The significance of our Lord’s Transfiguration has many layers of meaning – much more than what one article in a bulletin or a sermon can possibly contain. However, I would like to comment on the aspect of prayer. As you hear the Gospel today you will note that the event of the Transfiguration proceeds out of Jesus being at prayer, “While he was praying his face changed in appearance.”
We can say that all the key events of our Lord’s life – his actions and teaching – proceed from the core of his being and personality. But the core of this is his intimate relation with his Heavenly Father – a constant dialogue of prayer with the Father. This personal and intimate union with the Father is made flesh and present in the midst of humanity and it is made accessible to us, ‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory’.
So, in one sense we can say that the very basis of our faith is entering into the prayer life of Jesus and sharing in that communication with the Father. This is why Saint Paul can say, that the Spirit enters into our spirit and we can pray with Jesus and call God “Abba-Father”. So part of the spiritual journey is lay hold of and make my own the identity of Jesus. With him, the only Son of God, I become a child of God. This is what creates the possibility of an intimate prayer life with God. And with that prayer life begins my transfiguration. So, the event we celebrate today is not something unique to Christ. I too have the possibility and vocation to being transfigured into his image and likeness.
There is another key part of the story and that is the ones who witnessed the event; Peter, James and John. In a sense, they too were transfigured because they were given the ability, by the Holy Spirit, to see with spiritual eyes the intimate communion and love between their Master and his heavenly Father. They all became key leaders and teachers of the Early Church. Peter was the ‘Rock” of that Church and this reminds us that the Christian faith is not a series of interesting philosophical ideas – it arises because of the experience and participation of every believer in the prayer of Jesus (cf. Lk 9: 18-20; Mt 16: 13-20). So, the Transfiguration is a rendering visible of what is actually taking place in Jesus’ prayer: he is sharing in God’s radiance and the entire person of Jesus is contained in his prayer – that is to be true for us as well.