GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
...the Old Testament reading for today is from the book of Daniel. Actually, let's see it now. If you just take a second to turn back to the book of Daniel 7, it would be easier to show it than to just recount it. The reading for today on the feast of the Transfiguration might seem strange. It's from Daniel 7:9-14. This is the famous account of the coming of the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven. But if you look at it, there are a few parallels with the Transfiguration that are worth highlighting. For example, Daniel says:
As I looked, thrones were placed
and one that was ancient of days took his seat;
his raiment was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
its wheels were burning fire.
A stream of fire issued
and came forth from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.
And if you skip down to verse 13:
I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
Okay, why is that the background for the feast of the Transfiguration? You would think, no, the coming of the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven, that should be a background passage, that should be the Old Testament reading, say, for the Mount of Olives discourse when Jesus is talking about his final coming, about his second advent, about his Parousia. And absolutely, there are parallels. That is background to that gospel text. But it's also background to the Transfiguration because of two key elements. First, notice the Ancient of Days. When Daniel sees him, it says his clothing is white as snow and his hair like white wool, pure wool. That's what it means, right? Throne of fiery flames, wheels of burning fire. So who wears garments white like light, right, in the Old Testament? Well, it's heavenly beings. So the Ancient of Days is another name for God, and when we look at the divine vestments, they are white vestments to signify His heavenly identity.
The other thing is the presence of the cloud. When the Son of Man comes in the Old Testament, he comes on the clouds. Coming on the clouds is another mark of divinity or heavenly identity in the Old Testament. So if you look elsewhere in the Old Testament, whenever it talks about someone coming on the clouds, it's always God who comes on the clouds. And not just any kind of cloud, like a cirrus cloud or a cumulus cloud, but it's the glory cloud, the cloud of God's divine majesty and glory. So, as Old Testament scholars have pointed out, when this figure of the Son of Man appears in Daniel 7, he's paradoxical because he looks like a human being. That's what Son of Man means. I saw one like a Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven. So he looks like a human being, but he's actually a heavenly being. He's a divine being because he does what God does. He comes on the glory cloud, He comes on the cloud of heaven, and then he's given a Kingdom where he's going to reign forever and ever over all humanity, right? And over all creation. So he's a strange figure, this Son of Man, because he looks human and divine at the same time.
Well, that's the background to the Transfiguration because when Jesus ascends the mountain in Matthew 17, Mark 9 and Luke 9, in all three Gospels, he is metamorphosed. He's transfigured so that his garments become white like light, and his face shines like the sun. In other words, he goes from looking like an earthly being to looking like a heavenly being. He goes from looking like just a man to looking like God, because the Transfiguration is nothing other than the revelation of Jesus' divine glory. What Jesus is doing in the Transfiguration is giving the disciples, and not just the disciples. Who else is there? All three Gospels agree. Moses and Elijah, the two people who wanted to see the face of God in the Old Testament but couldn't see it. Now they get to see his glory unveiled, but it's the glory of the only Son of the Father who now has taken on a human nature, who has a human face and allows them to see the face of God in the glory of the unveiled Jesus, the transfigured Jesus on the mountain.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
This is a really neat passage because it is one of the few times in the Catholic epistles, in the letters, that we have an allusion in one of the Catholic letters to an event that's mentioned in the Gospels. In this case, in 2 Peter, Peter here is alluding to the experience of the Transfiguration on the mountain, as a validation of his and the other apostles' authority to those to whom they're writing. So it's a fascinating text. So just take a minute to look at this. In verse 16, we read:
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,”
we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
And then the passage goes on to say:
And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
And then thelectionary doesn't have this, but I'll just read the last two verses because they're interesting. It says:
First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
So the reason I add that part at the end is not only because that's a crucial text in the whole debate over sola scriptura and the relationship between Scripture or Tradition and the living Magisterium in the interpretation of Scripture, but also because it gives you the context. Basically, what Peter is saying here to his audience is that they are to accept the authority of the Apostles and to pay attention to the teaching of the Apostles in the same way that they would pay attention to Scripture. Because the imagery here of:
You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
That image of a lamp that gives light is the same image that's used for the word of God in the Old Testament, right? "Your word," like it says in the Psalms, "is a lamp unto my feet and light to my path." That's from Psalm 119. In that Psalm, that image of a lamp shining in darkness is used for the word of God. And so what Peter is saying here to his audience is just like you would pay attention to Scripture as a lamp in a dark place, so too pay attention to us because we have the prophetic word made sure, made certain, right? So the Apostolic preaching is akin to the light that is shown by Scripture itself, because Scripture is the word of God inscribed, the Word inspired and written, but the preaching of the apostles is also the word of God, but it's the Word of God proclaimed by those who were sent out by Jesus to proclaim the Word. So this is a very powerful passage here, just in terms of how we understand the relationship between Scripture, the written Word of God, and Apostolic preaching, the proclaimed Word of God that comes to us through the teaching of the Apostles.
And we could do a whole video just on that, but I just wanted to highlight that, and in this case, what's interesting is the reason Peter gives to his audience that they should listen to his word and the word of the other Apostles and treat it like a lamp shining in a dark place is precisely because they saw Jesus transfigured on the holy mountain. They heard the voice of the Father saying, "This is my beloved Son," and they were “eyewitnesses of the majesty of Jesus". So, this is a really powerful testimony to the importance of, sorry, it's kind of redundant, but I'll say it's an important testimony to the importance of eyewitness testimony in the early Church, right? Sometimes when people discuss the early Church, they will emphasize the creativity of the early Church, the fact that the Church wasn't hesitant to make things up and attribute them to Jesus, that really what matters is the moral or the spiritual implications, the moral directives of a particular story, not the event itself or what happened behind it. The Gospels are more like folklore or legends than they are like biographies or history. And in other videos, I've covered how that view is impossible to square with what the Gospels themselves say about the kind of literature they are. They are not folklore or legend, they're ancient biographies. And Luke, in chapter one, for example, will emphasize that he's telling the truth about what happened. In the ending of the Gospel of John, John the Evangelist will likewise say similar things, like “he who saw it has borne witness, and we know his testimony is true.” So the truth of the testimony about the events that are being described in the Gospels is something that's part of their literary genre.
But here in 2 Peter for today, it's interesting that he contrasts their role, the Apostles' role, the "we" of the apostles as eyewitnesses, epoptai
is the word there. It's the same term that gets used by Luke to describe the people whom he consulted when he was writing his Gospel. He looked at those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning, in other words, those who had seen the events. The same thing is being said here, where Peter in 2 Peter is contrasting eyewitnesses to the Transfiguration with cleverly devised myths, right? The Greek word there, mythos,
is the same word that's used to describe the Greek myths, like Ovid's Metamorphoses
or some of the myths about the various gods and goddesses, whether the Roman gods or the Greek gods. So this is an important passage because in it, Peter in 2 Peter is making clear that the kind of thing that the Apostles are proclaiming are different than the myths of the Greeks and the Romans, right? These are not tales that aren't true but might have a true message, which myths often will function as. No, these are the kind of things that eyewitnesses will record and report about events that actually happened.
So, 2 Peter 1 is a very important text because it testifies to the early Christian affirmation that the Transfiguration is an actual miracle that takes place in history. It's not a myth, it's not a legend, right? It's not some oral tradition that was just created out of whole cloth or out of the imagination or the Christology of the evangelists, of the Apostles, I should say. But rather, it is the Apostolic preaching, the Apostolic testimony, the Apostolic witness to something they themselves saw on the mountaintop.
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