup of My blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of Me. (35)

Luke’s mention of only three Apostles in his Transfiguration account is perhaps emblematic of similar tensions between the “you” and the “all”, or, in the diction of the Gospels, the “all” and the “many” (36), that have persisted since the time of the early Church. Dominican Friar Timothy Radcliffe proposes a solution to this problem. “With some hesitation,” Radcliffe categorizes the Church’s members as either “Kingdom Catholics” or “Communion Catholics”, grouped according to the two periodicals that attempted to explain “the agenda of the [second Vatican] Council.” (37) Radcliffe writes:

Some Catholics see our Church as primarily the People of God on pilgrimage toward the Kingdom. Others see us as primarily members of the institution of the Church, the communion of believers. Most of us find ourselves to some extent in both models but tend more toward one or [the] other understanding of the Church… As Roman Catholics, we need both sorts of identity, and… the tension between them is fruitful and dynamic.

…First of all we must look at the nature of this polarization, [which] is usually seen in terms of the division between the left and the right, between liberals and conservatives, progressives and traditionalists. This is only partially accurate. Western society, and increasingly the whole globe, is deeply marked by this polarity and because we are members of that society then it colours the way that Christians see divisions within the Church… But this sort of dichotomy is also deeply contrary to our faith, and we are called to transcend it. (38)

St. Luke declares that the Transfiguration began with prayer. The three Apostles then saw Jesus’ face “changed in appearance [while] His clothes became a dazzling white,” (39) but they understood poorly that this extraordinary manifestation of God was also a call for their conversion; the future leaders of the Church would eventually learn to transcend worldly divisions in the interest of true evangelism. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke uses the same Greek root to describe the light that blinded Saul on the road to Damascus as the word employed to characterize Jesus’ clothes after the Transfiguration. (40) Despite his impulsiveness, Peter captures perhaps the most significant message of the Transfiguration: “Master, it is good that we are here.” (41)

Two points are evident from Peter’s words. Firstly, he comprehended in part the glorious event that he saw, which foretold the everlasting glory that would come after Jesus had accomplished his “exodus” in Jerusalem. (42) Secondly, Peter, like the other Apostles, presumably had a thorough knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures. St. Peter suggested that three tents be constructed, one each for Jesus, for Moses, and for Elijah. Luke then comments that Peter “did not know what he was saying.” (43) In a sense, the Transfiguration was, as Peter thought, a time of celebration, but he did not want the joy of the occasion to end. Thus, Peter ignored the purpose of the conversation between  Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, that Jesus’ route to triumph had to pass through His death in Jerusalem. (44) He recalled the Feast of the Tabernacles, hence his reference to the tents- in Greek “σκηνάς”, transliterated as “skenas”- that are written about in the Pentateuch. (45) In fact, three feasts are mentioned in the same chapter of Deuteronomy: the Passover, evoked by Jesus’ coming “exodus” in Jerusalem, the Feast of Weeks, which is similar to the Christian celebration of Pentecost fifty days after Easter, and the Feast of the Booths or Tabernacles. (46)

Other than his connection between the Transfiguration of Christ and the great Jewish feasts of the Old Testament, St. Luke makes two more Trinitarian references in this narrative. The first is the presence of the three Apostle Peter, James, and John, and the second, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is in the voice of the Father, in the human person of Jesus the Son, and in the cloud that symbolizes the Holy Spirit. (47) Elsewhere, St. Luke’s use of people and of numbers is connected to an important message. For example, Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah, therefore He is the One who hears and fulfills both the law, symbolized by Moses, and the prophets, whose representative is Elijah. (48) Moreover , these “two men”, according to Fred Craddock, “[tie] the story to both the Resurrection and the Ascension,” (49) or to compare the aforementioned argument of St. Thomas Aquinas to that of St. Basil the Great, Moses and Elijah could signify the Resurrection and the second coming of Jesus Christ in glory. (50)

