The Transfiguration of Christ,
Painted by Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516),
Oil on panel,
Painted circa 1480,
© Museum of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy

The Transfiguration of Christ,
Painted by Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516),
Oil on panel,
Painted circa 1480,
© Museum of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy

Gospel of 6 August 2019

The Transfiguration of Christ

Luke 9: 28-36

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.

Reflection on the Painting on Copper

Today’s painting was painted by Giovanni Bellini around 1480. Bellini was described in 1506 by artist Albrecht Dürer as 'the best painter of all'. He was celebrated mostly for his stunning altarpieces, and this is one of them. We see:

- Christ in the very centre, in a bright white cloak, the source of light

- The cloud above Christ is sending rays of light upon Him

- to the left of Him, Moses, head cloaked with Jewish prayer shawl, holding a scroll

- to the right, Elijah, holding a scroll with words ‘God will gather my people’

- The apostles Peter (in the middle), James and John in the lower part

- Ravenna in the background, and scenes from every day life in Tuscany

A voice came from the cloud saying: ’This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ By these words Jesus was confirmed in who He was and what His mission was and what we should do: listen to Him!. Moses and Elijah identified Jesus as the One in whom the promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled… ultimately on the cross. To me, the phrase that sticks out today though is that the passage starts with the words Jesus went up the mountain to pray, showing us again how much He actually prayed. Even though he was the Son of God, and nothing would have changed that, he prayed and prayed, over and over again. It was during this time of prayer that everything happened as described in today’s reading.

We can join Jesus in His prayer, so that we too can be changed. A prayer like for example the Rosary. In 2002, Pope John Paul II added the luminous mysteries to the Rosary. The Transfiguration is one of them, the moment when Jesus revealed Himself as God's Son. "The Gospel scene of Christ's transfiguration, in which the three Apostles Peter, James and John appear entranced by the beauty of the Redeemer, can be seen as an icon of Christian contemplation." wrote John Paul II in the apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae. John Paul II uses the word beauty as a key quality to get us into the mystery of our faith... a beauty we can find in some of the art we look at in our daily reflections, such as the painting here.

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