Light and Life – Sept-Oct 2020, Vol 73, No 5 – A Publication of the Western Dominican Province
Our Lord says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) When we pray and enter into the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, they reveal to us who Jesus Christ is, what he came here for, and how as the Light of the world he is meant to shine in our hearts.
The task of each Christian is to make a special place for God in their heart. If we want the glory of heaven and eternal life with Our Lord in his kingdom, we have to be willing to do the work here on earth. Thus, even though Jesus’ victory over sin and death is complete, we who are in this world have the stark reminder that we still face darkness in our lives and can choose the sinful path that leads away from the kingdom. That’s why the daily struggle to follow Christ is so important. For those who engage in that struggle, St. Paul says, “All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18)
Pope St. John Paul II said that the Luminous Mystery par excellence is the Transfiguration, traditionally believed to have taken place on Mount Tabor.1 In this great event, “Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” (Matthew 17:1-2)
As the vision on Mount Tabor continues, the disciples see Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah, revealing to us that he is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets of which they symbolize, and that the Way of the Cross as foreshadowed in the Old Testament is the way to his glory. In fact, St. Luke tells us that they “spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:31) Thus, just as Moses led the Israelites out of their slavery in the desert, Jesus will lead us out of our slavery to sin and death through his Passion!
In the Fourth Mystery of Light then, we learn two key themes that teach us much about Jesus and the way his life on earth impacts our own: that the Cross is the way to glory, and that, according to the Father, we need to heed the voice of Christ who is the light that shines in our hearts and lights our path.
Just prior to the Transfiguration, Our Lord prophesies to his disciples that he will suffer greatly at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the scribes and be put to death, and then be raised up on the third day. (Cf. Matthew 16:21) He then imparts to his disciples the very difficult teaching that “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
After presenting this challenging doctrine of the cross, Jesus takes his disciples to a mountaintop where he gives them a majestic vision of his glory, a foreshadowing of himself in the kingdom of heaven.
There is a great paradox here. How are we to view these two very disparate mysteries in the life of Jesus? First, he tells his disciples that he will be put to death—and that they too must follow him to the cross. Then, he takes them up the mountain where they witness a glorious vision of Jesus as his face changes in appearance while he is praying, and his clothes become dazzling white. (Cf. Luke 9:29) How does the ugliness and horror of the Cross with its evil, death and sin correlate to the glory of the Transfigured Christ, the prefigurement of the Resurrected Christ?
What helps us understand this “mystery” between the Cross and the Resurrection is Jesus’ own words to the two travelers on the road to Emmaus, “Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things [his Passion] and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26) In this regard, St. Thomas Aquinas affirms that by his Passion, Jesus achieved glory, not only of his soul (which he had from the first moment of his conception) but also of his body.2 Further, St. Thomas directs us, as always, to the ultimate goal of our lives as Christians when he calls to mind Acts 14:22: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”3 So, if we are to answer Jesus’ call to follow in his footsteps, we will face the hardships of this life, but by his grace we will reach heaven.
In the final scene of the Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John are overshadowed by a bright cloud as the glory of the Father shines forth from the human face of Christ—and they hear His command, “Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). Thus, they were being prepared to experience with Jesus the agony of his Passion, so as to come with him to the joy of his Resurrection and a life transfigured by the Holy Spirit.4
As we pray this mystery, we should put ourselves on that mountaintop with Peter, James, and John because the words of the Father—“Listen to him”—are also meant for us. In fact, in these words one can see a correlation between all five of the Luminous Mysteries.
In the First Luminous Mystery, Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, St. Thomas teaches that the mystery of the first regeneration—our baptism—is proclaimed, where the Holy Trinity is made manifest in the presence of the Incarnate Son, the Holy Spirit appearing under the form of a dove, while the Father is making Himself known in the voice that is proclaiming, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Likewise, in the Transfiguration, where the mystery of the second regeneration—our future resurrection from the dead—is proclaimed, the Holy Trinity appears again: Jesus is present, the Holy Spirit is present in the bright cloud, and the Father speaks, instructing us to “Listen to him.”5 So, as we die and rise in Christ in our baptism, and enter into the Passion of Christ through the cross, so we will reach the glory of heaven in the resurrection from the dead.
