Tuesday, April 06, 2021

The Transfiguration - A Prequel to the Resurrection

What began as a series of Lenten reflections ends with the Risen Christ. This painting of the Transfiguration was made by the Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna (ca. 1255-1319), and was completed in the early 14th century (about 1307). It is on a wooden panel and the medium is egg tempera, in which pigment is put into the egg yolk and then diluted with water.

It shows Christ on the mountain top, viewed by three apostles, as an anticipation of his future heavenly glory after the Resurrection. The gold lines on His garment indicate that not just He, but all of Creation, which adorns the body, will be redeemed. It speaks to us of our heavenly destination in this earthly pilgrimage.

The Transfiguration actually took place sometime before Easter, during the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, and is celebrated in the Christian calendar on August 6th. This particular event is remembered now as an anticipation of the heavenly glory of Christ. As Christians in communion with the Church, we participate in the divine nature, and through our joy and example of virtue, shine with the Light of Christ, drawing people to ourselves and then on to God. The two figures with Christ on the mountain are Moses, who represents the Law, and Elijah, who represents the prophets; Christ is the fulfillment and consummation of each in a way beyond imagination.

As two short hymns of the Byzantine Rite for the feast of the Transfiguration say:
You were transfigured on the Mountain, O Christ God, showing Your Disciples as much of Your glory as they could hold. Let Your eternal light shine also upon us sinners, through the prayers of the Mother of God, O Giver of Light, glory to You.

On the mountain You were transfigured O Christ our God, and your Disciples saw as much of Your glory as they could hold, so that when they should see You crucified, they would know that You suffer willingly, and would proclaim to the world that You are verily the Splendor of the Father.

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