What happened on the high mountain was not without precedent. Centuries before, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, his face shone so brightly that he had to cover it with a veil when he spoke to the people at the foot of the mountain. He was too bright for them to look at.
Moses was human. Christ is human and divine. The shining glory of Christ on the mountain of the transfiguration was even brighter. Not only His face but His whole body, even His clothing, became “dazzling white”. For a few brief moments, Peter, James and John saw their Master as He is on the other side of the veil that divides this world from eternity.
Peter wanted to prolong the vision. “Master, it is wonderful for us to be here. Let us make three tabernacles….” But the vision was not given in order to be frozen. The glory faded, or perhaps we should say that the glory was veiled once more. The window that had briefly opened between this world and the next was closed.
It was not our Lord’s divinity that they saw transfigured. On the mountain He shone because He briefly allowed His subsisting divine glory to transform His humanity. His humanity was transfigured by His Godhead. For a few moments His eternal glory illuminated the temporary shadows of this world.
That transfiguration was a momentary enlightenment. It was given to the three disciples to strengthen them in advance of what they would have to face when they later saw the Master tortured and killed in Jerusalem. In the face of that trauma they would need to remember the glory of the Lord, a glory temporarily eclipsed by His Passion, but which would then be revealed again in His resurrection and Ascension.
We all carry within our humanity something of the splendour of the Lord. The kingdom of heaven is within us. We are containers. In spite of our weaknesses and failings we are containers. If we reach down into ourselves we can find within us something of that divine life. In the forty days of Lent we try more assiduously to reach that core, that spark.
Our complete transfiguration will not happen in this life. Only after we have died, and only after God’s mercy has allowed us to rise up through Purgatory into heaven, only then shall we start to become truly like Christ. He is infinite. Our transformation into His likeness will be also be everlasting.