On the Lord's Transfiguration
"It Is a Revelation of His Divinity"
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
I thank the Lord for having granted me the opportunity to make a retreat these past several days, and I am grateful to those who were near to me with their prayers. This Sunday, the second of Lent is called Transfiguration Sunday because the Gospel reading recounts this mystery of the life of Christ. He, after having foretold his passion to the disciples, "took Peter, James and John, the brother of James, with him to a high mountain. He was transfigured before them: his face shined like the sun and his garments became bright as light" (Matthew 17:1-2). In the realm of the senses the light of the sun is the most intense that there is in nature, but in the realm of the spirit the disciples experience, for a brief time, a splendor that is still more intense, that of Jesus' divine glory, which illumines the whole of salvation history. St. Maximus the confessor says that "the garments having become white symbolized the words of Sacred Scripture, which became clear and transparent and luminous" ("Ambiguum" 10: PG 91, 1128 B).
According to the Gospel, alongside the transfigured Jesus "there appeared Moses and Elijah who conversed with him" (Matthew 17:3); Moses and Elijah, the figure of the Law and the Prophets. It was then that Peter, in ecstasy, exclaimed: "Lord, it is good for us to be here! If you wish, I will make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah" (Matthew 17:4). But St. Augustine comments saying that we have but one dwelling place: Christ. He is "the Word of God, the Word of God in the Law, the Word of God in the Prophets" (Sermo De Verbis Ev. 78,3: PL 38, 491). In fact, the Father himself proclaims: "This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I take delight. Listen to him" (Matthew 17:5). The transfiguration did not change Jesus but it is a revelation of his divinity: "the profound interpenetration of his being with God, which then becomes pure light. In his oneness with the Father, Jesus is himself 'light from light'" ("Jesus of Nazareth," San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2008). Peter, James and John, contemplating the divinity of the Lord, are prepared to face the scandal of the cross, as is sung in an ancient hymn: "You were transfigured on the mountain and your disciples, so far as they were able, contemplated your glory, seeing you crucified, they understood that your passion was voluntary and they proclaimed to the world that you are truly the splendor of the Father" ("Kontakion eis ten Metamorphosein," in Menaia, t. 6, Roma 1901, 341).
Dear Friends, we also participate in this vision and this supernatural gift, giving room to prayer and listening to the Word of God. Moreover, especially in this time of Lent, I exhort you, as the Servant of God Paul VI writes, "to respond to the divine precept of penance with some voluntary act beyond that self-denial imposed by the burden of daily life" (apostolic Constitution "Pænitemini," Feb. 17, 1966, III, c: AAS 58 , 182). We invoke the Virgin Mary so that she might help us always to listen to and follow the Lord Jesus Christ even unto the passion and the cross, to participate in his glory also.
[After reciting the Angelus the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]
In recent days the troubling news that has come from Libya has also stirred trepidation and fear in me. I prayed especially for this to the Lord during the week of retreat. I follow the latest events with great apprehension. I pray for those who are involved in the dramatic situation in the that country and I address a pressing call to the political and military leaders that they take the security of the citizens to heart and guarantee access to humanitarian aid. I wish to assure the people of my affectionate nearness, as I ask God that peace and concord dawn for Libya and the whole region of North Africa as soon as possible.
[In English he said:]
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Angelus prayer. As we continue our journey through Lent, today at Mass we recall the Transfiguration of the Lord and how it prepared the Apostles for the coming scandal of the Cross. Strengthened by our faith in Jesus, true God and true man, may we be inspired, not scandalized, by the Cross given to our Saviour and to our fellow Christians who suffer with him throughout the world. Especially during this holy season, I invoke upon you and your families God's abundant blessings!
[In Italian he said:]
I wish everyone a good Sunday!
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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