The Transfiguration of the Lord

The episode of the Transfiguration is narrated both in the Gospel of Matthew (17,1-8) and in those of Mark (9,2-8) and Luke (9,28-36). According to these texts, Jesus, after having withdrawn with the disciples Peter, James and John, he changed his appearance, showing himself to them with an extraordinary splendor of the person and an amazing whiteness of the clothes.

In this context the appearance of Moses and Elijah, who converse with Jesus, and a voice “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him” (Mt 17,5) from a cloud declaring the divine sonship of Jesus. Lo splendore di Christ richiama la sua trascendenza, la presenza di Mosè ed Elia simboleggia la legge e i profeti che hanno annunciato sia la venuta del Messia che la sua passione e glorificazione, la nube si riferisce a teofanie già documentate nell’Antico Testamento.

A tradition, already attested in the fourth century by Cyril of Jerusalem and by Jerome, identifies the place where the Transfiguration would have taken place with Mount Tabor, in Arabic Gebel et-Tur ("mountain mountain"). A rounded and isolated hill, about 600 meters high above the level of the surrounding valleys. It is on this hill that the Byzantines will then build three churches mentioned by the Anonymous Piacentino who will visit them in 570.

A century later Arculfo will find a large number of monks, and theCommemoratorium de Casis Dei(9th century) will mention the bishopric of Tabor with eighteen monks serving four churches. Subsequently there will be the Benedictines who will also build an abbey, surrounding the buildings with a fortified wall.

Destroyed entirely by the sultan Al-Malik (1211-12) to build a fortress, the Christians will return there again, building a sanctuary. This too was destroyed by order of Sultan Baibars (1263), leaving the mountain desolately abandoned for over four centuries.

Only in 1631 the Franciscans will be able to take possession of Mount Tabor. Two centuries later, in 1854, they will begin to study the ruins of the past, starting new constructions which will culminate in the current Basilica with three naves, designed and built by the architect Antonio Barluzzi, which was inaugurated in 1924.

With this supernatural vision Jesus confirmed Peter's confession: "Tu sei il Christ, Figlio del God living.” (Mt 16:16). That moment of superhuman glory was the earnest of the glory of the resurrection: "Then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”(Lk 21:27).

The transfiguration, which is part of the mystery of salvation, is well worthy of a liturgical celebration that Church, both in the West and in the East, however, it was celebrated in various ways and on different dates, until Pope Callistus III (Alonso de Borgia, 1455-1458), in 1457, inserted it in the Roman liturgical calendar as thanksgiving for the victory obtained over the Turks in Belgrade on August 6, 1456 by János Hunyadi and Giovanni da Capestrano.

Blessed Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini, 1963-1978) died on the evening of 6 August 1978 in Castel Gandolfo: it was the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. «I would like, finishing, to be in the light», he had written many years earlier in the «Thought of death». So it happened.


The event of the Transfiguration of the Lord offers us a message of hope: it invites us to meet Jesus, to be at the service of the brothers. The disciples' ascent to Mount Tabor leads us to reflect on the importance of detaching ourselves from worldly things, to make a journey upwards and contemplate Jesus.

The increasingly lively rediscovery of Jesus it is not an end in itself, but leads us to "come down from the mountain", recharged with the strength of the divine Spirit, to decide on new steps of conversion and to constantly bear witness to charity. (Pope francesco, Angelus of 6 August 2017)

The Transfiguration of the Lord
transfiguration of Jesus

source © and Vatican News

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