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The Transfiguration

BY Jim Cosgrove

August 3-9, 1997 Issue | Posted 8/3/97 at 1:00 PM

 

MSGR. ROMANO GUARDINI pondered the reality and ramifications of the Transfiguration—liturgically commemorated by the universal Church on Aug. 6—in his classic work, The Lord (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1996).

For a brief moment, Jesus Christ—the Incarnate Son of God—allowed his divinity to pierce “the gloom of fallen creation.” Peter, James, and his brother John witnessed an incredible sight. “[T]he logos blazes celestial light,” says Msgr. Guardini.

But this forceful revelation didn't last long. In his inimitable style, Msgr. Guardini wrote: “But the dark asserts itself… ‘grasped it not,’as John says in the opening of his Gospel. Thus Christ's truth and love, which long for nothing but the freedom to spend themselves, are forced back into his heart—sorrow God alone can measure and comprehend.”

This observation—that evil will fiercely contend against good and feverishly attempt to nullify its effects—is not novel; others have suggested the very same. Yet, it is critical for all disciples of Christ again and again to hear this truth to which Msgr. Guardini so strongly adheres. Why? Because our personal transformation that Christ desires is threatened by temptation and sin.

Nevertheless, the glory of the God-Man is superior to the merciless havoc wreaked by Beelzebub. We, like Jesus, can persevere and overcome the incessant wiles perpetrated by the underworld's demons.

Msgr. Guardini puts it thus: “The Transfiguration is the summer lightning of the coming Resurrection. Also of our own resurrection, for we too are to partake of that transfigured life. To be saved means to share in the life of Christ. We too shall rise again, and our bodies will be transformed by the Spirit, which is itself transformed by God.”

Having acknowledged evil's persistence, the author quickly points to our future resurrection which—with a relentlessness all its own—will squash the lingering residue of evil to which we so easily succumb. In each member of the faithful “blissful immortality will once awaken.”

However, we don't have to remain in anticipation of this unfathomable gift of “blissful immortality” to commence. Again, Msgr. Guardini: “[T]his eternal life does not wait till after death to begin. It already exists. The essence of Christian consciousness is founded on its presence—through faith. The degrees of that consciousness are limitless and dependent on many factors: its clarity, strength, and 'tangibility'[the depth to which it is actually experienced and lived].”

Imagine the depth of gratitude that every follower of the Savior should be enjoying! God permits us in a real sense even now to know the joy of heaven. What Jesus showed those three Apostles on Mt. Tabor we also can see now. That “flaming arc, which broke through for the first time on Tabor” and that will “reveal itself victoriously in the Resurrection” is already ours for the asking. The Messiah and Lord of all glory is “captured” now by way of our faith, which will itself give way, in Paradise, to the beatific vision.

As Jesus was transfigured 2000 years ago, so we too are transformed. Not only do we look forward to our resurrection—pre-figured by the Master'—but we also savor Christ's undeniable presence in our lives today. Certainly, as in him we move and have our being, we needn't wait for a taste of eternity. The Evangelist exclaimed: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we have seen his glory; The glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love” (Jn 1, 14).

Father Charles Mangan is a priest of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D.