Our divine Redeemer, being in Galilee the summer before His sacred Passion, took with Him Saint Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, Saint James and Saint John, and led them to the heights of a solitary mountain. Tradition assures us that this was Mount Tabor, which is exceedingly high and beautiful, and in those days was covered with green trees and shrubs. It rises alone in the midst of a vast plain of Galilee.
It is here that the God-Man appeared in His glory. While Jesus prayed, He permitted the glory which was always due to His sacred humanity — and of which for our sake, not to alarm us, He deprived it — to diffuse its brilliance over His whole body. His face was transfigured and shone as the sun, and His garments became white as snow. Moses and Elias were seen in His company by the three apostles on this occasion, and were heard discoursing with Him of the death which He was to suffer in Jerusalem. The three were wondrously delighted with this glorious vision, and Saint Peter cried out to Christ, Lord, it is good for us to be here! Let us make three tents, one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias.
While Saint Peter was speaking, suddenly there came a bright cloud from heaven, emblem of the presence of God’s majesty, and from out of this cloud was heard a voice which said, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him. By these words, God made known that in Christ they must recognize the One He had foretold to Moses, saying: I will raise up from among them a Prophet like you; I will put My words in His mouth, and He will tell them all I command Him. If anyone does not want to hear the words that this Prophet will speak in My Name, it is to Me that he will have to answer for it. (Deut. 18:18-19) When the Jews asked John the Baptist if he was the Prophet, this was the Expected One they referred to. The apostles understood perfectly now what these words meant; the prophecy was known to all who listened to the Scriptures read each week in their synagogues. Hearing this voice, they were nonetheless seized with a sudden fear, and fell upon the ground; but Jesus, going to them, touched them, and bade them rise. They immediately did so, and saw no one but Jesus standing there in His ordinary state. This vision happened during the night. As they went down the mountain early the next morning, Jesus forbade them to tell anyone what they had seen, before He had risen from the dead.
Reflection: From the contemplation of this glorious mystery we ought to conceive a true idea of future happiness. If this idea enters our souls, we will think nothing of the difficulties or labors we meet with here, but will regard with great indifference all the goods and evils of this life, provided we obtain our portion in the kingdom of God’s glory.
Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).