The Liturgical Home: The Feast of the Transfiguration

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The Feast of the Transfiguration, celebrated on August 6th, is a momentous event in the life of Christ and in the Christian tradition. It holds profound significance as it reveals a glimpse of the divine glory of Jesus Christ. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recount the Transfiguration. In these accounts, Jesus, accompanied by Peter, James, and John, ascends a mountain. He meets with Moses and Elijah and undergoes a remarkable transformation. 

Unfortunately, The Transfiguration is one of those events that often is a victim of reductionism. There’s so much that occurs in such a short amount of time, so much meaning there, so much symbolism, so much beauty, so much emotion that it is difficult for us to process so we make bulleted points. 

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If you look up the significance of the Transfiguration you’re often given a list:

  • Jesus’ divine nature is revealed
  • The Old and New Testaments come together
  • It’s one of five major events in the Life of Christ

The list goes on and on and while all of these points are true, they strip the event of its miraculousness and miss the enormity of the event.  The Transfiguration cannot be reduced to a bulleted list!

Jesus’ Transfiguration in Scripture

The Transfiguration is a remarkable moment where the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man converge. It is a moment where a man is not only a man but God himself, where heroes from the distant past suddenly appear, and the voice of God booms from the clouds.

In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up to a high mountain. There, He undergoes a transfiguration before them. His face shines like the sun, and his clothes become as white as light. This incredible event brings to mind Ezekiel’s description of the Lord: “I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire, and brilliant light surrounded him” (Ezekiel 1:27). Immediately, the disciples witness Jesus’ divine nature, confirming that He is not merely a prophet or a rabbi but the very Son of God.

Moses & Elijah

Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appear, engaging in conversation with Jesus on the mountain. The significance lies in the fact that these great heroes of the faith, once thought to be dead, are now very much alive and present before Jesus. Both Moses, the lawgiver, and Elijah, the great prophet, pointed to the coming of the Messiah. Here, at this moment, they witness the fulfillment of their labors and God’s faithful call. It is noteworthy that this encounter takes place on a mountain, a location where Moses and Elijah often met with God.

In Luke 9:31, we learn that Moses and Elijah are talking with Jesus about His departure, which He is about to fulfill in Jerusalem. An interesting point that is often overlooked is that the Greek word for “departure” is “exodus.” So, Moses, who led the Israelites out of slavery in the original “Exodus,” and Elijah, the prophet who led a spiritual “exodus,” leading the people of Israel away from idolatry and back to faithfulness to God, are speaking with Jesus about the ultimate “exodus.” This ultimate “exodus” will deliver God’s people once and for all from the slavery of sin and death through His death and resurrection—an incredible reality!

My Beloved Son

As Moses and Elijah depart from Jesus, Peter recognizes the significance of the moment and suggests putting up three tents. While he is still speaking, a bright cloud covers them all, and a voice from the cloud says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased. Listen to him!” This moment harkens back to the Old Testament, where God often spoke to people like Moses and Elijah from a cloud, indicating his divine presence. It also recalls Jesus’ baptism, where a voice from the heavens says, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

The divine voice reaffirms Jesus’ identity as God’s Son and endorses the truth of His teachings. Jesus is not just another prophet; He speaks with the authority of God Himself. This divine command echoes throughout the ages, reminding Christians to heed Christ’s words and imitate His life of love, compassion, and self-sacrifice.

The Transfiguration and First Fruits

In some Christian traditions, people customarily celebrate The Feast of the Transfiguration by eating fruit, particularly grapes. The timing of the Transfiguration in early August corresponds with the harvest of grapes and other first fruits in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions where the tradition originated.

With the harvest of these fruits, the people of God would remember God’s goodness and His infinite bounty. They would offer thanks to God for His generosity. The people would bring the fruit to the church for a blessing and then the community would eat it with great celebration. The practice of blessing fruit on the Feast of the Transfiguration continues to this day in many Byzantine communities.

As early as 220 AD, in the work of St. Hyppolytus, we find a prayer of thanksgiving for the new fruits. He specifically mentions the blessing of the following fruits: grapes, figs, pomegranates, pears, mulberries, peaches, and almonds.

Ways to Celebrate

Read Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, or Luke 9:28-36. 

Light a candle to symbolize the glory of Christ during The Transfiguration. 

If possible, take a nature walk or hike to a nearby hill or mountain, just like Jesus did with Peter, James, and John.

Because the Transfiguration is connected with the grape harvest and the first fruits of the season, eat something with grapes or any other kind of fruit, particularly a fruit pie.

Make a Chocolate Silk Pie (see below). I love making Chocolate Silk Pie for the Feast of the Transfiguration because it’s such a fun (and delicious!) representation of the earthly and the heavenly meeting together! When you place a slice of the pie on your plate, you clearly see the earthly (the chocolate custard) meeting together with the heavenly (the whipped cream)!

Chocolate Silk Pie Recipe

Crust:

12 graham crackers (the 4-section large pieces)

1/3 cup butter, melted 

1/3 cup sugar 

Filling:

4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate

1-1/2 cups sugar 

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened but still cold 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

4 eggs, cold 

Topping:

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar 

For the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Crush the crackers in a food processor or resealable bag. Pour them into a bowl and stir in the melted butter and sugar. Press into a pie pan and bake until golden and set, 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

For the filling:

In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the baking chocolate until stirrable (about 45 seconds on high). Set aside to cool.

It is important for the bowl and ingredients to be cold for the next stage of making the filling–to get the right texture and result. In a large chilled bowl with an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

When the melted chocolate cools, drizzle it over the butter/sugar mixture. Add the vanilla extract. Beat the mixture thoroughly until combined (on a stand mixer, you will be using the whisk attachment).

Turn your mixer to medium speed. Over a period of 15 to 20 minutes, add in the 4 cold eggs, one at a time, leaving about 5 minutes between each egg addition. Once the pie filling is well mixed, pour it into the baked pie shell, scraping every last speck of it out of the bowl. Smooth out the pie filling and place the pie in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours (preferably longer).

For the topping: Add the heavy cream and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip until it is stiff. Cover the pies with a thick layer of cream. Grate the semisweet chocolate over the top.

Spread into the pie crust and cover with plastic wrap. Chill until cold and set for 2 to 3 hours. Before serving, whip the cream with the confectioners’ sugar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon vanilla until it forms soft peaks. Spread over the pie filling.

Recipe from the Food Network.

Cover image: detail from The Transfiguration by Raphael, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Author

Ashley Tumlin Wallace

Ashley Tumlin Wallace, the author of the Liturgical Home series of books and articles at Anglican Compass, is a homeschooling mom of four and the wife of an Anglican priest. She and her family live in the panhandle of Florida.

View more from Ashley Tumlin Wallace

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