The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Revelation of Christ's Divine Glory

The Transfiguration of Christ, 12th century.
The Transfiguration of Christ, 12th century. Print Collector/Getty Images / Getty Images

The feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ celebrates the revelation of Christ's divine glory on Mount Tabor in Galilee (Matthew 17:1-6; Mark 9:1-8; Luke 9:28-36). After revealing to His disciples that He would be put to death in Jerusalem (Matthew 16:21), Christ, along with Ss. Peter, James, and John, went up the mountain. There, Saint Matthew writes, "he was transfigured before them.

And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow."

Quick Facts About the Feast of the Transfiguration

  • Date: August 6.
  • Type of Feast: Feast. (For more details, see Is Transfiguration a Holy Day of Obligation?
  • Readings: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 97:1-2, 5-6, 9; 2 Peter 1:16-19; Matthew 17:1-9 (full text here)
  • Prayers: Collect for the Feast of the Transfiguration (from the Mass of St. Pius V): "O God, Who in the glorious transfiguration of Thine only-begotten Son didst strengthen the sacraments of faith by the testimony of the fathers, and Who didst wonderfully foreshow the perfect adoption of Thy children by a voice coming down in a shining cloud, mercifully grant that we be made co-heirs of the King of glory Himself, and grant us to be sharers in that very glory. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen."
  • Other Names for the Feast: The Transfiguration of Jesus; The Transfiguration of the Lord; The Transfiguration of Christ

The History of the Feast of the Transfiguration

The brightness with which He shone on Mount Tabor was not something added to Christ but the manifestation of His true divine nature. For Peter, James, and John, it was also a glimpse of the glories of Heaven and of the resurrected body promised to all Christians.

When Christ was transfigured, two others appeared with Him: Moses, representing the Old Testament Law, and Elijah, representing the prophets. Thus Christ, Who stood between the two and spoke with them, appeared to the disciples as the fulfillment of both the Law and the prophets.

At Christ's baptism in the Jordan, the voice of God the Father was heard to proclaim that "This is my beloved Son" (Matthew 3:17). During the Transfiguration, God the Father pronounced the same words (Matthew 17:5).

Despite the importance of this event, the Feast of the Transfiguration was not among the earliest of feasts celebrated by Christians. It was first celebrated in Asia starting in the fourth or fifth century and spread throughout the Christian East in the centuries following. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that it wasn't commonly celebrated in the West until the tenth century. Pope Callixtus III elevated the Transfiguration to a feast of the universal Church and established August 6 as the date of its celebration.

Dracula and the Feast of the Transfiguration

Few people today realize that the Feast of the Transfiguration owes its place on the Church's calendar, at least in part, to the courageous actions of Dracula.

Yes, Dracula—or, more precisely, Vlad III the Impaler, who is better known to history by the dreaded name. Pope Callixtus III added the Feast of the Transfiguration to the calendar to celebrate the important victory of the Hungarian nobleman Janos Hunyadi and the elderly priest Saint John of Capistrano at the Siege of Belgrade in July 1456. Breaking the siege, their troops reinforced the Christians at Belgrade, the Muslim Turks were routed, and Islam was stopped from advancing any farther into Europe.

With the exception of Saint John of Capistrano, Hunyadi could find no significant allies to accompany him to Belgrade, but he did enlist the help of young prince Vlad, who agreed to guard the mountain passes into Rumania, thus cutting off the Turk. Without the aid of Vlad the Impaler, the battle might not have been won.

Vlad was a brutal man whose actions earned him immortality as the fictional vampire, but some Orthodox Christians venerate him as a saint for confronting the Islamic threat to Christian Europe, and indirectly, at least, his memory is recalled in the universal celebration of the Feast of the Transfiguration.