The Transfiguration: The Beginning in Your End

Beginnings, endings, and purpose

“In my beginning is my end,” begins T.S. Eliot in “East Coker,” the second part his masterwork Four Quartets. It’s an inversion of Mary, Queen of Scot’s epitaph, “In my end is my beginning.” Queen Mary’s statement is on the nature of death as the doorway to the fullest life in heaven, and Eliot’s is a reflection on the frailty and passing nature of life and its place in the eternal.

If Lent is a season for meditating on our physical end (and Christ’s physical end at the Cross)—a season with Queen Mary’s epitaph in mind—then the appearance of the Transfiguration in the Gospel for the second Sunday in Lent (an ancient practice) is a reading with Eliot’s line from Four Quartets. We begin lent with the end in mind.

The Transfiguration is a foretaste of heaven for Peter, James, and John, meant to steel them for the journey and sufferings ahead, fundamentally for Our Lord’s passion, but also for their own life of faith beyond Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection.

There are many articles, homilies, and books written on the Transfiguration, but here’s a trinity of good ones:

Father Cantalamessa (former papal household preacher):

For things to change also for us, as for those three disciples on Tabor, something similar must happen in our lives to what happens to a young man or woman when they fall in love. In love, the other, who before was one of many, or perhaps an unknown, all of a sudden is the only one, the only one in the world one is interested in. Everything else recedes and becomes part of a pale background. One cannot think of anything else. There is a real transfiguration. The beloved is seen as in a luminous halo. Everything about that person seems beautiful, even the beloved’s defects. One might even feel unworthy of the person loved. True love generates humility.

Commentary on Gospel of Second Sunday or Lent (2005)

Pope Francis

With Peter, James and John we too climb the Mount of the Transfiguration today and stop in contemplation of the face of Jesus to retrieve the message and translate it into our lives; for we too can be transfigured by Love. In reality, love is capable of transfiguring everything. Love transfigures all! Do you believe this? May the Virgin Mary, whom we now invoke with the prayer of the Angelus, sustain us on this journey.

Sunday Angelus Message March 1, 2015

Pope Benedict XVI

Dear brothers and sisters, we all need inner light to overcome the trials of life. This light comes from God and it is Christ who gives it to us, the One in whom the fullness of deity dwells (cf. Col 2:9). Let us climb with Jesus the mountain of prayer and, contemplating his face full of love and truth, let us allow ourselves to be filled with his light. Let us ask the Virgin Mary, our guide on the journey of faith, to help us to live out this experience in the season of Lent, finding every day a few moments for silent prayer and for listening to the Word of God.

Sunday Angelus Message March 4, 2012

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