Much scholarship and still more speculation abound when considering a Biblical passage as pivotal as the Transfiguration. St. Luke writes that “Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw His glory.” (51) Thus the glory of God is attributed to Jesus, and His Godhead is affirmed by the Father: “This is My chosen Son, listen to Him.” (52) Even as the Apostles heard the voice of the Father,  they remained fearful as the cloud came over them. Peter, James, and John would be speechless about what they had seen until after the Resurrection, and some fear would linger until Jesus’ Ascension.  (53) St. Augustine comments thus on Peter’s reluctance to suffer in his service of the Lord:

Peter did not understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says, “Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on His journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst, and you refuse to suffer? (54)

St. Augustine’s question applies as much to Peter as to James, to John, to the other Apostles, and to all who wish to be counted as Jesus’ friends. God’s glory will be revealed to those who serve and to those who suffer. Some will accomplish greater works than others, or will suffer more than others, but Heaven is promised to all who love and who believe in Christ. Therefore we, like the three Apostles, fall silent in awe of God, and descend the mountain to continue our journey toward the Heavenly Jerusalem. (55) While the path lies in a “valley of tears,” (56) it is also a fertile land where we are called to serve God and humankind lovingly and faithfully. (57) We pray in the words of the Byzantine liturgy for the Feast of the Transfiguration:

You were transfigured on the mountain, and Your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld Your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they saw You crucified they would understand that Your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that You truly are the splendor of the Father. (58)

Lord God, You revealed the luminous glory of Your Son to Peter, James, and John as they prayed on the mountain. Strengthen us in faith in times of suffering and in times of joy. May You then welcome us according to Your will from our earthly lives into the everlasting contemplation of Your glorious presence in Heaven. Amen.

WRS

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10 Responses to “Transfiguration- Luke 9:23-36”

  1. canadiancatholicblog October 25, 2008 at 9:01 pm #

    Notes:

    (1) cf. Luke 9:28
    (2) cf. Luke 9:10
    (3) Luke 9:20
    (4) Luke 9:23-24
    (5) Luke 9:23
    (6) Luke 9:26
    (7) Luke 9:27
    (8) Mark 9:1
    (9) Matthew 16:28
    (10) Eschatology is the study of the end times. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “from
    Gk. eskhatos ‘last, furthest, remote’ (from ex ‘out of’) + -logia ‘a speaking’ (in a certain manner).
    In theology, the study of the four last things: death, judgment, heaven, hell.” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=eschatology
    (11) Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition with
    Introduction, Commentary and Notes by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch. San Francisco: Ignatius Press,
    40.
    (12) Luke 4:43
    (13) 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
    (14) The Parousia is defined as the series of events surrounding Christ’s second coming.
    (15) Matthew 28:20
    (16) Matthew 1:23
    (17) cf. The New American Bible, Saint Joseph Personal Size Edition, New York: Catholic Book Publishing Company, Revised New Testament 1986, 67-69.
    (18) With several interpolations of non-Marcan material, Luke essentially follows the same order of pericopes as Mark, whereas the order of Matthew’s Gospel is inverted in several instances with respect to Luke and Mark. cf. Frans Neirynek, “The Synoptic Problem”, Robert J. Karris in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1990, 588-592.

