Monday, August 6, 2012

The Transfiguration

A Puzzle Is Solved

Some time ago, over at Where the Rubber Hits the Road, the blog of Father Tim Moyle, a discussion ensued with "Martin" a longtime friend of Father Tim's, who likes to be contentious, and in that regard took Matthew Chapter 16:28 as a proof that the Bible was filled with errors in fact.
Matthew Chapter 16:28 says in the NIV translation:
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Martin said in so many words that all who were with Jesus at the time had died and not one of them ever saw the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.  Almost sounds convincing, and I can tell you that the arguments that some of us put up for Martin were not convincing to him.
Although my faith was not shaken, it was a challenge that I did not have a really satisfactory answer for.
But, today is the Feast of the Transfiguration, and I was praying the Lauds from the Liturgy of the Hours as usual, but decided to look at the earlier office for the day, the Office of Readings.  There is in that liturgy a number of longer readings from scripture, and one from a well respected teacher in the history of the Church.

Today's Second Reading was from a Sermon on the Transfiguration of the Lord by Anastasius of Sinai.  The good Bishop tells us that the Transfiguration which is described in Matthew Chapter 17: 1-11 is that fulfillment of Matthew 16:28.

Here is the biblical description of the Transfiguration from Matthew in the NIV translation:
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
Bishop Anastasius describes the words of Chapter 16:28 and how the Transfiguration relates to them in his sermon, in this excerpt from it:
Upon Mount Tabor, Jesus revealed to his disciples a heavenly mystery. While living among them he had spoken of the kingdom and of his second coming in glory, but to banish from their hearts any possible doubt concerning the kingdom and to confirm their faith in what lay in the future by its prefiguration in the present, he gave them on Mount Tabor a wonderful vision of his glory, a foreshadowing of the kingdom of heaven. It was as if he said to them: “As time goes by you may be in danger of losing your faith. To save you from this I tell you now that some standing here listening to me will not taste death until they have seen the Son of Man coming in the glory of his Father. “Moreover, in order to assure us that Christ could command such power when he wished, the evangelist continues: Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain where they were alone. There, before their eyes, he was transfigured. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Then the disciples saw Moses and Elijah appear, and they were talking to Jesus.
These are the divine wonders we celebrate today; this is the saving revelation given us upon the mountain; this is the festival of Christ that has drawn us here. Let us listen, then, to the sacred voice of God so compellingly calling us from on high, from the summit of the mountain, so that with the Lord’s chosen disciples we may penetrate the deep meaning of these holy mysteries, so far beyond our capacity to express. Jesus goes before us to show us the way, both up the mountain and into heaven, and - I speak boldly - it is for us now to follow him with all speed, yearning for the heavenly vision that will give us a share in his radiance, renew our spiritual nature and transform us into his own likeness, making us for ever sharers in his Godhead and raising us to heights as yet undreamed of.
So, for Martin and all those who think the Bible is untrue, it may take some digging or some divine providence, or just faith that God is not a liar, not today, not yesterday, and not ever, and that He inspired the Bible, but the answers are available - eventually.

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