This week we celebrate the Transfiguration, when our Lord allowed something of His true splendor to shine through His (our) humanity for Peter, John and James. That’s an amazing grace!
Have you ever wondered why some people receive amazing graces and others don’t? St Maximus Confessor (d 682) gives an interesting insight while he comments on Scripture: “The Lord does not always appear in glory to all who stand before Him. To beginners He appears in the form of a servant (Phil 2:7); to those able to follow Him as He climbs the high mountain of His Transfiguration He appears in the form of God, the form in which He existed before the world came to be (Jn 17:5). It is therefore possible for the same Lord not to appear in the same way to all who stand before Him, but to appear to some in one way and to others in another way, according to the measure of each person’s faith.”
Speaking of graces, God bestows different gifts according to His plan. St John Chrysostom (d 406) adds this: “Why does Jesus take with Him these three only? Because these were superior to the rest. And Peter indeed showed his superiority by exceedingly loving Him; John, by being exceedingly loved by Him; and James again by his answer which he gave with his brother, saying ‘We are able (to drink this cup)’ ” (Mt 20:22) [Homily 56].
Perhaps we should be careful what we ask for. It is said that there are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.
Our earthly fate notwithstanding, we are permitted moments of Transfiguration in the proper reception of Holy Communion in the state of grace. Communion is more than a mere vision of something of Christ’s splendor. The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, not a mere appearance or vision. Moreover, as St Thomas Aquinas (d 1274) wrote, it is also a “pledge of future glory, containing in itself all delight”.
St Gregory of Nazianzus (d 389) ties us all into the mystery of the Transfiguration, saying: “He was bright as the lightning on the mountain and became more luminous than the sun, initiating us into the mystery of the future” [Oration 3.19, On the Son].
Reception of Communion is for us an encounter greater even than the Transfiguration. It opens up the way to a bright future.
Fr John Zuhlsdorf
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