Opening address by the Prior of Bose

Bose, 16 September 2007
ENZO BIANCHI, prior of Bose
The Transfiguration is the mystery of transformation: our body and this creation are invited to transfigure, to become “other”

XV International Ecumenical Conference

Sunday 16 September 2007

The Gospel of the Transfiguration:
A Biblical Spiritual Exegesis

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The Account of the Transfiguration in the Synoptic Gospels

The account of the Transfiguration of Jesus in three of the Synoptic Gospels (Mk 9.2-10; Mt 17.1-9; Lk 9.28-36) occupies a central position which signals a decisive turning point from the ministry of Jesus in Galilee to his ascent to Jerusalem. To be more precise, the account comes in an identical sequence of events in the three Gospels: Peter’s confession (Mk 8.27-30 et par), first announcement of the passion and of the prerequisites for following Jesus (Mk 8.31-38 et par), transfiguration, second announcement of the passion (Mk 9.30-32 et par).
In the fourth Gospel, the event of the Transfiguration is absent, but this entire Gospel is a revelation of the glory of Jesus, from the manifestation of his glory at Cana (Jn 2.1-12) to his glorification on the Cross (Jn 12.23-38; 17.1; etc), to such a degree that already in the foreword the evangelist can attest “and we beheld his glory”(Jn 1.14). One should not forget that this event is also recorded in detail in the writings of the Apostles (the only other similar case being the Last Supper), to be precise in Peter’s Second Letter, which invites us to discern in the Transfiguration an anticipation of the parousia, of the coming in glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet 1.16-19).
The intention of the Synoptic Gospels and Peter’s Letter is that the event of the Transfiguration should be read and contempated as an historical event, that is to say as an event which took place in historical time, in the life of Jesus, in front of witnesses for whom it had a decisive significance and who proceeded to recount it: in other words it is not a myth nor a sort of Christian midrash! Certainly exegists find it difficult to determine the literary genre: apocalyptic vision? divine theophany? messianic enthronement? re-reading of the transfiguration of Moses (Ex 34.29-35)? It is true that the account cannot be contained within the limits of one literary genre and remains an interpretation of an event which really happened within the life of Jesus and which is included and expressed in a different manner in each of the three Gospels. Their intention is to provide testimony on Jesus which will help readers in their path of paschal faith: for them the Transfiguration is Revelation, it is like lifting the veil from Jesus so that the disciples see the true identity of the Lord.
I would simply like to reflect on this Gospel account, this burning bush in which God reveals his person; I shall attempt to contemplate and read according to the teachings of Origen, the garments of Christ, which are the words of the Gospel, invoking the Holy Spirit so that it may make these garments resplendent and as white as the light (Comment on Matthew XII,38 [on Mt 17.2]).