“Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.” – Psalm 50:2
The account of Christ’s Transfiguration is always read on the Sunday before Lent. It is an odd event. Most of Jesus’ miracles are practical, such as a healing or creating more wine for a wedding ceremony. The Transfiguration, however, is not so practical but richly symbolic.
The first symbol is Jesus standing between Moses and Elijah. How the disciples know who these two figures are we aren’t told but, nonetheless, their presence is important. Moses is a stand in for the Torah, the Old Testament law, and Elijah is the representative of all the Old Testament prophets. Jesus standing between them symbolizes the fact that he is not only consistent with the Old Testament witness but he is the fulfillment of it.
The second symbol is Jesus’ glorious appearance. This is a prefiguring of Jesus enthronement as King, not only of the Jews, but King over all. He is the Lord of Lords and his appearance on the mountain is another moment where the curtain is pulled back and the disciples are allowed to see Christ’s glory not unlike the experience John had as described in Revelation 4 and 5.
The story of Christ the King is told in different ways throughout the New Testament. It is hinted at throughough the Gospels and fulfilled in the Revelation as the Jesus, the slaughtered Lamb ascends his throne.
O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son
revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that
we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be
strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his
likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.