    A pericope is by definition “a selection or extract from a book.” Random House Webster’s College Dictionary. New York: Random House, 1991, 1003. In the case of the Bible, a pericope is a story contained in or extracted from Scripture.
    (19) John 21:20-21.
    (20) http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=patience
    (21) Luke 9:28, cf. also v.29.
    (22) cf. The New American Bible, Notes, 116. cf. also Luke 6:12; 22:37-41.
    (23) Luke 9:28
    (24) Luke 9:22
    (25) cf. Luke 9:36
    (26) Luke 9:28
    (27) cf. Luke 22:1-24:1
    (28) cf. Luke 2:22, Leviticus 12:2-3
    (29) cf. Genesis 1. The differences in the number of days between the first announcement of the Passion and the Transfiguration between the synoptic Gospels are also reflected in the shape of the Baptismal font, since the Transfiguration (cf. Luke 9:35) is also a flashback to Jesus’ Baptism.
    Traditionally, among other shapes Baptismal fonts have been hexagonal, or, as in the Church of St.
    John Lateran in Rome, octagonal. cf. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02276b.htm
    (30) cf. Luke 9:28, Matthew 17:1, Mark 9:2. In both Matthew and Mark, the Transfiguration occurs exactly six days after the first prediction of the Passion, whereas in Luke it takes place after “about” eight days.
    (31) cf. Ibid.
    (32) cf. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, Revised Standard Version, 40.
    (33) St. Thomas Aquinas, Sth. III, 45, 4, ad. 2, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, section
    556.
    (34) Catechism of the Catholic Church, 556.
    (35) Living with Christ, vol. 14, no. 10. Montreal: Novalis, October 2008, 19.
    (36) Matthew 26:27-28, Mark 14:23-24.
    (37) Timothy Radcliffe, “What is the Point of Being a Christian?” London: Burns and Oates, 2005, 166-167.
    (38) Ibid., 165-166.
    (39) Luke 9:29
    (40) The Revised Standard Version Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, trans. Alfred Marshall. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958. 272, 502. Jesus’ clothes are described as “gleaming”- in Greek έξαστράπτων, exastrapton- whereas the light shone “suddenly” about Saul in Acts 9:3. The Greek adjective there is έξαίφνης, transliterated into English as exaiphnes. cf. also Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, “The Gospel According to St. Paul: Meditations on His Life and Letters, trans. Marsha Daigle-Williamson. Ijamsville, Maryland: The Word Among Us Press, 2007, 41.
    (41) Luke 9:33
    (42) Luke 9:31. The Greek word used here is “exodo” (έξοδον). cf. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, 272.
    (43) Luke 9:35
    (44) cf. Luke 9:31
    (45) cf. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, 272.
    (46) cf. Deuteronomy 16
    (47) St. Thomas Aquinas, Sth. III, 45, 4, ad. 2, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 556. cf. also Luke 9, vv. 35, 34, and 36, respectively.
    (48) cf. New American Bible, Notes on Luke 9:30.
    (49) Fred B. Craddock, Luke, in Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990, 134.
    (50) cf. Basil the Great, Homily on Psalm 44, in Jane M. deVyer, The Transfiguration: Old Testament Presence in New Testament Event, http://www.firebirdvideos.com/transfiguration.htm
    (51) Luke 9:32
    (52) Luke 9:35. cf. Deuteronomy 18:15.
    (53) cf. Acts 1:10-11
    (54) St. Augustine, Sermo 78, 6: PL 38, 492-493, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 556.
    (55) cf. Luke 9:36.
    (56) Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours. New York: The Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1976. 1056.
    (57) Thérèse de Lisieux, Oeuvres Complètes, Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1992. Poésies 18, Strophe 22; 54, 3; Récréations Pieuses 5,7.
    (58) Byzantine Liturgy, Feast of the Transfiguration, Kontakion, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 555.

  2. Brian Bennett March 18, 2009 at 9:30 am #

    I believe you made one slight error… the icon you show is not of the Transfiguration, but of the Resurrection. Jesus is shown standing over the pit of hell, on a cross-shaped platform… surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.

    The Transfiguration almost always portrays only Moses, Elijah, Peter James and John along with Jesus. In your icon there is no depiction of the Theophany either.

    Peace.

  3. canadiancatholicblog March 18, 2009 at 7:48 pm #

    Brian,

    Thanks for your comment about the icon I posted with this article. You could very well be correct that it’s an icon of the Resurrection and not of the Transfiguration. I’m by no means an expert on icons, but I was told (I’m quite sure) that it was an icon of the Transfiguration. This photo (my own) comes from the chapel of the house I’m living in this year during my novitiate with the Basilians (Congregation of St. Basil). I’m studying to become a priest. This icon is one of several in our chapel, only a few of which are easy to identify.

    You have a keen eye for some of the details in the icon that I hadn’t noticed before, and some things I was compelled to take a closer look at today. I had noticed the crowds around Jesus that you mention, while the Gospel accounts, and thus most icons of the Transfiguration, include only Peter, James, John, Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. I had thought that this could have been a scene after Jesus’ descent from the mountain after the Transfiguration. He is back among the crowds, and perhaps still dressed in gleaming white robes that jump out at the viewer of this icon while the people, with few exceptions, appear to be behind Jesus.