In the Second Luminous Mystery, though the Blessed Virgin Mary was not present at the Transfiguration, the role she assumed at Cana in some way accompanies Christ throughout his ministry.6 Pope St. John Paul II says the words spoken by the Father at the Transfiguration are “placed upon Mary’s lips at Cana, and it becomes the great maternal counsel which Mary addresses to the Church of every age: ‘Do whatever he tells you’ (John 2:5). This counsel is a fitting introduction to the words and signs of Christ’s public ministry, and it forms the Marian foundation of all the ‘mysteries of light.’”7
In the Third Luminous Mystery, the Proclamation of the Coming of the Kingdom of God and the Call to Conversion, Jesus proclaims, “The kingdom of God is at hand—repent, and believe in the Gospel!” In this mystery, the words of the Father echo in the background, “Listen to him.” The call of Jesus means that every Christian who professes faith in Jesus Christ must be open to ongoing conversion, which will mean undergoing our own experience of the Passion by dying to ourselves while keeping our eyes on the road that leads to our resurrection.
In the Fifth Luminous Mystery, the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, the words of the Father once again call us to listen to the directive of Jesus when at the Last Supper, he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” (Luke 22:19)
As we reflect upon the Mystery of the Transfiguration, we call to mind St. Peter’s testimony of that sacred event, “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, ‘This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18)
Thus, after Peter witnessed the appearance of Moses and Elijah as they conversed with Jesus, we recall his own words, “It is good Lord to be here” as we ourselves go to that place where we encounter the risen Christ—in our own hearts. “Therefore, since each of us possesses God in his heart and is being transformed into his divine image, we also should cry out with joy: It is good for us to be here—here where all things shine with divine radiance, where there is joy and gladness and exultation; where there is nothing in our hearts but peace, serenity and stillness; where God is seen. For here, in our hearts, Christ takes up his abode together with the Father With Christ, our hearts receive all the wealth of his eternal blessings, and there where they are stored up for us in him, we see reflected as in a mirror both the first fruits and the whole of the world to come,”8 “for God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Christ.” (2 Cor 4:5-6)
In conclusion, the Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ’s glorious coming, when he “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” (Phil 3:21)9 We too are meant to be united with Christ in all things, beginning with our baptism, then passing through his Passion in order to share in the glory of his Resurrection. And if we walk that hallowed road, and heed the voice of Jesus—as directed by the Father— which says, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” we too will find our lives transfigured by the Holy Spirit.
1. Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, #21.
2. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III.45.1.
4. Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, #21
5. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III.45.4. ad 2.
6. Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, #21
8. Anastasius of Sinai, (Nn. 6-10: Melanges d’archeologie et d’histoire 67
9. Catechism of the Catholic Church #556
To All those who look to the Rosary Center for support & prayers,
We take our ministry very seriously here at the Rosary Center. If ever you have a request for prayers, please send them to us through our website (look for “Prayer Request” at rosarycenter.org) or via U.S. Mail. I keep a basket at the foot of the altar that is filled with your petitions. Every day I bring these to the Blessed Virgin Mary and ask her to intercede on your behalf to Our Lord. Please know that your petitions, for good health—especially safety from the corona virus, increased faith, family concerns, financial needs, etc., are included in my daily Mass and Rosary.
—Fr. Joseph OP, Director
November – Month of the Holy Souls
The Rosary Center will offer a novena of Masses for the dead, beginning on All Souls Day, November 2. Prayer for the dead is a hallowed tradition, and we can offer no greater tribute to our loved ones than to pray for the happy repose of their souls. We ask you to join your prayers with ours as we pray for those who have died and to share with us the names of those you wish us to remember during these Masses. Please return your list of names to us before November 1st. You may send your list to us via the Novena below…
THEOLOGY FOR THE LAITY: