It was a about a week since Jesus has first told his disciples that he was destined to suffer, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death on a cross. Then Saint Peter had taken Jesus aside and remonstrated with him: 'This must not happen to you.'
Some years ago, Fr Peter Edgar, then our Prior Provincial, had the very sad task of having to go to the Dominican convent at Carisbrooke to tell the Nuns that the convent would have to close. Peter told me later that one of the sister interjected and said that God would not let the convent die. All he could reply was what Saint Paul tells the Romans: 'He let his own Son die'!
'Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray'; when on a journey it is often advantageous to climb a hill to see what lies ahead. As Jesus took these three disciples up the mountain, their thoughts might well have turned to the hill in Moriah where Abraham led his only son, carrying on his back the wood on which he was to be sacrificed. Or to that other mountain, Sinai, where the ten commandments were revealed to Moses.
'And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white A cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"' What is revealed here is not only the glory of pure angelic spirit, but of the spirit through the body, glory of the spiritualised body of man. Not the glory of God alone, but the glory of the Son of Man, the Son of God made flesh.
And the cloud that overshadowed them has nothing to do with meteorological forms we know but was like the brightness that conceals rather than reveals, that we experience when we look directly at the sun in the sky.
This enlightening glimpse of Christ's glory, usually unseen, was given to the three Apostles to strengthen and encourage them for when they would see Christ in the garden of Gethsemane and on the way of the cross, not transfigured but disfigured.
'And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.' As the group of four turned to come down the mountain none was more conspicuous than any other. A stranger might have met them and would never have known that one among them was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whose glory a few moments before had been so conspicuously revealed.
Jesus is in the world today, in his Church, in you and me. Can the world around us see something of the glory of Christ in our lives? We have been given a glimpse of that glory which, please God, will one day be ours for eternity. May we, by the lives we live in union with Christ, give others a glimpse of the glory of Christ.