The presence of Moses and Elijah represents the Law, and the Prophets of which Christ is the fulfilment. The face of Moses shone when he had been in the presence of God on the mountain and Elijah did not die but was taken straight to heaven. In Orthodox Icons Moses is usually seen holding the tablets of the Law, and Elijah pointing to the One of whom he prophesied. On Mount Tabor they meet face to face the One whom they had foreseen. Peter’s suggestion to make three booths refers to the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles when pious Jews spend the night outside in a temporary shelter. This commemorates the forty years in the desert being led to the Promised Land. It is surely not an accident that it is Peter and James and John who are also with Jesus in Gethsemane later.
The Gospel accounts tell us that not only did Christ’s face shine but also, ‘His Clothes became dazzling white’. Christ’s garments were inanimate matter and their transfiguration is a foretaste of the transfiguration of the whole material creation in the New Jerusalem. As Jews the disciples saw Christ, his robes pure white, like those worn by the High Priest when he entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Only the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies in which God Himself was present and only on the Day of Atonement. The message of this Feast is that now ‘Christ is our Great High Priest’ (Hebrews: 4,4). It is significant that Peter had proclaimed shortly before, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God’ anticipating the voice from the cloud, ‘this is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to Him.’ For this reason Peter is always seen looking towards the Transfigured Christ in the Icons.
Dr Rowan Williams the former Archbishop of Canterbury in his book, The Dwelling of the Light, says:
The feature image for this post is “The Transfiguration, 1480 (oil on panel)”, Wikicommons (P.D.)