Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord: Celebrating the defeat of Islam in 1453

Posted August 5, 2017 4:58 pm by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord: Celebrating the defeat of Islam in 1453

After the Muslims took Constantinople in 1453 after a 53-day siege, Sultan Mehmed II went next for Hungary, first attacking Belgrade.  It didn’t go well for Mehmed.  The siege turned into a counterattack which overran the Muslim camp. The Islamic invaders were forced to retreat.
In 1456 Pope Callixtus III made the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord a feast of the universal Church in honor of the defeat of Islam at Belgrade.
The word transfiguratio is interesting in itself. In classical, post-Augustan Latin Pliny used this for “a change of shape”. However, that is not what happened with Christ on the mountain, probably Mount Tabor in Galilee not far from Nazareth.
What happened?
If we see Christ’s Baptism at the Jordan as the beginning point of His public life, and the Ascension as the end, then the Transfiguration its zenith.
The accounts of the Transfiguration are found in Matthew 17:1-6, Mark 9:1-8, and Luke 9:28-36. Also, 2 Peter 1:16-18 and John 1:14 refer to it.
Scripture tells us that a week or so after Jesus and the disciples were at Caesarea Philippi (where Christ gave Peter the “keys”) Jesus took Peter, James and John to a high mountain. They were surrounded by a bright cloud, like that in which God spoke to Moses. Christ shone with light so dazzling it was hard to see. On either side of Him were Moses the Lawgiver and Elijah the Prophet. A voice was heard, as at the time of Jesus’ Baptism: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him”. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark use the Greek word metemorphothe for what happened. St. Jerome in his Vulgate chose transfiguratus est. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) expand the event saying “his face did shine as the sun: and his

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