The Transfiguration,
Painted by Carl Bloch (1834-1890),
Painted in 1872,
Oil on Copper,
© Frederiksborg Palace, Denmark

The Transfiguration,
Painted by Carl Bloch (1834-1890),
Painted in 1872,
Oil on Copper,
© Frederiksborg Palace, Denmark

Gospel of 8 March 2020

Jesus was transfigured in the presence of James, John and Peter

Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. 'Lord,' he said 'it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.' He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.' When they heard this the disciples fell on their faces overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. 'Stand up,' he said 'do not be afraid.' And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, 'Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.'

Reflection on the Painting

Carl Bloch was a Danish painter who lived for 7 years in Rome where he was seduced and highly influenced by the classical art surrounding him. He painted highly religious subjects in a very realistic and lyrical style. He is most famous for his commission to produce 23 paintings for the King's Chapel at the Frederiksborg Palace, Denmark. These were all scenes from the life of Christ, painted between 1865 and 1879. Our painting today is from that series. All figures, including Moses and Elijah, have their backs to us. Only Christ, in blinding light, is facing us directly. Peter, James and John in the foreground, despite the light, are in awe, looking and mesmerised by what they see. Painting Christ, Moses and Elijah in white, does not just convey the bright light, but also makes the figures almost sculptural… eternal…

The setting of our reading (reflected in our painting) is important: Mount Tabor. By the time the Transfiguration happens, the tide of popularity is turning against Jesus. The leaders are plotting and busy trying to discredit Him. We have seen in quite a few of the Gospel readings these past few days that Jesus is now asking what people (including the disciples) are saying about Him. The Transfiguration before His three disciples on the top of the mountain should have encouraged them to see that no matter what happened in Jerusalem after this, He would triumph. After His death they realised this, but maybe, now, at the actual moment when the Transfiguration happened, they didn't fully realise what it meant. After this episode on Mount Tabor, it is literally downhill from here… downhill to Jerusalem, downhill to face death…

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