A composite photograph of insect metamorphosis from larvae through chrysalis to butterfly.
Metamorphosis is usually used to describe the transformation of an insect or amphibian from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages.
The word is also used to describe a change in the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one.
An icon depicting the Transfiguration entitled Metamorphosis in Greek
The Icon shows Christ flanked by Moses and Elijah distinguished by the inscriptions in Greek: “The Prophet Elijah” and “The Prophet Moses” respectively. In the foreground Peter, James and John who had accompanied Jesus up the mountain can be seen lying on the ground at the feet of Jesus.
The usual red (for Martyrdom) and blue (for his Divinity) colours in the clothes of Jesus have been depicted brighter if compared to the purple and red vestments of Elijah and Moses.
The halo on Jesus’ head appears more elaborate and contains the acrostic for God (OωN) Yhave, and outside the halo, the acrostic for Jesus Christ (IC - XC) Ιησους Χριστος. Jesus has his left leg ahead of the right, in a clear movement of determination to move forward “towards his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem”.
An oval of lighter colours surround the image of Christ depicting the cloud and the light that his presence emanated: a light that blinded the Disciples and the cloud that filled them with terror.
Luke 9: 28-36
28“Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’ -not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen”.
It is impossible to appreciate what happens in the Transfiguration unless one considers that this remarkable scene recounted by all Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) takes place just a few days after Jesus had, for the very first time, told his Disciples He was going to die. When Jesus told his Disciples He was going to die, they were offended and scandalized.
The Disciples could not make sense of the meaning of the life of Jesus ending with his death on the Cross, even if (or precisely because) they had been with Jesus for about three years into the three-and-a-half year of his ministry. At this point they had already witnessed most of his miracles and had understood in their own way that He was the Messiah.
The Gospel of Luke includes the Transfiguration after the Feeding of the Five Thousands followed by the question Jesus posed to his Disciples about his identity. Peter affirmed that Jesus was the Messiah, just as it is recorded in the Gospel of Mark as well. In all of the three accounts narrating the first announcement of his Death, Jesus adds a sentence in which He demands of his Disciples to follow him on the path of the Cross and self-denial.
The eighth day, rather than giving a historical timeframe, points to the Early Christian Community gathering on the day of the Resurrection of Jesus (not anymore on the Jewish Sabbath in the Synagogues) for the celebration of the Breaking of the Bread. The same Breaking of Bread Jesus himself performed in front of Cleophas and his anonymous companion as they fled to Emmaus scandalized by the Crucifixion of Jesus .
The Greek term used by Luke to describe the Transfiguration, (‘metamorphized’ is the Greek word) refers to the transformation that will be affected in Jesus through his Death and Resurrection: He who was in the form of man, rose from the dead and was triumphantly dressed in the form of God. The appearance of the less attractive human state (caterpillar) results in the absolute beauty of divine majesty (butterfly).
Jesus who had so carefully veiled his glory, took this glory to himself for a brief moment on Mount Tabor, anticipating the Mystery that will be fulfilled in the other mountain outside the walls of Jerusalem: Mount Calvary.
A hinge moment in the life of Jesus
In the Gospel of Luke this moment acts like a hinge in the ministry of Jesus. Having dedicated his time to teaching and healing along the paths of Galilee and Samaria, now Jesus can set his compass and start his journey up to Jerusalem.
Comforting as it may be for the Disciples to witness the glorious majesty of the divinity of Christ, this text also signifies the dramatic consequence of the Messiahship adopted by Jesus. Paraphrasing Psalm 122, Jesus went up gladly to Jerusalem to be judged and condemned to death, and thus become the very Judge of mercy who will take away the sins of the world and sit in his throne of glory by the side of God the Father, the merciful Judge of the world.
The prayer of Jesus
Jesus went up to the mountain to pray. Jesus seems to turn to prayer in search for a sign from God to confirm his will to move forward towards his voluntarily accepted fate.
Moses, and Elijah, who are about the most trustful witnesses one could find in Hebrew history, give assent to the desire of Jesus. Their presence and dialogue are the answer Jesus seems to be looking for.
The experience of the Disciples
We can argue why Jesus chose only three of the Disciples to be closer to him, in this and in other important occasions. The text however shows the impact of this experience in this restricted group of Disciples: Peter, James and John.
The narrator seems to be a character who witnesses what is happening from a vantage point. He sees Jesus going up the mountain and how He is praying. He sees how the face of Jesus changed. He then gives voice to what the three Disciples experienced, what they saw, and how they felt.
The narrator is not one of the three Disciples, but he has heard the story from either of them and describes these different states of their souls: the tiredness, their effort to be awake, the reward from being awake (“they saw his glory”), their desire to perpetuate that moment, their confusion (“[Peter] did not know what he said”), their terror and finally: silence as they found themselves alone with Jesus.
One may say that this could well be the description by some Christian Mystics of their intimate relationship with Christ in prayer, a common experience to the soul that thirsts for Christ and looks for Him in the quite of his/her heart.
Song of Songs 3: 1-5
“Upon my bed at night. I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer.
I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but found him not.
The sentinels found me, as they went about in the city.
‘Have you seen him whom my soul loves?’
Scarcely had I passed them, when I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go until I brought him into my mother’s house,
and into the chamber of her that conceived me.
‘I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the wild does:
do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready!’”.
At the beginning of Lent, this Gospel introduces us into the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.
o What is God inspiring me to do during this time of conversion?
o In my experience of discipleship, how have I grown into my understanding of the
experience of the Cross?
Lent questions us on the quality of our prayer. Like the Disciples we also feel tiredness, and the temptation to give up.
o Have we experienced the desire to perpetuate moments of prayer?
o Have we ever felt “terror” or “fear” of losing control of our own decisions if we
decided to let God take hold of our will?
o How much is silence a catalyst of our encounter with Jesus?
How is the Sunday Eucharist a transforming event that effects in me the transfiguration from my old self into a new creature?
Jesus is our model and pattern, He relied on prayer when He took important decisions in life. We contemplate his relationship with God the Father.
We contemplate how God the Father loves Christ the Son and how God the Son loves the Father as He surrenders all His love and will to Him
Matthew 16:21: “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised”.  Matthew 16:13: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”.  Mark 8:29: “You are the Messiah”.  Luke 24: 30-31: “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight”.  Philippians 2: 6-11: “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.  Psalm 122: 3-5: “Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together. To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord. For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house of David”.  The text clearly shows how Jesus had taken a decision to move forward towards “his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem”.