The transfiguration

Publish date 30-10-2023

by Chiara Dal Corso

It is faith that allows us to recognize the face of God

Among the splendid Novgorod tablets of the 16th century, it is worth focusing on the icon of the transfiguration. One of the most complex models and themes of iconography, but whose deepest meaning is actually very simple. It represents the episode of the gospel narrated in all three synoptics (Mt 17.1-8, Mk 9.2-13, Lk 9.28-36) in which Jesus takes with him the three apostles Peter, James and John, he takes them aside, up a high mountain, and makes them witness his "transfiguration". The original meaning of this word is found in the Greek noun that indicates this event: metamorphosis, which literally does not mean "changing shape", but "going beyond shape".

Jesus does not transform himself, but he shows himself to the apostles as he really is. It is their eyes that change, that open so as to see Him fully as He truly is, that is, in eternity, outside of space and time, dressed in light and shining like a sun. And it is so true that it is found in the eternal, that two men also appear, defined as Moses and Elijah, belonging to the past history of Israel, who represent the law and the prophets, that is, all the sacred writing, all the Word of God revealed before of Jesus, to converse with him.

The three apostles, as the Gospel says, are taken by a deep sleep that closes their eyes and perceive the voice of the Father from a cloud of light, an indication that recalls the cloud that guided Moses' people in the desert. In the icon, James and John are represented upside down, with their hands over their eyes to indicate the greatness of the event to which they are admitted: a leap that faith makes them take, a leap that turns them upside down, makes them finish internally." upside down” … but why? What they see is a vision of glory, it is a gash, an opening onto the sky (as represented by the blue mandorla behind Jesus) that overturns their understanding of the world, of things, of events. Only Peter manages, even if on his knees, to look towards Jesus, thanks to his faith that he has already recognized him as the Christ, the Son of God, as is written in the verses preceding this episode.

In fact, it is precisely faith that allows us to recognize Christ in his true identity, to enter into his mystery, to understand the Words and love of the Father and therefore to receive that ability to look at life, the things that exist, the events that happen to us, the same sufferings and pains, our personal history, according to the light of God and his logic. The light of love that comes from eternity reveals the profound meaning of all things, gives hope even in pain and takes away all fear, the fear of men, the fear of suffering and the fear of death.

Jesus knows that his passion will soon begin and that it will be an unbearable pain for his disciples, a scandal due to the humiliations and violence he will receive, and with this event he wants to open the minds and hearts of the apostles closest to him to make them understand that the eternal reality, that his life, his glory, the power of his love already exist beyond death, beyond our earthly life, beyond what they will then see. There would still be much to write, but it is better to stop and look at it for a while in silence, asking the Lord to enlighten us with his taboric light, so that we can understand what he still wants to communicate to us.

Chiara dal Corso

NP Agosto-Settembre 2023

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