    In the foreground, there are two people wearing crowns to the left. I had assumed these to be Moses and Elijah, symbolic of the law and the prophets, respectively. To the viewer’s right and in front of Jesus are two young men, possibly James and John, and an older bearded man, who could be Peter, is at Jesus’ front left. The other people appear more distant. Of course, none of these arguments point decisively toward the Transfiguration, or toward the Resurrection for that matter. Immediately after the Resurrection, there were also few witnesses. This might be an icon of the Ascension.

    Your point about the absence of a depiction of Theophany (literally, a sensible manifestation of God) is also worth examining. Obviously, there is Jesus, the Son, shown in human form. The Holy Spirit could be shown by the fire around Jesus. The flame is also in two colors- orange and yellow- which could imply the whole Trinity, including Jesus shown as a man. Otherwise, the Father is difficult to discern. There is a Greek (I think) inscription at the top of the icon, but it is almost too faint for me to read, if in fact it’s in the language I think it’s in. Notably, the Resurrection, and Ascension, both prefigured by the Transfiguration, are all examples of Theophany. The Transfiguration, like Our Lord’s Baptism, and the Ascension are more striking examples of God entering nature, although He does so in the Resurrection when no one is looking. The women in Luke see the empty tomb and the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus have their eyes opened to the Risen Christ. (cf. Lk 24:31)

    Other details stood out to me on closer examination. One man in the background on the left has a halo- an especially holy man. Given his wild, somewhat unkempt appearance, could he be John the Baptist? Also the cross-shaped platform below Jesus, as far as I saw, was actually two planks of wood with a broken chain that had once joined them. Again, this points to the Resurrection (breaking of the chains of sin. perhaps).

    Anyway, I’ll have to study this icon further and maybe ask questions of more people. Thanks again for your comment, Brian, and sorry about my long reply. If any other viewers of this blog have a helpful contribution toward an answer to the question: ‘What is this icon?’, please let me know. God Bless,

    Warren

    p.s. Brian, I visited your blog and have added you to my ‘Blogroll’ in the right sidebar.

  4. canadiancatholicblog March 19, 2009 at 5:51 pm #

    Re: Transfiguration Icon- Erratum

    My thanks to Brian Bennett for pointing out that the icon I had originally included with this post is not in fact the Transfiguration. However, it is most likely the Ascension and not the Resurrection of Jesus, owing to the presence of the crowds of witnesses as previously discussed. (see my comment preceding this one).

    I will post the old icon in my Flickr photostream- under ‘Photos’ on the right-hand sidebar of this blog; the photo is entitled ‘Ascension of Jesus’- in case anyone has a more plausible interpretation as to what it could represent, if not the Ascension.

    Also, I found another icon in the same chapel where I took the old photo. I’ll replace the old icon photo with this one, which is more likely the Transfiguration. Jesus is shown on the mountain with two figures, Moses and Elijah- the law and the prophets, respectively. The only other people present are the Apostles Peter, James, and John, portrayed as semi-asleep. The presence of the Trinity- or Theophany, manifestation of God- is shown by the two star figures around Jesus’ head (The Father and the Spirit?- Again the inscription at the top would be helpful, but is difficult to read). Of course, Jesus’ robes are bright white.

    Thanks and God Bless all. Responses, as always, are welcome.

    WRS

  5. RaiulBaztepo March 28, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  6. canadiancatholicblog March 28, 2009 at 7:11 pm #

    Hello Raiul,

    Thank you for your comment! I’m happy that you enjoyed this post. I’m writing my latest post on the Gospel of Luke that should be ready soon. I started this series of study articles on Luke on an old blog 3 years ago. I learn a lot, too, through background reading and from comments like yours. Don’t worry too much about your English. It will come. It’s a difficult language to learn. Be patient and pray about it. God bless you,

    Warren

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  8. Didith Jasper Malating September 1, 2011 at 10:25 pm #

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  9. Didith Jasper Malating September 1, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

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