Today we celebrate the Transfiguration of the Lord as recorded in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. Both evangelists state that Christ took Sts. Peter, James, and John "up a high mountain," "to pray." While there "His face changed in appearance," so that it "shone like the sun," "and His clothes became white as light." "And behold, two men were conversing with Him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His exodus that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem." "As they were about to part from Him, Peter said to Jesus, 'Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.'" "While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud came a voice that said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.' When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, 'Rise, and do not be afraid.' And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone."
This event occurred soon after Christ had begun to reveal to his disciples that He must die and rise. The presence of Moses and Elijah signify the testimony of the Law and the Prophets that Jesus is the promised Messiah.
There are two explanations of the arigin of the Transfiguration as a feast. One tells how St. Gregory the Illuminator "substituted it for a pagan feast of Aphrodite called Vartavarh (roseflame), retaining the old appellation of the feast, because Christ opened His glory like a rose on Mount Thabor." However, it is more likely that the feast of the Transfiguration replaced a pagan nature-feast, "somewhere in the highlands of Asia." Many dioceses adopted the feast in the liturgy around the tenth century. Pope Callixtus II extended the feast to the Universal Church in 1456.
St. Peter himself emphasizes the importance of this feast in his second letter, saying, "We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to Him from the majestic glory, 'This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.' We ourselves heard this voice come from Heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain."
O God, who on the holy mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thy well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in His beauty; who with Thee, O Father, and Thee, O Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end.