Opening address by the Prior of Bose

2. Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets.

When the Transfiguration of Jesus took place, in some manner “the heavens opened” (cf. Mk 1.10 et par) and Moses and Elijah appeared and they were talking with Jesus (Mk 9.4 et par).
Moses the Law-giver, and therefore the Law, is named more than once in the Synoptic Gospels precisely in relation to the Law (cf. Mk 1.44; 7.10; etc), but only here does he appear in person. In the high mount of Sinai-Horeb Moses was granted a number of theophanies, and because of his intimacy with God he had received as a gift the luminous countenance which the sons of Israel could not bear to behold (cf. Ex 34.29-35). He was probably the prophet awaited for at the end of days, when – according to the Poem of the Four Nights at Targum in Exodus 12.42 – when he ascended to the mount, while the Messiah King descended from on high. Moses was therefore expected in the messianic times, when a prophet similar to him would have risen, to whom the holy people of Israel would have to listen: “ The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deut 18.15). But Moses was also who had beseeched God: “Show me thy glory!” (Ex 33.18) and heard God reply: “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me and live…thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen” (Ex 33.20-23). In the event of the Transfiguration, Moses is present, living in the world of God, and finally sees Jesus Christ, the glory of God, who at that time appeared as “the glory of the God invisible”(cf. Heb 1.3), the “Lord of Glory”(1Cor. 2.8), whose face “shines with the splendour of the glory of God” (cf. 2Cor 4.6).
It is Elijah who appears next to Moses; Elijah, the prototype of prophets, who also ascended on a mount for a revelation “in a still small voice” (1Kings 19.12), who was also expected in the end of days “before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes” (Mal 3.23), before “The ‘Sun of Justice’ in whose rays lies salvation rises for those who fear the Name of God” (cf. Mal 3.20; cf. also Sir 48.10-11). Elijah is a representation and synthesis of all the prophecies in the Old Testament, those that were concluded by John the Baptist, who was also seen and identified as a “new Elijah” (cf. Mt 11.14; 17.10), a precursor of Christ in life, in preaching the Kingdom to come, in witnessing and in violent death.
Mose and Elijah, the Law and the prophets who are a synthesis of all the Scriptures of Israel, the First Testament, stand next to Jesus as witnesses and interpreters. Indeed, in their “talking together” (sunlalein cf. Mk 9.4) with Christ they show an authentic spiritual interpetation being enacted: Jesus is the interpreter of the Law and of the prophets, who “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24.27); Moses and Elijah, defined by Luke as “two men”, are they who will be present at the empty tomb, will interpret the words said by Jesus during his life and will proclaim him Crucified and Risen (cf. Lk 24.4-7). It is in this perspective that Luke specifies that Moses and Elijah “spake with Jesus of his decease (elegon ten exodon autou) which he should accomplish in Jerusalem” (Lk 9.31). The Law and the prophets therefore bear witness to the necessitas passionis, the necessity of Christ’s passion, they indicate him as the Servant of the Lord who must go through kenosis to exhaltation, and in this way they show the continuity of faith between Old and New Alliance.
The messianic expectations of Israel are now truly fulfilled, and Jesus Messiah appears as the living exegesis and true fulfilment of the Scriptures. It is with this conviction that Origen notes:

If one understands and contemplates the Son of God transfigured to a point where his face is like the sun and his garments white as the light, one will see, contemplating Jesus in the manner, Moses the Law and Elijah, who is not simply one prophet but represents all prophets, while they converse with Jesus…And if one has seen the glory of Moses having perceived that the spiritual Law is one and the same with the word of Jesus, and having perceived that in the prophets “wisdom is concealed in mystery” (1Cor 2.7), then one has seen Moses and Elijah in glory, seen them together with Jesus (Commentary on Matthew, XII 38.29-37; 43-49 [on Mt 17.2-3]).

How can one forget the mosaic in San Apollinare in Classe at Ravenna, where Moses and Elijah stand on each side of the glorious cross, whereas beneath the cross there are three sheep representing the witnesses to the Transfiguration? In this mosaic Jesus is represented by the cross, the subject of the conversation between Moses and Elijah; it is truly an extraordinary figurative and highly theological representation!
And just so as to make this vision become full reality, “Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for thee, and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Mk 9.5). He thought perhaps that the end of days had arived? He thought perhaps of the tents of the feast of Sukkoth, a feast full of eschatological connotations? He thought perhaps of setting up for Jesus, Moses and Elijah the tent Moses built to meet the God (cf. Ex 33.7-11)? In any case, Peter, James and John “do not know how to respond” to this event nor to that at Gethsemane – note that the same expression is used in Mk 8.6 (ouk edei ti apokrithe) and 14.40 (ouk edeisan ti apokrithosin)! – and are struck with fear by the revelation that was destined for them, the same fear experienced by the women on Easter morning (cf. Mk 16.5-8).