There is an ancient tradition that before the Fall, Adam and Eve were clothed with the Glory of God. Their relationship with God was so intimate that His life radiated out from their very skin.
When Eve looked at Adam, she saw God pouring out from him. When Adam looked at Eve, he saw God pouring out from her. And they knew only love for each other.
But then Adam and Eve chose to reject God and His divine life. They chose not-life. And immediately after their sin they recognized their own nakedness.
Eve looked at Adam and saw him as less than she saw him before. She saw a person who could be used and abused. She realized that she also could be used and abused. Glory was exchanged for vulnerability.
But God promised them that he would fix it. And not just fix it, but bring about something greater than what they, our first parents, lost.
Generations went by and God called a man named Abram. He gave him a mission, a new name, and a promise: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Through Abraham’s family, God promised to bless the whole world.
Abraham’s family grew and eventually migrated to Egypt. There, they were exploited and enslaved. God called Moses to lead His people out of bondage in Egypt and called him to lead them to worship Him at Mount Sinai.
On that mountain, God told Moses how He wanted His people to worship Him. Every detail was important. He said the color of the priest’s robes had to be white. This was a sign of the glory God intended to clothe His people in; the glory Adam rejected.
But as Moses was talking with God on the mountain, Aaron—the very priest who was meant to be a sign of God’s promise—was melting jewelry into a golden calf. Once again, God’s people chose not-life.
Moses interceded with God on behalf of the people. God relented in His punishment. Moses’s relationship with God was so intimate that they spoke as friends, and one day Moses asked, “Please let me see your glory!”
God said that no one can see His face and live, but God let His glory pass by Moses and showed him His backside. And then a curious thing happened. Moses’s face glowed.
“As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he spoke with the LORD.”
From that day, whenever Moses spoke with God in the tabernacle, his face glowed. His skin shone so brightly that his brother Aaron was afraid of him and the people begged him to wear a veil.
Instead of a white robe to symbolize the glory God intended to clothe His people in, Moses’s very body revealed God’s glory.
However, Moses wasn’t perfectly faithful to God. Eventually, he died in the wilderness without entering the Promised Land himself.
But that’s not the end of the story of Moses. He appeared again, on a mountain, centuries later. In Mark’s account of the event, he wrote:
“Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.”
Jesus talked with God on a mountain, much like Moses. And Moses appeared next to him. And Jesus’s robes were “dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.” And Jesus’s skin was glowing.
According to Matthew, the voice of the Father rang down from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
The Transfiguration isn’t merely something that happened to Jesus. It is a sign of your identity and destiny, my identity and destiny.
John the Evangelist recounts how at the Last Supper, Jesus prayed to his Father, saying, “I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
Jesus gave his Apostles the glory that his Father gave him.
Jesus gave us the glory that his Father gave him.
Decades later, Jesus gave John a vision of heaven where he saw “a great multitude” who were “wearing white robes” as the stood before the Lamb. John was told, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
They have washed robes in the Blood of the Lamb. This is in reference to baptism.
The Catechism says:
“The white garment symbolizes that the person baptized has ‘put on Christ,’ has risen with Christ.”
And then it goes further:
“By Baptism, [the Father] incorporates us into the Body of his Christ; through the anointing of his Spirit who flows from the head to the members, he makes us other ‘Christs.'”
The glory that clothed Adam and Eve—we received that at our baptism.
But that just that glory, for what God gave Adam and Moses isn’t enough. The Old Testament is a long story of God’s people rejecting that glory. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul contrasts the glory of the old covenant with the glory of the new. He says, “For if what was going to fade was glorious, how much more will what endures be glorious.”
Paul goes on to say, “All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Saint Augustine taught, through the Sacraments “not only have we become Christians, we have become Christ himself.” At baptism we were given the very divine life of God that heals and transforms our hearts to be like Jesus’s heart, our minds to be like Jesus’s mind.
At baptism, we were made children of God, and our Father says to each of us, “This is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”
That is what we celebrate today.
Image Credit: The Transfiguration of Christ by Peter Paul Rubens, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Paul Fahey lives in Michigan with his wife and four kids. For the past eight years, he has worked as a professional catechist. He has an undergraduate degree in Theology and is currently working toward a Masters Degree in Pastoral Counseling. He is a retreat leader, catechist formator, writer, and a co-founder of Where Peter Is. He is also the founder and co-host of the Pope Francis Generation podcast. His long-term goal is to provide pastoral counseling for Catholics who have been spiritually abused, counseling for Catholic ministers, and counseling education so that ministers are more equipped to help others in their ministry.