The Evident and the Transfigured
by Dr. Rebecca Oas
As we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, it’s worth reflecting on the fact that Our Lord was not transformed on Mount Thabor [Tabor], but transfigured. That is, it was His appearance that was changed before the eyes of the Apostles. I observe that Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines transfigure as “to change the appearance of something or someone,” whereas Google’s built-in dictionary says it means “transform into something more beautiful or elevated.” Google gets it wrong on both counts: the nature of the change, and the presumption that the change is an improvement.
But what occurred in the Gospel account was not an alteration, but a revelation: Peter, James, and John were able to see, for a moment, something that was already true but had been hidden. They were familiar with the sight of Our Lord’s human body, but now His divine nature was made visible to their human eyes – as much as they could stand. It was one of the truest things about Him, but not readily apparent to human senses, until He allowed them a glimpse.
During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, humble bread is materially transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior. Before the words of the Consecration, it is not His Body. Most of the time, we receive Him under the appearance (accidents) of bread and wine – but occasionally Our Lord gives us a glimpse of a deeper truth. One such incident was the miracle at Lancing, where in the 8th century A.D., the consecrated Bread and Wine were transfigured into the appearance of live Flesh and Blood, which they retain to this day. [see also St. Gennaro]. They were already the Body and Blood of Christ, just as Our Lord was already fully divine, though in human form, on the mountain prior to the Transfiguration. But in a miraculous event, God once again pulled back the curtain and let us glimpse the bigger truth, the one not readily apparent to our senses.
If Our Lord had pointed at Himself during, say, the Sermon on the Mount, and said “This is my body,” the crowd would not have registered anything unusual, just His stating the obvious. But when He used those words at the Last Supper, they were no less true, although they required more faith from those hearing them. When He was transfigured on the mountain before his apostles, they were awestruck and believed what they saw. But when Jesus said “I and the Father are one,” He was immediately accused of blasphemy.
Some truths are readily apparent to our senses. Other truths require the gift of faith to accept, and even then, may surpass our finite comprehension. Throughout history, Our Lord has shown a willingness to help us overcome our meager faith by giving miraculous examples on which to meditate – if not in our own lives, then to others, like the people in Lanciano, whose famous miracle continues to inspire and strengthen the faith of believers today.
But just as faith can give light to our vision, so can sin darken it. It is sobering to recall that, as shown in the latest Planned Parenthood video, abortion providers can haggle over a Petri dish of human remains and miss the empirically obvious – this is a body – never mind that it’s the body of a fellow person created and loved by Our Father in Heaven. It begs the question of how the self-proclaimed Catholics and staunch supporters of Planned Parenthood like U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi could possibly hear the words of Consecration at Mass (“This is My Body”) and truly believe in the Real Presence, even if a transfigurational miracle were to take place.
They miss the evident.
Rebecca Oas is the Associate Director of Research for the Center for Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam) in New York City.
Before joining C-FAM, Rebecca earned her doctorate in Genetics and Molecular Biology at Emory University. She has written for Human Life International as a Fellow of HLI America. Rebecca is a graduate of Michigan State University and currently lives in Queens, New York.
This article, The Evident and the Transfigured is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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