Transfiguration and the Rainbow Body

Readings for the Feast Day of Transfiguration

This reflection was shared at Sacred Saunter Outdoor Eucharist on Saturday August 7, 2021 at Sequoia Park in Eureka CA.

Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Transfiguration, when Jesus appeared wonderfully transfigured to chosen witnesses (Peter, James, and John), flanked by two of the great Hebrew prophets: Moses and Elijah. One question that is often asked about this mysterious event is: how in the world did Peter, James, and John recognize Moses and Elijah? There were no paintings and certainly no photographs of Moses and Elijah at the time and they did not seem to introduce themselves or be wearing name tags. (I feel like a “Hello My Name is Elijah” name tag might dampen the glory of the event a bit).

According to Jewish imagination at the time, there were a few holy men of God who did not die in the conventional way. According to Genesis, one man named Enoch “did not see death,” but the two others that loomed large in the Jewish imagination were Elijah, who was carried up to heaven by a chariot of light, and Moses who exuded divine light during his lifetime (as we read about in Exodus) and whose body eventually transformed fully into colorful light when he died, according to some legends. So when Peter, James, and John see two other mysterious men bathed in glorious light next to a wonderfully transfigured Jesus, they were wise to deduce their identities to be that of Moses and Elijah. 

Now this idea of bodies beaming with light or transforming into light may sound strange to us; however, this phenomenon of spiritual photoluminescence continues to occur in modern times. Tibetan Buddhist monks refer to it as the “rainbow body” and several Tibetan Buddhists have achieved this “rainbow body,” with the most recent instance occurring with a holy man named Khenpo A-chos in 1998. Christ Church parishioner Laura Rose recently introduced me to the writings of a Catholic priest and scholar named Francis Vincent Tiso who has studied the rainbow body and interviewed several people who were eye-witnesses to the rainbow body of Khenpo A-chos. Father Tiso believes that modern instances of the rainbow body give credibility to many of the mysterious and seemingly miraculous events described in the Bible, like Elijah’s chariots of fire, Moses’s luminescence, the Resurrection of Christ, and, of course, the Transfiguration. Father Tiso has studied some of the Tibetan Buddhist techniques for achieving the “rainbow body” and several of these techniques are associated with controlled breathing. So, on that note, let’s take a couple deep breaths together. (I recently learned a Japanese term: shinrin – kokyu, which means “forest breathing.”  It sounds like the Japanese term for “forest bathing” shinrin- yoku, which is what we’ve been doing.)

Fr. Francis Tiso is known by Tibetan Buddhists as the “Jesus Lama” because of the unique puja he performs with the Eucharist. And Tiso suggests that the rainbow body of Christ which blasted him out of the tomb becomes materialized for us in the consecrated bread; and so Eucharist is the Christian technique to achieving the rainbow body. I also recently learned that Fr. Tiso, the leading scholar of “rainbow body” research, previously served as the priest at St. Bernard’s Catholic church here in Eureka not too long ago. So, maybe we can invite him back here sometime to teach us more about the rainbow body that is available to us now, through the grace of Jesus Christ our Risen and Transfigured Lord.


Fr. Francis V. Tiso

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