Saturday, August 6, 2011

Feast of Transfiguration

Raphael's "Transfiguration"

Today, August 6, marks the Feast of the Transfiguration. We read about this Biblical event in the ninth chapter of the Gospel According to Saint Mark, starting at the second verse:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

The Collect for this day from the Book of Common Prayer 2011 reads:

HEAVENLY Father, before your Son Jesus Christ suffered on the cross, you revealed his glory on the holy mountain; Grant that we may see the light of his presence, be strengthened to carry the cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Raphael's famous painting, pictured above, shows us two scenes: the transfigured Christ, radiant in glory, and, below, the scene from Mark 9:14-29 in which Jesus heals a boy of an unclean spirit after His Disciples are unable to do so. We see the disciples, confused by their ineffectiveness, as the crowd gathers, asking why Jesus' followers cannot heal this child beset by demonic forces. And when Jesus does arrive, we hear from Him this important truth:

"All things are possible for one who believes.”

Yesterday when we attended the Friday service of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity at Victoria House, Father Acker explained the situation of this portion of Scripture more clearly. This place, near Caesarea-Philippi, a shrine to Pan, the Roman God of partying and mischief, at which Jesus was transfigured was a large rock wall next to a waterfall. In the rock wall, various niches had been carved, with statues of different deities, all of whom were worshiped by the pantheistic Roman culture. So when Peter, rather overwhelmed by the power of Christ's transfiguration in the presence of Moses (representing the Old Testament) and Elijah (representing the New Testament in the form of John the Baptist), suggested setting up three "tents" (niches), he was talking about adding images of Moses, Elijah, and Christ to the pantheon of gods. Then the voice of the Lord steps in, straightening out any possible misunderstandings, by declaring Jesus as His Son and commanding Peter, James, and John to listen to Christ.

So may we indeed listen to Christ in our lives as we are transformed ourselves into His magnificent Glory as, through the Holy Spirit, we become more like Him in all we think, say, and do.

On the path to transfiguration with you,

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