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Photo: Giovanni-Bellin, c. 1480
'Desire for Holiness'
The Fourth Luminous Mystery: The Transfiguration
By Fr. Robert Vennetti, MIC
Ninth of a 20-part series on the Mysteries of the Rosary. Next week: The Institution of the Eucharist.
In the Fourth Luminous Mystery, the apostles Peter, James, and John experience the Transfiguration of Jesus. This happens after Jesus makes a prediction about His upcoming Passion, death, and Resurrection, which the apostles do not understand.
The Transfiguration event is included in three Gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke (see Mt 17:1-9; Mk 9:2-10; Lk 9:28-36). One of the fruits of this mystery is the desire for holiness, and this mystery shows us that a life of prayer is essential for this desire and for our life's journey.
We are told that "Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While He was praying His face changed in appearance and His clothing became dazzling white" (Lk 9:28-29). He was transfigured and "His face shone like the sun" (Mt 17:2). Jesus chose these three apostles for this special encounter during prayer, but it is also meant to teach us to accept Jesus' invitation to pray with Him and to Him as our God. In this prayer encounter, the apostles got a glimpse of Jesus' Divinity. Jesus desired that they realize that in addition to Him being truly man, He is truly God — "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God," as we profess in the Nicene Creed.
In this mystery, as we "contemplate with Mary the face of Christ" (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Pope John Paul II), we see that our prayer is meant to be deeper than just us saying words to God. For prayer is meant to be a conversation with God, just as Moses and Elijah converse with Jesus (see Mt 17:3).
Conversing with God, speaking with the God-man Jesus, is meant to lead us deeper into the mystery of who Jesus is. As we contemplate or gaze with awe at the person of Jesus Christ, He leads us deeper into the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Jesus wants to increase holiness in us by deepening our participation in the very life of the Holy Trinity, which we have freely been given through the Sacrament of Baptism.
This mystery can help us realize that as we converse with God and gaze upon His goodness and beauty in prayer, we are to be transfigured, so to speak, so that our desires, thoughts, words, and actions become more united to Jesus, the always obedient Son of the Eternal Father. We then seek to do what the Father tells us, which is to follow Jesus, of whom the Father says, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him" (Mt 17:5).
After the Transfiguration, Jesus then led the apostles down the mountain (see Mt 17:5), thus showing the apostles — and us — that we are strengthened and transformed by God in prayer and the Sacraments. Then we can journey with Jesus into the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, striving to make known God our Father "who is rich in mercy" (Eph 2:4) and Jesus Christ, the Divine Mercy, who gives us a glimpse of the glory of the resurrected life.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions that we can gain a glimpse of heaven through the Transfiguration: "The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ's glorious coming, when He 'will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body.' But it also recalls that 'it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God'"(556).
Jesus desires to increase our faith through prayer and contemplating this beautiful mystery of the Transfiguration. He assures us that He is with us, so we can "rise, and ... not be afraid" (Mt 17:7). For if we continue to contemplate the face of Christ with Mother Mary, to pray for the desire for holiness, to listen and follow Jesus, we will one day contemplate and praise our Triune God forever, as God changes our lowly body to be like Christ's glorious body (see Phil 3:21).
Fr. Robert Vennetti, MIC, is the assistant rector at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy.
1. The Annunciation
2. The Visitation
3. The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus
4. The Presentation in the Temple
5. The Finding in the Temple
1. The Baptism of Jesus
2. The Wedding at Cana
3. The Proclamation of the Gospel
4. The Transfiguration
5. The Institution of the Eucharist
1. The Agony in the Garden
2. The Scourging at the Pillar
3. The Crowning with Thorns
4. The Carrying of the Cross
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus
1. The Resurrection
2. The Ascension
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit
4. The Assumption
5. The Coronation