The Catholic Church might be the only Church who makes a big deal out of the Transfiguration; such a big deal that she celebrates this feast twice each year: on the second Sunday of Lent and on August 6th.
For the Catholic Church it is a big deal because of the intimate union of Jesus with all of us in his Mystical Body.
The destiny of Jesus Christ, the Head of the Body, is the destiny of his Body as well.
Jesus’ Transfiguration is continuing in the Transfiguration of the members of his Body across the centuries.
Thus, every time this template of God’s Word is done with us and is activated in us, the Transfiguration gets larger and larger, always including a greater number of people as the Body grows and is perfected by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
The following passage should put this matter to rest: we are dealing with a fact, so much so that the past tense is used.
And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:30
Even by the little I have said thus far we should get the distinct impression of continuity of the ever-expanding Transfiguration with shared glory of the Body of Christ and the continuity of the tenets of Faith within the Church over the centuries.
I think that this concept is partially evident from the second reading (2nd letter of Peter 1:16-19). It is a clear expression of what Tradition with the capital T is all about.
Protestants reject this thought without realizing that the whole Bible was first handed down as Tradition, i.e., before it was in part arranged into written form; and they also fail to consider Tradition as indispensable for the correct interpretation of God’s written Word.
The indispensability of Tradition to secure accurate interpretation of God’s written Word is painfully evidenced by the incredible proliferation of the thousands upon thousands of Protestant denominations.
Each denomination claims to possess the true interpretation of Bible passages, each resorting to the same Holy Spirit as guarantor of accuracy.
How could the same Holy Spirit provide so strikingly different and often contradictory interpretations of the same verse?
Jesus found only one Church and has given to only one Church access to the correct interpretation of the Bible. Such interpretation has been believed, lived out and celebrated throughout history in harmony and agreement with Tradition.
Any person of goodwill and with an open mind can go back in history and will find incredible, surprising continuity in the Catholic Church.
The assistance of Tradition in the Transfiguration narrative offers believers a more focused and wider perspective.
It is Tradition that helped the Church see the 1st reading (Daniel 7:9-10,13-14) as a foreshadowing of the Transfiguration which would have displayed, on the holy mountain, Jesus as the glorified Son of the Father.
Tradition helped Matthew’s Community borrow from the Prophet Daniel terms like bright, white, cloud to describe the luminous display of Christ’s glory.
However, where Tradition is even more brilliantly operative is in the 2nd reading (2 Peter 1: 16-19).
The written Word of God flowed naturally and seamlessly from Tradition, in this case from Peter’s life experience, and was believed, lived out and celebrated faithfully at the early Eucharistic gatherings of the first century, in ways similar to our Holy Masses almost 2000 years later!
St. Peter’s experience of the Transfiguration on the holy mountain, with James and John, has reached us without losing the original freshness of direct, firsthand eyewitnesses’ testimony although, historically, St. Peter had already been dead almost 100 years when this letter was written.
“Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.” 2 Peter 1:19
Tradition has made Peter’s prophetic message “altogether reliable” throughout the history of the Church!
Therefore, also the feast of the Transfiguration must be considered an eloquent example of how we benefit from the continuity of the Catholic faith handed down to us so accurately and so much quickening with the freshness of divine Life.
Due to this faithful handing-down, there is harmony, order, meaning and unity in what we believe and our daily life, including our struggles, our successes, our hopes, and the Eucharist we gather to celebrate each Sunday in church.
Our thanksgiving to God, today and always, is specifically for the gift of the Holy Spirit Who guarantees the soundness of Tradition, the continuity of our faith, our oneness with Christ, and the solidity of the rock on which the Church is built.
Our thanksgiving extends to the inspiration we receive in doing and living out God’s Word (“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” Matthew 17:5), as well as to the increase of hope while we follow Jesus carrying our cross.
And, finally, we gather to thank God for reminding us of an ensured share in Jesus’ destiny of glory as our Transfiguration progresses even as we plod along in the smallness and ordinariness of our daily life.