Transfiguration (Cell 6),
Painted by Fra Angelico (1395–1455),
Painted 1440-1442,
Fresco
© Convento di San Marco, Florence

Transfiguration (Cell 6),
Painted by Fra Angelico (1395–1455),
Painted 1440-1442,
Fresco
© Convento di San Marco, Florence

Gospel of 6 August 2023

Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ

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 fresco

This fresco of the Transfiguration by Fra Angelico (1395–1455), is on the wall of Cell 6 of the Convento di San Marco in Florence. We see Christ standing on a rock, prefiguring his rising from the tomb. His arms are outstretched, foreshadowing his crucifixion. He is dressed in ‘clothes as white as the light’ as in our Gospel reading today. Encircling him is a radiant white mandorla (a pointed oval reserve). He looks down at three of the Apostles who are crouched at the base of the rock in awed positions. They however maintain a curious contemplative detachment from the dramatic content of the scene.

On the edges of the fresco, we see the shading figures of Our Lady and St Dominic holding a prayerful pose. Above them the heads of Moses and Elijah appear. While a Dominican friar at San Marco’s monastery in Florence, Fra Angelico was commissioned to paint frescoes in the meeting rooms and dormitory cells of the lay brothers, novices, and clergy. With the help of assistants, he painted more than 40 frescoes at San Marco.

Peter’s comment in our Gospel reading is really beautiful. He simply says ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here’. It is an exclamation which can find an echo in our own lives. We can all think of those moments in our lives when we too felt it is wonderful to be here, and where we really felt God’s presence. The Lord gives us those special moments when we truly feel his presence in order to sustain us on our life journey.

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Alice Baird
Member
Alice Baird
11 months ago

I adore Fra Angelico. I visited the convent in 2014. Each cell had a tiny window, a small desk, and a simple bed. The wall facing the foot of the bed had a Fra Angelico fresco, each one different in each cell, although many were of the crucifixion. Several had an angel in tears holding a chalice into which Christ’s blood flowed. I thought it would be possible to live in such simplicity if I could gaze at the Fra Angelico on my wall every day! At the top of the stairs (cells were on the second floor) the wall facing the landing held a large-scale fresco of the Annunciation, a favorite of mine.

John Hobbs
Member
John Hobbs
11 months ago

The stained glass window behind the priest in the church I attended in Guernsey this morning pictured the transfiguration. The priest talked of the friends of Jesus not wanting the day to draw to a close – hence the tents! By the sound of things, I imagine that some of you were having a similar experience with friends and family today. I hope so.
Hearing about some of the religious “imperfections” amongst friends and families helps me a lot because of the parallels in my own life. In my recent groom’s speech I referred to my marriage being a denouement where many strands of a hitherto slightly chaotic existence were drawn together into a much neater arrangement.
My dad, who is an Anglican and belongs to something called the Third Order of Franciscans, has always said that baptism is universal and can be done by anyone with the right words. Best to all, John

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
11 months ago

I’m a little late after my weekend away. I read your posts yesterday, though I was unable to comment. This is a glorious painting, in every way.

Polly French
Member
Polly French
11 months ago

Thank you all for your inspirational comments. The Gospel makes me realise how important it is to welcome people and tell them how wonderful it is to be here! We always start our prayer group with these words. Also, it is interesting how Peter wanted to bottle the moment and stay in this state of bliss forever! How often have we felt like that when everything feels just right? However, Jesus knew that there were much greater things to come! Good for us to remember maybe! Have a lovely day!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
11 months ago

Just been to Mass; our parish newsletter this week had exactly the same fresco on the front!

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
11 months ago

I am curious about the star-like symbol above the head of St Dominic. Maybe it represents a compass?

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
11 months ago

Wonderful fresco. I have been to Florence a number of times – I wonder why I haven’t seen this, or the convent?
I was reading another reflection on today’s gospel; the ‘privilege’ of being present at the Transfiguration was supposed to sustain the faith of these key apostles in the dreadful times that lay ahead. Yet only John remained with Jesus at the foot of the cross. Hmm…

Christine H
Christine H
11 months ago

Thank you! I love your final sentence and the hmm . . . That conveys so much meaning!

Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas
11 months ago

Patricia, John loved Jesus unconditionally. May be it was homo-love, but that doesn’t matter. When you love someone so deep, you want to stay with him/her ‘forever’. You yourselve will stay with your husband, children/grandchildren till the bitter end, isn’t it? Jesus instructed us to love! So many people know what love is… for their own beloved ones! We must learn to love everyone… your neighbour, the milkman, the beggar in the street!! But Jesus did not mean to love everyone ’till the bitter end’. You must have the will to do so. A few weeks ago Patrick spoke about it and he said “You must have the will to love everyone”… that is the intention of Jesus!
Well, maybe I am absolutely wrong in this case, but this is how I feel it!

