Second Sunday of Lent

Sunday 25 February 2018

Dear Friends in Christ,

In the Nicene Creed we confess that Jesus Christ is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,” and these words are an emphatic affirmation that the man who is the son of Mary is also the divine Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. But the Light which we confess Christ to be is not the created light which sprang forth at the dawn of creation when the Father commanded: Let there be light! No, Christ Jesus in his divine nature is the bearer of the uncreated Light which is the brightness of divine glory, and in the Christian East that is often called Tabor Light as a reference to the holy mystery of Christ’s Transfiguration on Mt Tabor.

The Transfiguration is described by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and every year the Gospel appointed for the Second Sunday of Lent is an account of that event. The Lord Jesus takes the inner circle of the Twelve with him up a high mountain – identified by tradition as Mt Tabor – to prepare them for the tribulation to come, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the significance of the event: “From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master ‘began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things…and be killed and on the third day be raised.’ Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he. In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus’ Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain, before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus’ face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking ‘of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.’ A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’” (CCC 554)

“For a moment Jesus discloses his divine glory, confirming Peter’s confession. He also reveals that he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order ‘to enter into his glory.’ Moses and Elijah had seen God’s glory on the Mountain; the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah’s sufferings. Christ’s Passion is the will of the Father: the Son acts as God’s servant, the cloud indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit … The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ’s glorious coming, when he “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body. But is also recalls that ‘it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.’” (CCC 555-556)

Standing in the transfigured glory of the Lord Jesus, Peter was filled with both fear and awe. He could scarcely look at the brightness of Christ’s glory, and yet he could not imagine leaving that sacred place. The brightness of the cloud at Tabor and at Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan is the same brightness that blinded Saul on the Damascus Road, that burst forth in the bush which burned before Moses without being consumed, and that filled the Meeting Tent and the Temple as a sign of God’s presence among his people. At this Mass us let rejoice to be in the presence of the Light from Light, even as we prepare to go down from the mountain and give witness to Christ by joining him in the Way of the Cross.

Father Newman