August the 6th is the Feast of the Transfiguration. Known also as Metamorphosis and Preobrazhenie in Greek and Slavic respectively; along with baptism, crucifixion, resurrection and the ascension it is one of the major events of the life of Christ found in the Gospel.
The story from the Gospels tells of Jesus taking Peter, James and John to a mountain, and while there Jesus begins to shine like the sun, and his clothes turn white as the light. Moses and Elijah appear and converse with Jesus, and a cloud surrounds them where a Voice is heard saying “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him..”
A story like this is like a puzzle which all fits together into a complete picture, but non the less, is made up of several pieces that are distinct. We see Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and Prophets make an appearance, which apart from demonstrating the communion of saints as being a valid function within the church, tells us something about the authority of Christ over the law and tradition, and is a sort of trinity. We hear the Father speak, and a cloud appears; similar to the events at Jesus’ baptism, a picture of the Trinity. It seems like two opposing triangles representing the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and another trinity of God, His Law and His prophets, like the two triangles that form the star of David.
Transfigure comes from Latin and has the same components as it’s Greek and Slavic counterparts. Trans = to cross or change; figure = shape or form. It means to change shape or form and in the story we understand this to be exactly what happens, something is revealed, which becomes visible. The Son of Man, appearing in human form, reveals the eternity of his divinity. It is sacramental and in a way is very similar to the transubstantial quality of the Eucharist. In the transfiguration, something is revealed that was hidden to the senses, the glory of the almighty shines through. The Eucharist, being the real presence of Christ, becomes something without changing its physical appearance, a change in substance rather than appearance. It was a delight to find both the transfiguration and the last supper pictured on the page from Floreffe Abbey above as this fit perfectly with what was in my mind about this feastday, but then I thought that this must have been also in the mind of the artist as well, seeing the link between the Eucharist and the transfiguration.