The story of the Transfiguration, which is always the Gospel reading for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, is one of my all-time favorites. I often find myself gravitating to the biblical stories that are not immediately accessible or understood, as I always know that there is more to deduce, more to glean, more to the story itself.
I think that frequently may be the point with God: We do not have to understand everything right now, nor do we need to take everything at face-value. Faith and trust are at play.
One of the understandings of the Transfiguration story is yet another confirmation to the disciples of whom Jesus really is. Peter, James and John took a walk up a high mountain whereby Jesus was transformed into brilliant light.
And furthermore, just to witness, Moses and Elijah then appear out of thin air. Finally, a bright cloud appears from which a voice bursts forth, “This is my Son, my Beloved.”
Confirmation: Jesus is the Son of God.
The season of Epiphany is all about light and all about Jesus manifesting himself as the Son of God in the world. There are many anthem texts about light, but there are none better than this Sunday’s (February 26) anthem text excerpt from Handel’s beloved oratorio Messiah.
There are many ties between this Messiah text from Isaiah and this Sunday’s Transfiguration account from Matthew -- telling good tidings, be not afraid, behold your God, thy light has come.
And this text even includes a mountain!
O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion,
get thee up into the high mountain;
O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem,
lift up thy voice with strength;
lift it up, be not afraid;
say unto the cities of Judah,
Behold your God!
arise, shine, for thy light has come,
and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
– Isaiah 40:9, 60:1, from Handel’s Messiah
Painting is The Transfiguration by Franceso Curia in the Metropolitan Museum of Art