The Transfiguration teaches us detachment

posted in: Prayer and Virtue | 18
The Transfiguration by Gherardi (Wikimedia Commons). What must you let go of to grow closer to Christ?


Last week’s Gospel was about the Transfiguration of Jesus. As you recall, Jesus took Peter, James, and John up Mt. Tabor. Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Him about His coming Passion. Hearing the Gospel, I was struck by what it teaches us about detachment in the spiritual life.

Moses represents the Law. Elijah represents the Prophets. The Law and the Prophets together form the basis of the Old Testament.

From the good to the perfect

When Peter saw Moses and Elijah, he said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” He suggested building booths or tents in which the three religious figures could stay. No doubt he wanted to speak with Moses and Elijah and hear their wisdom in person.

But this was not God’s plan. God the Father spoke to the Apostles from the cloud. Then they looked up and saw Jesus standing before them alone.

The Law and the Prophets prepared the way for Jesus. But now that Jesus had come, they had to give way. They were good, but the Gospel is better. Moses and Elijah served their purpose in pointing towards Jesus. As St. Paul said, “When the perfect comes, the imperfect passes away” (1 Corinthians 13:10).

Letting go of the merely good in our lives

Like the Apostles, we need to leave behind all that is “merely good’ in order to be perfectly conformed to Christ. We cannot cling to anything or anyone but Him.

Children–and beginners in the spiritual life–have different needs than adults. Infants need milk. Adults need solid food. God weans us from the practices that nourished us in the beginning so that we can be spiritually mature.

Moving beyond the Law

As we grow, we need to let go of these things that metaphorically relate to the Law:

  • counting our merits
  • comparing ourselves with others
  • knowledge
  • meditation on Sacred Scripture

Now, obviously, we cannot give up knowledge in the sense of becoming ignorant again. We can’t start ignoring Church teaching. But we can come to recognize that God is immeasurably greater than all human knowledge. We can stop nitpicking, stop judging. We can move from a spirituality based on knowledge to one based on love.

And so with the other items in the list. We give up meditation for contemplation. We give up comparisons that in the beginning may have inspired us toward holiness, but now foster pride. We stop weighing our sins against our merits, realizing that the scale will never be balanced.

Moving beyond the Prophets

We need to let go of these things that metaphorically recall the Prophets:

  • visions, dreams, and prophesies
  • miraculous signs
  • spiritual consolations
  • ecstasies and raptures

As good as these things are in the proper place and time, they are not the goal. There are merely means to the end, which is union with Jesus. We cannot take any of these things to Heaven. If we cling to them, God will have to pry them from us in Purgatory.

St. Paul says, “Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Adults should not need a disciplinarian! Instead of mere teachers, we have a Bridegroom. We must “throw off everything that hinders us” from marriage to Him (Hebrews 12:1).

Let this Lent be a time for letting go!

Connie Rossini

Share with us: What are you most struggling to let go of? How can you begin to let go?

Follow Connie Rossini:

Hi, I'm a Catholic writer and homeschool mother of four boys. I practice Carmelite spirituality. Check out my Books page for publications to help your whole family grow in holiness.

Latest posts from

18 Responses

  1. Joyrunr

    Christ being The Living Word, with this being so why would we give up on meditation of the Sacred Scriptures? I understand your points on all the rest but don’t understand why this was included. He is a living Person that we encounter in the Sacred Scriptures… All else BUT THIS PERSON we should abandon; which was your central point.

    • Connie Rossini

      Joy, that’s a great question and I think my point needs clarification. St. Teresa of Avila said that Jesus must remain central to our prayer throughout our entire spiritual lives, even in the final stages. So I don’t mean that we abandon thinking about Christ. However, meditation is work on the part of the Christian. WE read, WE think, WE speak. Our actions can only advance us so far towards Christ with ordinary grace. In the more advanced stages of spiritual growth, we need special graces. God Himself must do the work. So a soul reaches a point where she finds meditation impossible–perhaps not every time she prays, but at least sometimes. She cannot focus her mind on the Scripture passage. She cannot make images in her head. God is infusing supernatural contemplation into her soul–a prayer that is beyond concepts and images, a prayer she can never produce. If she insists on clinging to meditation, she is fighting against the Holy Spirit.

