And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.…
I. THE FINAL CAUSE: why Christ was transfigured.
1. The Redeemer of souls lived in great humility upon earth, nay, like an abject worm, to attract the love of the Church; now He changed Himself into this admired excellency, to increase their faith.
2. By this apparition the three disciples saw in what form He would come to judgment.
3. He did represent Himself as the argument and idea of that beautiful reward which the bodies of the just shall have in the general resurrection.
4. For this once Christ looked like a person of Divine authority, that the minds of His disciples might not be cast down with despair at the cross.
5. The fifth and last reason hath a moral use. There is an old man with his corruptions to be metamorphosed in us all, sieur Pelias recoctus, as the fable goes, that Medusa bathed the body of Pelias with certain magical drugs, and from a decrepit old man transmuted him into a vigorous youth. This is a figment; for no man spent his young years so well, to deserve at God's hands in this world to be young again: but there is a renovation in the spirit of our mind. God will not know us in our own form and filthiness, unless we put on the image of Christ. As Jacob obtained his father's blessing, not in his own shape, but in the garments of Esau; so we must sue our blessing, having put on the righteousness of Christ; then the Lord will receive His servant, and say unto thee, as Jacob did unto Esau, "I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God."
II. THE EFFICIENT CAUSE: from whence this splendour was derived. Many obscure points will come to light by asking this question: Whether this lightsome beauty like the sun did appear in our Saviour's face from the beatification of His human soul, or from the union of His Divine nature? First, you must understand, that the great school-man, Aquinas, took the best end of the cause into his hand, when he answered to neither of those two members, but rather to the purpose of the question in this wise, fuit haze qualitas gloria, sed non corporis gloriosi, quia nondum erat immortalis. "This Transfiguration was a quality of glory, but not of a glorified body, because He was not yet passed death, and raised up to be immortal and impassible." In this distinction is covertly included, that it was not such a brightness as the soul shall communicate to the body, when it is reunited in a joyful resurrection, hut was created at this time by the Divine power, to foretell and shadow what would come to pass with much increase in the kingdom of God. Praelibatio regni Dei fuit haec transfiguratio, says : this was but the landskip or pattern of the true happiness which shall be in the kingdom of heaven.
III. THE EFFECT ITSELF. Alteration in His countenance: whiteness and glistering in His raiment. It is a good thing to be safe under His mercy, the cheerful aspect of His face doth promise that at the least. And doth not this glistering transmutation assure us likewise, that His grace shall shine in our hearts to produce the fruits of life: "The life is the light of men," says St. John; and by inversion it is true to say, that this light is the life of the soul. Though this which I have said already be much, yet this prospective of admirable light leads us further; for in this transformation the Master did show what liveries of glory the servants should wear when they should dwell with Him in His kingdom for ever. All the light which is in this world is but like a glowworm to the day, in respect of that mirror of marvellous light m the heavenly Jerusalem, where millions of millions of saints shall be gathered together, and every saint shall shine more sweetly and majestically than the whole globe of the sun; what a ravishing object will this be? What an unutterable concurrence of illumination, especially when the sense of the eye shall be perfecter than the eagle's a thousandfold, and no whir dazzled to behold it? "O Lord, what good things hast Thou laid up for them that fear Thee?" And thus you see what the Transfiguration in our Saviour's countenance did portend — light of grace in this world; light of glory in the next; and light of mercy and comfort in respect unto them both. I conceive that in the resurrection of the just every countenance which had disfigurement in it, or any monstrous disproportion, shall be new shaped and fashioned. Because that great workmanship of God which abideth for ever shall be conspicuous to all eyes with most exact decency and comeliness. One thing more may yet be expected from me to be spoken of for the finishing of this point. St. Luke says, that "His countenance was altered, and His raiment glistered." Was that all? Was His face only glorified with light, and not the rest of His body? There are some that hold how His whole body was transfigured and bedecked with light, and that the radiancy of the body did shine through the garments and make them brightsome; and they think that St. Matthew's text doth favour this opinion, for he speaks of a total transfiguration first, and then of the shining of the face — "He was transfigured before them, and His face did shine as the sun." The matter is not great which way the truth stands. But I assent to that which is the more probable tenent, that the rays of splendour did issue out from no part of His body, but from His face only. As the face of Christ did bear the greatest share of ignominy at His passion-being buffeted, being spit on, being pricked with thorns — so the honour of His Transfiguration did light upon his face rather than upon any other part of the body, because God's reward shall make amends in every kind for the despite of Satan. The Jews did strip Him of His garment, and arrayed Him with a robe of scorn, and then led Him to be crucified: so God, to show that His Son deserved no such ignominy, made His garments to shine with unspeakable purity. As lapidaries say of a true diamond, that whereas other precious stones have some colour in their superficies well known by name, as the ruby and sapphire, but the colour of the diamond cannot be well called by any name, there is a white gloss and a sparkling flame mixed together, which shine fairly, but render no constant colour, so we cannot say what manner of show the raiment of our Saviour did make. These two did concur to the composition of the beauty, candour, and lux; a whiteness mixed with no shadow, a light bedimmed with no darkness.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.