In the Transfiguration, we see through the eyes of the Apostles the majesty of the God-Man Jesus Christ. Not only do Ss. Peter, James, and John fall on their faces “in awe,” as the Scripture tells us, but so too are the greatest figures of the Old Testament present to worship the Incarnate Word. In this single moment we are filled with wonder at the reality of Christ’s Divinity, His relationship with the Father, His dominion over the living (Elijah) and the dead (Moses), over the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah)–of which he fulfills both, and the reality of the Communion of Saints.
Iconography of this moment is similarly rich in theology. Christ appears for the first time to the Apostles not in His kenosis, the God Incarnate as a carpenter sent to serve rather than be served, but as God in His Divinity. Icons often feature three rays angled toward the Apostles as an indication of the Trinity.
We are further reminded, both by the traditional iconographic depiction as well as the text of Scripture (“his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light”) of Moses and the burning bush, itself a prefigurement of the New Earth we are promised, filled but unconsumed with the glory of God.
Troparion of the Transfiguration
“You were transfigured on the Mountain, O Christ God, showing Your Disciples as much of Your glory as they could hold. Let y our eternal Light shine also upon us sinners, through the prayers of the Mother of God, O Giver of Light, glory to You!”
From the Gospel of Matthew (17:1-8):
“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear.’ And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”