Happy Feast of the Transfiguration!
Perhaps the best and of most well-known of artwork of the Transfiguration where Christ is shown in all His glory is this artwork by Raphael:
In fact! It is so glorious that, while looking for artworks of the Ascension for my book, The Glorious Mysteries, this was one of the first pictures that came up in search, even though it is not a depiction of the Ascension at all!
The artwork actually depicts two different scenes of the bible that happen right next to each other in the Gospel of Matthew:
The top half of the art depicts the Transfiguration. Jesus is at the center, depicted as larger an life, with Elijah and Moses at his right and left, respectively. Below Jesus, the disciples are floored (literally!) at this stunning image of Jesus.
And to the left, those two people to the left of this glorious scene who are looking on to the scene and praying? They are two saints, Saints Justus and Pastor, who share a feast day with the Feast of the Transfiguration. They are also were the patron saints of the cathedral that this artwork was originally commissioned for!
The lower half is what happens directly after the Transfiguration! The disciples are unable to cure a boy possessed by demons, so they need Jesus’ help. The disciples try to approach the boy, but it is only Jesus that can cure him. So, the disciples point to the Jesus of the Transfiguration, who cures the boy. It is not through the disciples’ powers, but rather by Jesus, that the boy can be cured.
This was Raphael’s last painting. In fact, he died with this painting at his head, presumably finishing it up at the time of his death, as it was mostly completed when he died. Which, honestly, sounds like a wonderful sort of death.
This is one of Raphael’s greatest masterpieces and truly a creative vision of the Transfiguration. A lot of artists only focus on the Transfiguration as an isolated incident, like so. Or, they include the Transfiguration in a sort of visual summary of Jesus’s ministry, like so.
But, in this artwork, Raphael masterfully incorporates both the Transfiguration and the miracle in a profound way. Through it, he seems to emphasize the fact that these miracles of Jesus were not simply done just because Jesus was a mere miracle worker — far from it! Instead, Christ’s ability to do these miracles stemmed from His relationship with God, as the Son of God, to give all the glory to God.
The disciples not being able to perform this miracle was not due to them not being able to perform miracles. Instead, it was their lack of faith, especially after they were shown a profound vision of Jesus as God through the glory of the Transfiguration, that they were unable to help.
So, on this feast day, let us remember to always put our faith in God! As St. Paul once wrote:
13I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.