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
11 months ago
Reply to  Rya Lucas

I think you are absolutely right. Sometimes it irks me that God loves people I don’t like just as much as he loves me- but it is true!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
11 months ago

Completely lovely painting today. Out with the dogs this morning and it is indeed a lovely day.
We’re off to our son’s ‘baby shower’ this morning! Our first grandchild – I’m hoping that they get married one day! And that the baby is christened in due course.
A happy Transfiguration to all. No more comments today as we will be driving. I hope that SFG returns to the forum soon!!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
11 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Our son and his wife had three before they got married. They go their own way, with different priorities to us. :-l
But a birth is always miraculous so I am sure you will both experience the joy today .
Btw, my husband admitted the other day that he had baptised all three as babies in the bath! I didn’t know that….

Last edited 11 months ago by Patricia O'Brien
Christine H
Christine H
11 months ago

wow! awesome – I love your husband. That is so beautiful.

Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas
11 months ago
Reply to  Christine H

I agree, Christine!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
11 months ago
Reply to  Christine H

Thank you good people for your responses to this; I did feel a bit unsure about it when he told me and still do….I know it’s legitimate in terms of our faith but even so….

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
11 months ago

I agree Patricia- not always a thing to do without the parents’s consent. I know people who do it though. I have one unbaptised grandchild and hope one day it will happen.

Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas
11 months ago

Well done, husband of Patricia! Babies are presents of God!… deal with them like that! So you are three times Grandmother! Being a Grandmother must give you a very special feeling! Be a blessed Grandother!

marleen de vlieghere
Member
marleen de vlieghere
11 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

My best wishes, Chazbo. Especially for the baby!!

Anthony
Member
Anthony
11 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Congratulations to all.

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
11 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Congratulations!

Christine H
Christine H
11 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Congratulations, Charles! Wow! First grandchild!!! Don’t sweat out the dynamics re: faith etc at this stage — My cousins in Quebec, I guess revolted from the too-harsh Catholic ways there ?? – but no one gets married and they raise beautiful babies, and have strong, intact families. In my novice-type view, the New Testament softened the hard rules of the Old Testament and showed that the love and mercy from God is what matters most, of course along with faith and efforts to do good, so . . . . your family is blessed and will be happy and at peace. Congrats again! Amazing! (Catholic Lite Brigade at work here . . . I told you, John, that I am worthy of being on the team.)

Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas
11 months ago
Reply to  Christine H

Love is important… for babies, for sons and daughters, and in-laws, for parents, for Grandparents, for neighbours, for people… Let us love everyone in the name of Jesus! I start loving you all! Be blessed everyone!

Christine H
Christine H
11 months ago
Reply to  Rya Lucas

I agree – with everything that you wrote today! You and your sentiments are why I am here. You help my faith. God bless! Loving you too Rya!

Christine H
Christine H
11 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

SFG, Charles, is still celebrating the amazing birthday of her beautiful daughter! She will be back after the appropriate time required for her to post with that grace she shares!! And I agree – I am missing SFG too. . . .

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
11 months ago
Reply to  Christine H

You are very kind. I am back now! It has been a very special weekend though I have returned with a nasty cold!

Bashia Ferrando
Bashia Ferrando
11 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Congratulations Charles. My son has two children from different mothers. 🙄. He is engaged to the mother of his daughter but as yet no wedding. Things in the UK are tough for them. Sorry did not reply yesterday. Yes I do remember Anthony Bourdin he came to England a few years back. I did not know he had exited! May he RIP

Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas
11 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

That is wonderful news, Chazbo! Congratulations for you’ll be grandparents. Babies are so perfect and so innocent… I love babies! And if the baby will not be christened, you can do the same as Patricia’s husband… baptize the baby in bath… You know: in times of ‘danger’ you are allowed to baptize!! So, go ahead, Chazbo!

Christine H
Christine H
11 months ago
Reply to  Rya Lucas

Rya, what do I do about this, in your opinion (or anyone else reading this thread)? My husband was never baptized. His parents are not God loving people (it stuns me that this happened to my poor guy). Do I somehow get him into a hot tub and baptize myself? I can’t, right, because no exceptions fit? I guess I need to continue playing my Long Game. He is a former Philosopher, and he is open to the faith in a logical way, but not “there” yet. It probably will take a decade or two more. I pray that I will live long enough to see this through, which may be questionable due to the short life spans of my predecessors. I fully trust in the Lord, so I believe that somehow, someway, this will all work out. I believe it’s God’s will, so it will be done. If you or anyone has ideas, or recommendations, etc., let me know. I am bold like Patricia’s husband, but he is a full-grown big adult man, and it is more hazardous here compared to those little sweet babies baptized my Patricia’s holy husband. Patricia’s husband sure did what was right. He is my hero of the day for sure! 💪🙏🎉🏆

Last edited 11 months ago by Christine H
Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas
11 months ago
Reply to  Christine H

My dear Christine, did you ever spoke with your ‘poor guy’ about baptizing? Did you ever tell him that you should be so happy, that he’ll set you at ease, that it has no consequentes for him…? Yes, of course you talked to him. You also should consider that YOU baptize him by caresses him over his head and say the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. That will set you at ease and you can tell him later. It is not necessary to baptize with water… in times of danger you may and can …
This is what I should do… I am catholic but I am not agreed with all the rules etc. that come from Rome. My faith is something between Jesus and me and no dogma or rule can come between it. These are rules made by men… and very special byuMEN. I try to live with the rules of Jesus. I wish you wisdom and so much love!!

