The Transfiguration of Jesus is an event reported in the New Testament in which Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant upon a mountain. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36) describe it, and 2 Peter 1:16-18 refers to it.
In these accounts Jesus and three of his apostles go to a mountain (the Mount of Transfiguration). On the mountain, Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light, the prophets Moses and Elijah appear next to him and he speaks with them. Jesus is then called "Son" by a voice in the sky, assumed to be God the Father, as in the Baptism of Jesus.
The Transfiguration is one of the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. This miracle is unique among others that appear in the Canonical gospels, in that the miracle happens to Jesus himself. Thomas Aquinas considered the Transfiguration "the greatest miracle" in that it complemented baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven.
In Christian teachings, the Transfiguration is a pivotal moment, and the setting on the mountain is presented as the point where human nature meets God: the meeting place for the temporal and the eternal, with Jesus himself as the connecting point, acting as the bridge between heaven and earth.
Relatively speaking, the transfiguration is a theme that is neglected in Western Christianity.1 In Eastern Orthodoxy, generally speaking, it has been kept more lively, at a theological and liturgical level, although some non-Eastern churches join the Orthodox in marking August 6 as its festival day. In 1456 Pope Callistus III ordered its celebration on that date as thanksgiving for victory over the Turks - an irony, if we connect the transfiguration with the call to suffering or self-denying discipleship in the passages which precede the accounts of it.2 But commemoration of the transfiguration in the churches actually goes further back than this in Western church history, predating the separation of Western and Eastern communions in the eleventh century. Still, the subject will strike some as better adapted for consideration by the more mystical mentality of Orthodoxy (as is often supposed) than the more rational Western one (even if the West is changing).
Like the baptismal story this is a symbolic narrative which celebrates that in Jesus heaven and earth intersect. We might find other ways of saying this. In him God and humanity come together. Turning the imagery upside down: in him surfaces the depth of life, the divine reality. However we express it, the scene recalls the baptism, especially in Matthew, where both are public events (in Mark the baptism is not).
Not only the voice from the cloud and its words but also the context of the story connect with the baptism. 16:28 had just reported Jesus' role as judge to come, who would judge all according to their performance, a theme also in the context of the baptism in Matthew. 16:29 also speaks of his coming and of the kingdom, themes present in the baptismal context. And if we look further, there is even a connection between the suffering which is announced in 16:21 and Jesus' insistence of doing God's will in the baptism scene and being recognised for it by God in the words from heaven.