      It’s like St. Therese’s elevator image. Jesus cannot pick up and carry a toddler who is hitting and kicking Him. But if He doesn’t pick us up and carry us, we cannot make it to the higher levels of the spiritual life. So we have to be willing to leave meditation behind when God asks us to.

      Does that clarify the issue?

      • msherryred

        This is so fascinating!! I converted to Catholicism 3 years ago, after a lifetime of being a scripturally solid Protestant — a lifetime of meditating on Sacred Scripture. I am filled with joy to know of contemplation, as you say a grace given by God to us beyond meditation that leads to union with Christ. So happy to be here!!
        (This user name is apparently from an old Word Press account. I think my user name with this group is sherry.minter)

  2. Susan

    This is an excellent post! Very insightful. That’s a good point that sometimes we even need to give up good things if they are getting in the way of our relationship with Christ

  3. Patricia Palmer

    The contents of this helps me to understand my restlessness. I consider myself an infant/toddler still with scripture in some ways, but from a contemplative/meditative manner it seems to me that God is asking me to move along. I wasn’t certain what that was until reading this. The same with thanking the Lord for the consolations and knowledge but having a longing and desire to give Him more of me and testing out if I could go without the consolations and knowledge and still grow in my love for Him. I didn’t know where that was coming from but I have felt this stir in my spirit for quite a few months now.

  4. Deni Quay

    Thank you, Connie. Being willing to let go of everything in order to grow closer to Him, even the good things. I pray for the awareness to know when it is time to let go and trust. To know when it is Him leading me to a new place, to not lag behind, nor run ahead of Him.

  5. Lady Carmel Cole

    Thank you Connie for teaching us the teachings of the ultimate goal, union with God, through the gospels, and Sts. Paul, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Liseux, and John of the Cross. Somehow, when you explained the gospel of the Transfiguration and connected it to the doctrines of the doctor of the church, and as I am taking your Detachment class (now week three), the manifestations of the moving beyond the prophets and moving beyond the law on this post reminds me of the picture you shared that John of the Cross drew. Is there a connection there? I could be wrong.

    • Connie Rossini

      I had John’s teaching in the back of my mind as I wrote the post. I don’t know if he had the Transfiguration in mind. I don’t recall that he wrote about it.

  6. Allan Garcia

    In St John of the Cross’s nada doctrine, is hetalking about leaving behind what us “merely good” in order to be perfectly conformed to Christ?

    • Connie Rossini

      Yes, as far as clinging to them goes. We don’t have to literally give up every possession or activity, but we have to order them all to the highest good, which is God.

  7. Laura Nelson

    Connie, you and Dan Burke are opening my eyes. I’ve been using the Contemplative Rosary book/app that you and Dan Burke wrote. I just found out this morning about this course via Apostoli Viae. I’m a convert from the Presbyterian church (year 2000, JPII). After watching your intro, it hit me – all these years that I felt I was getting these little “consolations” I now realize Daddy was lovingly patting his little girl on the head, nudging her along, waiting for her to grow up. The problem was – I didn’t grow up. In fact I backtracked from Scripture-based mental prayer which I did as a Presbyterian and began to rely more on the vocal prayers I began learning as a new Catholic. I also have really good theological knowledge of the faith. I read my way into the Church. I’m from academia. I realize now, that’s made me prideful. My saving grace was the Rosary (when I actually contemplated on the mysteries well). It barely kept me going when I did pray it. I see now what Dan Burke meant (I think he was quoting St. Teresa of Avila) when he said something like “if you are not growing or moving to the next step in your prayer life, you’re backing up (ie, heading to hell). I think that was happening to me until God, in his grace, intervened. Thank you for this. What a blessing!

    • Connie Rossini

      So glad the Rosary book is helping you. God be praised! I feel really bad that instruction in prayer in the Catholic Church is so abysmal that you thought vocal prayer was the thing to do! Pray that more good teachers of mental prayer are raised up in the Church.

Share your thoughts with us.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.