Christine H
Christine H
11 months ago
Reply to  Rya Lucas

Rya, your faith is beautiful. I read all your posts, and you are a very loving person – and love is everything. Thank you for the ideas – I will do so because I am in total agreement with you about rules etc. In the past, when I lost my closeness to Jesus, it was partly due to people who sound overly harsh about rules, etc. I have not completed all the rules, and I can’t even go to communion as a result. I am “stuck” as far as the Catholic religion right now, but my faith continues to grow, and my trust in Jesus continues to strengthen. And Rya, you help me every day with your posts. Blessings to you!

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
11 months ago
Reply to  Christine H

Adult baptism has to be by consent. It has no efficacy otherwise. We cannot be responsbible for the will of others, unfortunately. I’m not even sure if baptising infants with no parental consent has efficacy either. Personally, I wouldn’t do it, but I would pray often for them, and hope in God’s divine mercy that He sees all that is good within them and calls them home to Him. We never know what might happen in the future- so hope and pray.

Christine H
Christine H
11 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Spaceforgrace, I am happy you had a wonderful weekend with your family, and please get well quickly from the cold you picked up. I will pray and pray some more. My husband is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. I have to pray so much for my mom, dad, and brother – they all passed without being in the proper state for death as far as the Catholic Church is concerned. I think they all may be stuck in purgatory. It is very worrisome indeed.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
11 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Just back- hope you enjoyed the baby shower Charles and congratulations on becomoing a Grandad very soon!

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
11 months ago

How lovely! We’ve had a few rather grim/difficult images recently, so it’s great to take pleasure in this wonderful fresco celebrating the Transfiguration. The sun is shining here, after days of rain, so the garden is “transfigured”, everything more beautiful. I learned two new details from this painting: about the breaking of the siege of Belgrade, thanks Christine; and discovering that the word mandorla comes from the Latin, and means “almond”. A busy day ahead here; wishing you all every blessing, in worship and at home, and remembering today’s Mass in Lisbon, more than a million expected, and temperatures of up to 40C. 🌹

Christine H
Christine H
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeanne M

Thank you, Noelle. Every post you share is a blessing. Truly.

Jeanne M
Member
Jeanne M
11 months ago
Reply to  Christine H

I reciprocate, Christine, I really value your posts. Blessings to you, this night and in the days to come 🌻

Christine H
Christine H
11 months ago

Here’s some more info on today’s artwork: “While a Dominican monk at San Marco’s monastery in Florence, Fra Angelico (1395–1455) was commissioned to paint frescoes in the meeting rooms and dormitory cells of the lay brothers, novices, and clergy. With the help of assistants, he painted more than 40 frescoes at San Marco, most of them depicting scenes of Christ’s crucifixion. The Transfiguration was painted in Cell 6, which belonged to one of the clerics. Christ stands on a rock with outstretched arms, foreshadowing his crucifixion. Fra Angelico has further connected Christ’s transfiguration ecstasy with his passion by depicting Christ’s face, nimbus (halo), and radiant white garments in a remarkably similar way to the Mocking scene in the adjacent Cell 7 (which housed another cleric). The three apostles who accompanied Christ to the mountain cower in awe. On either side of Christ stand the Virgin Mary and St. Dominic, in postures of devotion. The heads of Moses and Elijah (who also appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with Christ in Matthew 17) are under Christ’s arms. The sparse fresco, devoid of all but the essential details of the scene, is intended to inspire its viewer to prayer and meditation on the agony and ecstasy of the suffering and glorified Christ.” (from christiancentury.org)

As the above points out, this fresco is relatively sparse. Contrast it with some of the other transfiguration paintings that are more colorful, flowing, animated, and also the ones that are the Eastern Church’s style. This piece is unique due to its simplicity, I think. (If you want to check out the others, do a search for “transfiguration art images” using whatever search vehicles you prefer.)

Interesting to see the difference between the Eastern Church and Western – of course the art styles are very different but also the length of time that the Feast has been celebrated: “The Feast of the Transfiguration has been celebrated in the Eastern church since at least the 6th century and it is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of Eastern Orthodoxy, and so is widely depicted, for example on most Russian Orthodox iconostases. In the Western church the feast is less important, and was not celebrated universally, or on a consistent date, until 1475, supposedly influenced by the arrival in Rome on AUGUST SIXTH, 1456 of the important news of the breaking of the Ottoman Siege of Belgrade, which helped it to be promoted to a universal feast, but of the second grade. Most notable Western depictions come from the next fifty years after 1475, reaching a peak in Italian painting in the 1510s.” (from Wikipedia, “Transfiguration of Jesus in Christian Art.”)

Blessed Sunday to all!

Polly French
Member
Polly French
11 months ago
Reply to  Christine H

Thank you Christine for sharing your knowledge and research with us! It is so helpful!

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