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Catechism of the Catholic Church

A foretaste of the kingdom: the Transfiguration

554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master "began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. . . and be killed, and on the third day be raised." 290 Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he. 291 In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus' Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain, 292 before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus' face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking "of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem". 293 A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" 294

555 For a moment Jesus discloses his divine glory, confirming Peter's confession. He also reveals that he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to "enter into his glory". 295 Moses and Elijah had seen God's glory on the Mountain; the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah's sufferings. 296 Christ's Passion is the will of the Father: the Son acts as God's servant; 297 the cloud indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. "The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud." 298

You were transfigured on the mountain, and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendour of the Father. 299

556 On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus' baptism proclaimed "the mystery of the first regeneration", namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration "is the sacrament of the second regeneration": our own Resurrection. 300 From now on we share in the Lord's Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ's glorious coming, when he "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body." 301 But it also recalls that "it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God": 302

Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: "Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?" 303

Notes:

290 Mt 16:21.

291 Cf. Mt 16:22-23; 17:23; Lk 9:45.

292 Cf. Mt 17:1-8 and parallels; 2 Pt 1:16-18.

293 Lk 9:31.

294 Lk 9:35.

295 Lk 24:26.

296 Cf. Lk 24:27.

297 Cf. Isa 42:1.

298 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 45, 4, ad 2.

299 Byzantine Liturgy, Feast of the Transfiguration, Kontakion.

300 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 45, 4, ad 2.

301 Phil 3:21.

302 Acts 14:22.

303 St. Augustine, Sermo 78, 6: PL 38, 492-493; cf. Lk 9:33.

English Translation of the Cathechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America © 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

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