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The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus

Feast Day - 6th August - 4th Luminous Mystery of the Rosary
Also the Gospel for the 2nd Sunday of Lent
An atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.
Blessed Paul VI, Papa Montini, died on this feast day in 1978.

Papa Benedict XVI's words in: 2006
St John Paul II's words in: 2004, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1991, 1989, 1986 & 1979.

3 2us by Mgr Leo Maasburg       
"There is a new communion coming up and that communion comes through the mystery and, for many, the scandal of the Cross. And this is precisely what Jesus wanted to prepare his apostles for. Never to cease loving, never to cease to be in friendship with one another, never to blame others, never to put the guilt which we all carry, the whole human race carries on one or the other's particular shoulder but to carry the Cross, our small crosses, the crosses of our life, each one, knowing that we are part of a much bigger mystery, of a mystery between heaven and earth, of a love story between God and man, between God and his creatures."

3 2us by Fr Francis Selman     
"At his transfiguration, Christ's face shone like the sun and his clothes were brighter than light. In his apostolic exhortation for the Jubilee Year 2000, Blessed John Paul encouraged us to behold and contemplate the face of Christ. The transfiguration especially calls us to direct our looks to the face of Christ. St Paul tells us that God who said light will shine out of darkness has shone into our hearts to enlighten us with the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

3 2us by Fr Michael Dunne      
"Through the death and resurrection of Jesus we, in being called to and by turning to the brightness of the risen Lord, grow from glory to glory as we are transformed into the image we reflect. The transfiguration, witnessed by Peter, James and John, in fact even prefigures their own transfiguration into all that Christ calls them to be. It prefigures our own transfiguration into all that Christ calls us to be. Sharing His divine life we can be ready, especially in Lent, to bear even something of His Cross in our daily lives, mindful that as we contemplate the transfigured Christ we see not only His glory but the promise of our own."

Four days after after the death of Paul VI, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger celebrated Mass for the late Pontiff in the Cathedral of the Bavarian capital. He gave a homily, til now printed only in n. 28 of the Archdiocesan bulletin, the  Ordinariats-Korrespondenz, in which he drew a delicate portrait of Paul VI:

“The transfiguration promised by the faith as the transformation of man is above all a journey of purification, a journey of suffering. Paul VI accepted his papal service increasingly as a transformation of faith in suffering. The last words of the Risen Lord to Peter, after constituting him as the Shepherd of his flock, were: “when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18).  It was a reference to the cross awaiting Peter  at the end of his journey. It was, in general, a reference to the nature of this service. Paul VI let himself be lead more and more where as a human being he did not want to go alone. More and more the pontificate meant for him wearing the cloth of another, being nailed to the cross. (…) He gave new value to authority as service, bearing it as suffering. He took no pleasure in power, in position, in a successful career; and it was precisely because of this, his dutiful authority - 'they will lead you where you do not want to go' - became great and credible. Paul VI  carried out his service by faith. From this derived  both his firmness and his willingness to compromise. For both he was criticised, and  some comments after his death were even in bad taste.  But today a Pope who  isn't criticised  would be failing to carry out his duty to this age. Paul VI resisted the intense scrutiny of the media, the powers of the day. He could do this because he didn't consider success and approval the measure of truth and faith, but rather his conscience.

Those who met him in his last years were able to experience directly his extraordinary transformation in faith, its transfiguring power. One could see how much the man, who by his nature was an intellectual, surrendered himself day after day to Christ, how he let himself be changed, transformed, purified by him, and  how this made him ever more free, ever more profound, good, perceptive and simple.

Faith is a death, but it is also a metamorphosis for entering into authentic life, towards transfiguration. In Pop Paul one could see all this. Faith gave him courage. Faith gave him goodness. And in him it was also clear that a faith of conviction is not closed but open. In the end, our memory will treasure the image of a man who held out his hands. He was the first Pope to have travelled to all the continents, fixing in this way an itinerary of the Spirit, which began in Jerusalem, the centre of meeting and of parting of the three great monotheistic religions; then his journey to the United Nations, to Geneva, his meeting with humanity's greatest non-monotheistic religious cultures, India, and his pilgrimage to the people who suffer in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia. Faith holds out its hands. Its sign is not a fist, but an open hand”.

Peter the Venerable - Sermon 1 pour la Transfiguration (PL 189, 959):

What was surprising about Jesus' face becoming like the sun since he himself was the sun? He was indeed the sun, but the sun hidden behind a cloud. Now, for a moment, the cloud dispersed and he shone out. What is this cloud that dispersed? It was not so much the flesh but the weakness of the flesh that disappeared for a moment.

This is the cloud spoken of by the prophet: “See, the Lord will ride on a swift cloud” (Is 19,1): the cloud, the flesh that covers his divinity; swift, because this flesh bears not a trace of evil in itself; a cloud concealing the divine splendour; swift, because it is to rise up to the eternal splendour. This is the cloud of which it is written in the Song of Songs: “I was seated in the shadow of him for whom my soul longs” (cf Sg 3,2). It is a swift cloud because this is the flesh of “the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1,29) and, once these have been removed, the world is carried up to heavenly heights, divested of the weight of all its sins.

