2 Kings 2: 1-12 — Elijah’s Ascent in a whirlwind: I want to say a few words about this passage before moving on to the related Gospel passage. This is another vivid Hebrew Scripture story. There are a number of of such stories that relate the passing of the mantle from one prophet to another. The drama builds as Elisha insists on following Elisha to Bethel, then to Jericho and then through the the Jordan river (where the waters part, in a clear reference to Moses parting the waters of the Reed Sea). Then Elisha asks for a double share of Elija’s spirit. It would seem this request is granted since the “new prophet” sees Elijah ascend into heaven. The drama reaches its climax as Elisha does ascend by means of a whirlwind into heaven. It is clear why this pericope is here on Transfiguration Sunday. It is Moses, who parts the Reed Sea and Elijah, the Prophet who does not die, who appear with Jesus on the mountain.
Transfiguration Sunday is often seen as the “gateway” or threshold into Lent. It may be that inasmuch as Lent is the period during which catechumens prepare to don dazzling white clothes like those that the apostles see Jesus wearing. (This reminds us of the clothing worn by the young men who are found in the empty tomb.). We often speak of catechumens going through a transformation that is celebrated at Easter. Are they transfigured? What is the difference? And there is a definite command to listen to Jesus. During Lent, catechumens are asked to intensify their efforts to listen to Jesus in their lives. The Feast of the Transfiguration is the threshold from Epiphany into Lent.
But the story of the transfiguration is also the culmination of the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is the season during which Jesus is revealed as God’s son. If there was any doubt in any of the previous stories about who is being revealed, the transfiguration story eliminates that lack of understanding. “From the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved.'” Jesus is also associated with the two other great prophets of the Hebrew people, Moses and Elijah. For all who might not yet understand, the story tells us that Jesus is in the lineage of Moses, Elijah and all of the prophets of Israel. The mantle is passed once more. Jesus doesn’t get just a double share of their Spirit. He gets all of God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit.