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The Transfiguration of
Our Lord Jesus Christ

Feast Day - August 6

A Sermon of Pope St. Leo

The Lord openly showed His glory in the presence of His chosen ones, making the bodily form which He shared in common with others so radiant with light that His face shone like the sun and His garments became whiter than snow. The primary purpose of this transfiguration was this: that His disciples should not be scandalized when He died on the Cross and that the humiliation of the Passion He so freely embraced would not trouble their faith, since the majesty of His hidden dignity would previously have been revealed. But no less providentially, the hope of the whole Church was here established, in order that the whole body of Christ might realize what a transformation is to be granted it, and that the members might promise themselves companionship in the dignity which shone out in their Head.

But, to strengthen the Apostles and bring them to a perfect knowledge, still further teaching was given them by this miracle. For Moses and Elias, that is, the Law and the Prophets, appeared speaking with the Lord, so that in the presence of these five men the saying might be most truly fulfilled, “Every fact is established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” What fact could be better established, what more certain than this? For here the proclamation of the trumpet of the Old and New Testaments resounds, and the evidence of the old dispensation concurs with the Gospel teaching. The pages of both Covenants confirm each other; and He who had been promised by the signs that preceded Him, under the veil of mysteries, now shows Himself manifestly and clearly in the present splendor of His glory.

Peter the Apostle was moved by these revelations of mysteries. Despising the things of the world and scorning those of earth, he was rapt and carried out of his mind by the desire of the things that are eternal and, filled with the joy of the vision, he hoped to dwell with Jesus in the very place where he had been gladdened by the sight of His glory. And so he said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If You wish, let us set up three tents here, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elias.” But the Lord made no reply to this suggestion, showing that Peter desired, not something wrong, but something inordinate, for the world could not be saved except by the death of Christ. Here the Lord’s example calls the faithful to believe that, while we are not to doubt His promises of immortality, nonetheless we should understand that, in the temptations of this life, we are to ask for endurance rather than for glory.

Taken from The Hours of the Divine Office in English and Latin, Vol. II: Passion Sunday to August (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1963), pp. 2036-2038.