The sun concealed by this flesh is not that “which rises for good and bad alike” (Mt 5,45) but “the Sun of righteousness” (Mal 3,20), which rises only for those who fear God. Veiled, normally, by the cloud of the flesh, this light that “enlightens everyone” (Jn 1,9) shines out today in all its brilliance. Today it gives glory to this same flesh, it displays itself deified to the apostles so that they, the apostles, might make it known to the world.

Anastasius of Sinai, Sermon on the feast of the Transfiguration:

Jesus revealed this mystery to his disciples on Mount Thabor. In their company he had spoken of the kingdom and of his second coming in glory, but perhaps they remained uncertain about the kingdom which he had announced. Now, to lead them to firm and profound faith and draw them by means of present events to belief in things to come, he manifested himself in glory on Mount Thabor, giving them a divine revelation, a foreshadowing of the kingdom of heaven. It was as if he said: 'So that you may not fall into disbelief as time goes by, now, at this moment, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in the glory of his Father.'

To show that it was well within Christ's power to do what he willed, the evangelist says: 'After six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John hsi brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.'

These are the miracles of our present feast, this is the mystery which is now accomplished on the mountain for our salvation. For it is this celebration, this feast of Christ, which has brought us together here today. In order to penetrate into the heart of these awe-inspiring mysteries with the disciples whom our Lord chose, let us listen to the holy voice of God which summons us from on high, from the mountain top.

There we must hasten - I make bold to say - like Jesus who is our leader and has gone before us into heaven. There, with him, may the eyes of our mind shine with his light and the features of our soul be made new; may we be transfigured with him and moulded to his image, ever becoming divine, being transformed in an ever greater degree of glory.

Let us run there, eager and joyful, and let us be enveloped in the cloud, like Moses and Elijah, or James and John. Be like Peter, rapt at the divine vision, transfigured by the glory of the transfiguration, lifted high above the things of this world. Let us leave the flesh and creation behind and turn to the Creator, to whom Peter in ecstasy said: 'Lord, it is good for us to be here.'

Yes indeed, Peter, it is good for us to be here with Jesus and to remain here for ever. What is more blessed, what more sublime, what more exalted than to be with God, to be shaped to his likeness, to dwell in the light? Since each one of us has God within him and is transformed into his divine image, let us cry out in joy: 'It is good for us to be here.' For here all is light, and joy, and happiness, and bliss; here the heart is at rest, in peace, serene; here we behold Christ out God; here he comes to dwell with the Father, and as he enters he says: 'Today salvation has been brought to this house'; here with Christ are the countless treasures of eternal blessings; here are the beginnings of the age to come, here we see it reflected as in a mirror.

Pope St Leo the Great (in his Sermon 51):

The Lord revealed his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses, and made that form of his body which he shared with other men to shine with such splendour that his face was as bright as the sun, and his clothes became as white as snow. By changing his appearance in this way he chiefly wished to prevent his disciples from feeling scandalized in their hearts by the cross. He did not want the disgrace of the passion, which he freely accepted, to break their faith. This is why he revealed to them the excellence of his hidden dignity.

With the same foresight the foundation of his holy Church's hope was laid, so that the whole Body of Christ should realize the nature of the change which it must undergo, and that the members might promise themselves a share in that honour which had already shone around in their Head. That was what the Lord meant when he described his coming in majesty in these words, 'Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.' The blessed apostle Paul bears the same witness when he wrote, 'I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us', and again he wrote, 'For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.' By that miracle the Lord had yet another lesson to teach the apostles, to strengthen them, and to bring them to all knowledge.

Moses and Elijh, that is the law and the prophets, were seen talking with the Lord. Because those five men were there, these words were fulfilled, 'On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be sustained. What could be more firmly founded or more certain than God's word, revealed in the ringing tones of both Old and New Testaments in harmony? Here the teaching of the evangelists and the documentary evidence of ancient witnesses harmonize. The one covenant thus reinforces the other. The signs which went before had promised Jesus under the veil of mystery. But now the blaze of the present glory has shed a dazzling light upon him. This is because, as St John says, 'The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.' In Jesus have been fulfilled the promise of the prophetic images and the purposes of the regulations of the law. By his presence he demonstrates the truth of prophecies, and by his grace makes possible the acts God has commanded us.

The preaching of the holy gospel must establish the faith of all. None must be ashamed of the cross of Christ, by which he redeemed the world. None must fear to suffer for righteousness' sake. None must doubt that God will fulfil his promises. For through toil comes rest; through death comes life. Jesus has taken upon his own shoulders all the weakness of our humility. If we are steadfast in our acknowledgment and love of him, in him we win the victory he won, and receive the reward that he has promised. To help us do what he asks and endure our trials in patience, we must have always ringing in our ears these words of the Father, 'This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased - listen to him.'