Sanctuary Murals of St. Moses and St. Elijah
All three accounts of the Transfiguration in the Gospels make reference to the presence of Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30-31). They are described as being in conversation with Jesus about His coming death.
Moses and Elijah are considered the two pivotal figures in the Old Testament, signifying the Law and the Prophets. Christ is acknowledged in the New Testament as the new and greater Moses, establishing a New Covenant through His Paschal Sacrifice. (See Appendix 1: “Christ and Moses.”) Christ is also the new and greater Elijah, whose return is promised as the sign of the consummation of the ages. (See Appendix 2: “Christ and Elijah.”)
Moses and Elijah represent, respectively, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Both of them are acknowledged by the Catholic Church as Saints: The Feast of Saint Moses is September 4; the Feast of Saint Elijah is July 20, and is held in high regard by the Carmelites.
Moses and the Burning Bush
In Exodus 3:1-22, the Lord speaks to Moses from a bush that is burning, yet not consumed. The Lord tells Moses, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” This declaration by the Voice of God is a great prefiguring of the Transfiguration, when God the Father declares from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.” Moreover, in response to Moses’ question, “Who shall I say has sent me?” the Lord responds, “’I AM WHO AM’ has sent you.” This is God’s personal name, in Hebrew “Yahweh,” so sacred that the Jewish people would not pronounce it, and yet we are permitted to know and reverence the Name of God’s Son who is revealed in the Transfiguration.
Elijah and the Fiery Sacrifice
In 1 Kings 18: 16-40, the Prophet Elijah confronts the 450 prophets of Baal, the false god supported by Jezebel, the wicked queen of Israel. He challenges them atop Mount Carmel to demonstrate whether the Lord or Baal is the true God.
The Lord sends down fire to consume the sacrifice and the altar prepared by Elijah, and the people respond, “The Lord – He is God!” This is a foreshadowing of the Transfiguration, when God the Father demonstrates from heaven that Jesus is His beloved and glorious Son.