May 2, 2000
volume 11, no. 85

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    Today we bring you the Holy Father's Wednesday Papal Audience given at St. Peter's Square this past Wednesday in the Easter Octave in which His Holiness links the Resurrection with the promise of the Transfiguration and the Father's charge to those in attendance "to listen to Him" (cf. Mark 9: 7). The Pope shows how the radiance of Jesus after His Resurrection compares with the radiance shown on Him during the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor and gives us a glimpse of what is to come for all souls who listen to Him for God has promised that our bodies will be transformed. The full English text was translated and provided by ZENIT news agency ZE00043020 .

April 26, 2000
    1. During this Octave of Easter, which we understand to be one great day, the liturgy tirelessly repeats the resurrection proclamation: "Jesus is truly risen!" This announcement opens wide a new horizon to all of humanity. In the resurrection, what is mysteriously symbolized in the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor becomes a reality. The Savior revealed to Peter, James, and John the display of glory and light sealed by the voice of the Father: "This is My beloved Son!" (Mark 9:7).

        During the Easter Feast, these words appear to us in their fullness of truth. The beloved Son of the Father, Christ crucified and dead, has risen for us. In His light we believers see the light and, "raised up by the Spirit," as the liturgy of the Eastern Church affirms, "we sing the consubstantial Trinity for all ages" (Great Vespers of the Transfiguration of Christ). Today, with hearts full of Easter joy, we symbolically climb the holy mountain, which dominates the plain of Galilee, to contemplate the event accomplished there which anticipated the paschal events.

    2. Christ is at the center of the Transfiguration. Two witnesses of the First Covenant converse with Him: Moses, mediator of the Law, and Elijah, prophet of the Living God. The Divinity of Christ, proclaimed by the voice of the Father, is also revealed by the symbols that Mark outlines with his picturesque touches. The light and whiteness represent eternity and transcendence: "and His clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them" (Mark 9:3). Then there is the cloud, the sign of God's presence on the path of Israel's Exodus (cf Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19, 24; 40:34, 38).

        Again the Eastern liturgy sings in the Morning Prayer of the Transfiguration: "Oh Word, immutable light of Father's light, in your brilliant light we have today seen on Tabor the light that is the Father and the light that is the Spirit, the light that illumines every creature."

    3. This liturgical text underlines the Trinitarian dimension of Christ's Transfiguration on the mountain. It draws out the presence of the Father with His revealing voice. The Christian tradition also sees the implicit presence of the Holy Spirit, in the wake of the parallel event of the Baptism in the Jordan, where the Spirit descended upon Christ like a dove (cf. Mark 1: 10). In fact, the command given by the Father: "Listen to him" (Mark 9:7) presupposes that Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit, so that His words may be "spirit and life" (John 6:63; cf 3:34-35).

        We may climb the mountain, then, in order to stop, contemplate and be immersed in the mystery of God's light. In Tabor all the mountains that bring us to God are represented, according to an image dear to the mystics. Another text from the Eastern Church invites us to this ascension upward and toward the light: "Come, people, follow me! Let us go up the holy and Heavenly mountain, let us stop spiritually in the city of the Living God, and let us in spirit contemplate the divinity of the Father and the Spirit which resplends in the only begotten Son" (Troparion to the conclusion of the Canon of St. John Damascene).

    4. In the Transfiguration we not only contemplate the mystery of God, passing from light to light (cf Psalm 36:10), but we are also invited to hear the divine word addressing us. Beyond the words of the Law of Moses and the prophecy of Elijah, the word of the Father resounds, returning to that of the Son, as I have just mentioned. Presenting His "beloved Son", the Father adds the invitation to listen to Him (cf Mark 9:7).

        When commenting on the scene of the Transfiguration, the Second Letter of Peter highlights the importance of the Divine voice. Jesus Christ "received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to Him by the Majestic Glory, saying, 'this is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased!' We ourselves heard this voice come from Heaven, while we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:17-19).

    5. Vision and hearing, contemplation and obedience are therefore the paths that bring us to the holy mountain on which the Trinity reveals itself, in the glory of the Son. "The Transfiguration offers us an anticipation of the coming glory of Christ, when 'He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of His glory' (Philippians 3:21). But let us remember also that 'it is through many persecutions that we must enter the Kingdom of God' (Acts 14:22)" (CCC 556).

        The liturgy of the Transfiguration, as the spirituality of the Eastern Church suggests, presents in the three apostles, Peter, James, and John, a human "triad" that contemplates the divine Trinity. Like the three young men in the burning furnace of the Book of Daniel (3:51-20), the liturgy "blesses God the Father Creator, sings the Word come down in their assistance that changes the fire into dew, and exalts the Holy Spirit that gives life to all, for all ages" (Morning Prayer of the Feast of the Transfiguration).

        May we also pray to Christ Transfigured with the words of the Canon of St. John Damascene: "You seduced me with desire for You, oh Christ, and You transformed me with Your divine love. Burn my sins with immaterial fire and deign to fill me with Your sweetness until, transported by joy, I exalt in Your manifestations."


May 2, 2000
volume 10, no. 85

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