What Is the Transfiguration?

The Transfiguration is an event from the life of Jesus that’s reported in three of the four gospels (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36). Jesus, along with his disciples, went up a mountain that overlooks Jerusalem and then appears with Elijah and Moses while he “transfigures,” meaning that the disciples see Jesus as he would appear after the resurrection. The gospels report that Jesus’ face and clothes became “dazzling white.”

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The story is meant to not simply be a miracle but also has several other meanings. One is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament law and prophets. At the Transfiguration, he’s seen with Moses (giver of the law) and Elijah (greatest of all prophets). As they overlook Jerusalem, the story foreshadows where this fulfillment of the law will take place: Jerusalem, where Jesus will meet his death. The disciples are confused by the Transfiguration and don’t realize that Jesus must die in order to save the world.

Lastly, the story is a foretaste of what is in store for us. We will all rise again, and with the Transfiguration, Jesus gives his disciples just a glimpse of what the afterlife holds for both them and us.

Originally published August 4, 2017.

Mike Hayes is the Director of Young Adult Ministry in the Diocese of Cleveland and a candidate for the Diaconate. He’s also the host of 5 Questions with the Paulists and the podcast Question of Faith. Mike is one of the founders of Busted Halo and has worked with young adults his entire ministry career in retreat, spiritual direction, and campus Ministry. He’s the author of "Googling God" (Paulist, 2007) and "Loving Work" (Orbis, 2012). Mike and his wife Marion live in Lakewood, OH with their dog, Vito.