Yesterday, we concluded here at the Apostolic Palace the spiritual exercises in which, every year, the Pope and his co-workers in the Roman Curia come together in prayer and meditation. I thank all who have been with us spiritually. May the Lord reward them for their generosity.
Today, the second Sunday of Lent, following the penitential journey, the liturgy, after having presented to us last Sunday the Gospel on the temptation of Jesus in the desert, now invites us to reflect on the extraordinary event of his Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.
Taken together, both events anticipate the Paschal mystery: the struggle of Jesus with the Tempter is a prelude to the great final duel of the Passion, while the light of his transfigured Body anticipates the glory of his Resurrection.
On the one hand, we see Jesus as full man, who shares with us even (the risk of) temptation. On the other hand, we see him as the Son of God, who divinizes our humanity.
We can say that these two Sundays function as pillars on which the entire edifice of Lent rests, and therefore, the entire structure of Christian life which consists essentially of the Easter dynamic of death to life.
The mountain - Tabor as well as Sinai - is the place of closeness to God. It is elevated space, compared to daily existence, in which to breathe the pure air of creation. It is the place of prayer, to be in the presence of the Lord, like Moses and like Elijah, who appear next to Jesus transfigured and speak to him of the 'exodus' which awaits him in Jerusalem, that is, his Pasch.
The Transfiguration is an event of prayer: In praying, Jesus immersed himself in God, uniting himself intimately with him, adhering his own will to the Father's will of love, and thus, light pervades him, and the truth of his being becomes visible: He is God, Light of lights.
Even Jesus's garments become brilliantly white. This makes us think of Baptism and the white vestments worn by neophytes. Whoever is reborn in Baptism becomes clothed in the light that anticipates heavenly existence, represented in the Apocalypse by white garments (cfr Ap 7,9.13).
Here is the crucial point: the Transfiguration is an anticipation of the Resurrection, but this presupposes death. Jesus manifests his glory to the Apostles so that they may have the strength to face the scandal of the Cross, and that they may understand it is necessary to go through many tribulations in order to reach the Kingdom of God.
The voice of the Father, which resounds from on high, proclaims Jesus as his beloved Son, just as it did at the Baptism in the Jordan, adding: "Listen to him" (Mt 17,5).
To enter into eternal life, we need to listen to Jesus, follow him on the way of the Cross, carrying in our hearts like him the hope of the Resurrection. 'Spe salvi', saved in hope. Today we can also say, 'transfigured in hope'.
Turning ourselves now in prayer to Mary, we recognize in her the human creature interiorly transformed by the grace of Christ, and we entrust ourselves to her guidance in following, with faith and generosity, the itinerary of Lent.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Angelus: Transfiguration is Anticipation of Resurrection
~translation via Papa Ratzinger Forum