Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up a mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying.
While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen. (Lk 9:28b-36)
Saint Peter, Saint John, and Saint James the Greater are the three privileged Apostles that witness two major events in the life of Christ. Not only do they witness Jesus’ Transfiguration, but they also witness Jesus’ Agony in the Garden. During the Transfiguration, Peter, John, and James see firsthand the Lord in all his divinity and splendor. It was the foreshadowing of what was to come for Christ’s body after his Passion, Death, and glorious Resurrection from the dead.
During the Transfiguration, they witness Jesus speaking to both Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the Old Law (Ten Commandments) for he was the mediator between God and Israelites on Mount Sinai. Elijah is considered the greatest of all the Old Testament prophets. For the Jews, speaking of the Law and Prophets is the way they referred to the Holy Scriptures. These two major Old Testament figures appear at the Transfiguration because Jesus would bring to fulfillment both the Law and the Prophets in the New Exodus that would take place during the New Passover and bring it to completion with the New Covenant.
As Peter professed the truth about Our Lord in the Scriptures, the “Son of the Living God” (Mt 16:16) and “the Christ of God” (Lk 9:20), he often also inserted his foot into his mouth on occasion. At the Transfiguration, Saint Peter suggests that making three tents (or tabernacles) for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah would be a good idea. Peter simply doesn’t understand and says the wrong thing. Making the three tents would put Jesus on the same playing field with Moses and Elijah, but Jesus is much more.
In the Old Testament, while the Israelites traveled in the desert for 40 years and before the Temple was built years later, the Ark of the Covenant that contained the manna from the desert (bread from heaven), tablets of stone (Ten Commandments – Word of God), and the staff of Aaron that budded (symbol of the high priest) was kept in the Tabernacle. If Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (Mt 5:17), then he is most certainly the fulfillment of the Tabernacle As Catholics, where do we keep the Holy Eucharist? In a Tabernacle!
After hearing the voice of God proclaim that Jesus is His only Son and listen to Him, it’s only Jesus that appears before the three apostles. Jesus is the completion of all. In the end, especially for us, it’s all about Jesus. Jesus is the New King; he’s the New Prophet, and the New High Priest. Let us listen to him!
In the Eastern lung of the Church, the Feast of the Transfiguration began in the fourth century and is one of the great twelve feasts celebrated each year. In the eleventh century, the celebration of the Feast of the Transfiguration became more popular and was celebrated in most regions of the Western Church.