We’ve mentioned before how Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets, but there is more to their appearance at the Transfiguration than just a symbolic representation or shorthand for the Jewish Scriptures. They give us additional insights into the nature of prayer.
Recall that the text says, “Behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah…” When you pray, you step out of the ordinary world of space and time and enter into the properly eternal realm of God. This means that you can come into contact with the past and the future. You establish contact with what the Church calls “the communion of saints,” all those friends of God over the centuries. We speak of invoking the saints, speaking with them, seeking their help and intercession. This is not just pious talk. It is grounded in this metaphysics of eternity.
But what precisely are Jesus, Moses, and Elijah talking about? The answer is “…his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31). We notice first of all the thematic connection between the Exodus that Moses led—a journey from slavery to freedom—and the exodus that Jesus would accomplish on the cross, a journey from sin and death to resurrection.
In both cases, it is a great work of liberation and life-giving love. This is key: the fruit of prayer in the Biblical tradition is action on behalf of the world. We are, essentially, a mission religion. Even the highest moments of mystical union are meant to conduce to doing God’s work in the world, to becoming a conduit of the divine grace. This is why Peter’s line is so important: “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Luke 9:33).
As Luke points out immediately, “But he did not know what he was saying.” The point of prayer is not to stay on the mountain. It is not to cling to mystical experience, however wonderful. It is to become radiant with the divine light so as to share it with the world. And this is why the voice from the cloud, once it identified Jesus, specified, “Listen to him.”