The Transfiguration (as remembered)

The Transfiguration (as remembered)

The Transfiguration. Elijah.

(The Gospel History, Section 72)

And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, he took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart by themselves, to pray. And as he was praying, he was transfigured before them, and the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment became dazzling, exceeding white, so as no fuller on earth can whiten them. And behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elijah; who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: but when they were fully awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. And it came to pass, as they were parting from him, Peter answered and said unto Jesus, Rabbi, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, I will make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. For he wist not what to answer, for they became sore afraid. While he was yet speaking, there came a cloud and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And behold, a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, my chosen, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the voice came, Jesus was found alone. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them and said, Arise, be not afraid. And suddenly looking round about, they saw no one any more, save Jesus only with themselves.

The Transfiguration (as remembered)

(The Saviour of the World, Vol IV, Book III, Poem LI)

Months had gone by, and all those things were done
Which Christ should accomplish,—ere their fellows knew
Of that supernal Vision manifested
To three of their number—Peter, James, and John.
No matter how their hearts within them burned,
No word they spake, for Christ had bidden them,—
“Tell no man till the Son of man be risen.”

The Lord had been seen by several and by all;
At any turning they might meet with Him,
Their Risen Lord; at any instant, there,
In that same room, He might be in their midst:
Their hearts lay open as a viol tuned—
For Christ to play upon with word or sign,—
When the Twelve and their company assembled there,
In the Upper Room where Christ had met with them.

The Three held instant counsel; never, sure,
Would hearts be stronger, more alert to rise
To a great conception than were these the while
They waited lest, perchance, the Lord should come.
Then Peter rose and spake:—

Peter. Bethink ye of that pilgrimage we made

Towards great Hermon, far into the north:
The Lord we know was exceeding sorrowful,
And told us plainly all which should come to pass
When presently we reached Jerusalem
To keep the Passover: And I, presumptuous,
I took on me to chide my Lord, my God!
He called me “Satan,” bade me get behind,
As one who ne’er had known the things of God:—
There be offences tears will not wash out!

John. Aye, but thou wast preferred before us all

Ere that dark hour: wert named the Rock, whereon
The Lord should raise His Church; forget not that,
In thy self-chiding.

The Transfiguration by Raphael

Peter. Christ bless thee for thy words

Of healing. But why hold your ears with tale
Already known? An eight days after that,
Christ took us three alone to the mountain’s foot;
We climbed the slope;—ye knew how the Lord was drawn
To mountain summits; how many times we’ve watched
And, tardy, followed upwards.—This difficult height,
Immense, we scaled, till on a commanding peak,
The Lord knelt down and prayed. We too would pray;—
But, weariness o’ercoming, quick we slept;
We waked,—and lo, the Lord was there, but changed:
His countenance, glorious as the rising sun,
Compelled us to raise hand to shield our eyes:
The fashion of His aspect too was changed;
No more the meek Son of man He shewed, but King,
Majestic in His lineaments; His eye,
Searching as light, outraying as sapphire cut
In hundred facets; an eye to see all flesh,
To pierce the secrets hidden in all hearts,
And spy out the hidden ways of all the world:
Wide, lofty, rose His brow, as it contained
All wisdom and all knowledge: justice and love
Sat thronéd on His lips, and all His mien
Acclaimed Him Sovereign Ruler of the worlds.
His raiment so familiar, that was changed,
Was whiter than garment of any fuller washed,
Whiter than Hermon’s snows that gleamed beyond;
Was glittering, glistening, dazzling to weak eyes
Of mortal man; ne’er from king’s jewelled robe,—
His gold and purple thickly set with gems,—
Like splendour emanated. We beheld,
That day, upon that mountain-ridge, our King.

John. Didst note the golden girdle girt His paps

As to confine the ocean of His love,
Richer than finest gold, that swelled within?
And sawest thou His hair, whiter than wool
Fresh from the combing,—whiter than the light?
Was’t not the light of the Wisdom of God escaped
From trammels of the flesh? One other thing—
Saw’st how the dazzling splendour of His form
Cast rainbow hues on the mist, and lo, He sate
As on a rainbow throne, and, all about,
The rainbow-glory spread?

Peter. E’en so it was:

(And, turning to the rest),—What John hath said
Doth put in words, he only knows to use,
Things all three saw but did not apprehend.
Lo, as the Christ sat throned majestical,
(So rude His throne!) on either hand, below,
Stood forms of stately Men, effulgent forms;
As Lords in waiting on their King they stood.
They lifted eyes, and reverent spake with the Lord;
Some words we caught,—“Jerusalem,” and “the Cross”;
“The Law,” said One, “this consummation shewed
Since first I bade men kill the paschal lamb
At God’s command.” We knew him by that word;—
Moses, the Lawgiver of our people, stood
Before our astonied eyes; the Second spake,—
“And all the prophets, following in my wake
Since the day the people cried, ‘The Lord, He is God,’—
Have carried on the tale, how Thou should’st come,
Be despised, rejected, betrayed to death, for men.”
Now knew we those two Great Ones; Moses, Elias,—
The Law and the Prophets,—come to serve the Lord
In th’ hour of His anguish; upheld those two His hands
Even as the hands of Moses were upheld:

“It must needs be,” their word, “else how should men
Be constrained to turn them round and seek their God?”—
“The Father watcheth, enduring all Thou bear’st,
The pains of the Son of His love; and all the hosts
Of heaven, wistful, desire they to look in.”—

The glorious Twain spake, and were vanishing,
When upsprang my heart, as a man’s who sees his all
Sink in the sea profound; I cried aloud,
If haply I might stay them: “Lord, bid us build
Three tabernacles here, for them and Thee,
So we may ever worship at the gates
Of heaven, ajar, far from the vexing world;
Ah, Rabbi, it is good for us to be here!”
So spake I, bold with terror, nor scarce knew
That I dared intrude on that High Solemnity.
Sudden, a cloud enwrapp’d us and the Three;
We entered the cloud unwilling, sore afraid,
Uncertain if ’twere death, or th’ end of the world:
When, lo, an awful voice spake issuing thence,—
Distinct and final as no words of men—
“This is My Son beloved; hear Him, ye men,
For in Him alone of men I am well pleased.”

The blackness passed; silent, the Voice; the Men,
Glorious as seraphs, had vanished from our view:
The Lord stood there alone, His garb the same
Which He ever wore; but still His countenance shone
Radiant in splendour of that heavenly scene,
And we fell on our faces, sore afraid.
Then came the Lord and touched us with the touch
Of our familiar Friend, no longer strange,
And bade us rise and be no more afraid;
Immediate, looking round, none saw we there,
But Him and ourselves, and all was as before.

St. Matthew xvii. 1-8.
St. Mark ix. 2-8.
St. Luke ix. 28-36.