27 January 2009

The Bright Light of Transfiguration

This coming Sunday, the parishes of the LCMS that use the historic One-Year Lectionary will celebrate the joyous feast of the Transfiguration (the rest of us will celebrate the Sunday before Ash Wednesday). It is one of my favorite liturgies of the entire year - especially the stately and joyful Hymn of the Day (O Wondrous Type!) set to the Agincourt hymn:

Your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise (Introit)... O God, in the glorious Transfiguration of Your beloved Son You confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of Moses and Elijah. In the voice that came from the bright cloud You wonderfully foreshowed our adoption by grace. Mercifully make us coheirs with the King in His glory (Collect)... Alleluia! Sing to the Lord; tell of His salvation from day to day; declare His glory among the nations, His marvels among all the people! Alleluia! (Verse)... O wondrous type! O vision fair! Of glory that the Church may share Which Christ upon the mountain shows Where brighter than the sun He glows!... And faithful hearts are raised on high By this great vision's mystery For which in joyful strains we raise The voice of prayer, the hymn of praise... We pray Thee, bring us by Thy grace To see Thy glory face to face! (Hymn of the Day)... through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who at His Transfiguration revealed His glory to His disciples that they might be strengthened to proclaim His cross and resurrection and with all the faithful look forward to the glory of life everlasting (Proper Preface)... A light to lighten the gentile and the glory of Thy people Israel (Nunc Dimittis)... The Lord make His to shine upon you and give you peace (Benediction)... Alleluia, song of gladness, voice of joy that cannot die... At the last to keep Thine easter with Thy faithful saints on high, there to Thee forever singing Alleluia joyfully (Closing Hymn)...


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you have sped ahead to the end of February. This Sunday, I believe is the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany in the Church. I know, tempus fugit and all that, but let us have a few Sundays yet before Lent.
Rev. Piazza

William Weedon said...

See the opening sentence. If you are using the historic lectionary (as our parish does), Transfiguration is already this Sunday and then we enter the marvelous little season of Gesimatide, or Prelent. You can read more about it here:


Anonymous said...

Sorry, reading too quickly. I was thrown by the parenthesis. I see you meant that those not using the HL1year will wait until the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Did the HL1year many years and I am familiar with the Gesima's. thanks.
Rev. Piazza

Past Elder said...

The celebration of the Transfiguration seems to get kicked around a bit. As I understand it, we, in either calendar, celebrate it at this time to locate it in the chain of events of Jesus' life leading to Holy Week and Easter.

However, its traditional date is 6 August. We Roman kids were told it was fixed there because that's when news of the victory of Hungary over the Ottomans reached Rome, so the pope settled the feast on that day.

However, the East also celebrates it on 6 August, and as the second in a series of three feasts in August -- the other two being the Procession of the Cross on 1 August, which also begins the Dormition Fast, and Not Made By Hands on 16 August, so maybe it wasn't all about the seige of Belgrade.

Regardless, here's something that always struck me about 6 August. For centuries it's the Transfiguration. In 1945 it became the first use of nuclear weapons in war, 70K civilians instantly dead and a similar number later. So the world pursues it course and arrives at a different sort of transfiguration on the same day. Christ's or the world's, which transfiguration you want? Celebrate the Transfiguration with that in mind as a divine nudge as to what's at stake, and you come out a little shaken.

Joshua said...

Why is it the Lutheran practice to have the Gospel of the Transfiguration on the last Sunday before Lent or Septuagesima, as the case may be? - for in the Roman Missal, old and new, it's read on the 2nd Sunday of Lent.

Past Elder said...

Maybe one of our EO brothers may have some clarifying detail.

The pope didn't originate the feast in the West, but fixed its date of observance from among several then in use in the West.

I'm thinking that, while ending the seige of Belgrade and the Muslim threat to Europe was the immediate cause of fixing the date for the West on 6 August -- an event which must have struck its world with something of the force of Hiroshima in ours -- 6 August was one of the various dates used, and would represent an older tradition shared with the Eastern Church, where ir is part of a series of Feasts of the Saviour in August, and that 6 August would reference 6 January, indeed the EO sometimes call the Transfiguration the "small" Epiphany, going back to the times when 6 January celebrated all of the early events in the life of the Saviour, including his Baptism, where like the Transfiguration all three persons of the Trinity were present at the event.

Our Lutheran use is not something recent, TLH has it just before Lent too, and I'm guessing represents one of the traditions in use in the West before the pope standardised the observance on 6 August.

As to the Gospel, MT17:1-9 is the Gospel for both the Transfiguration and Reminiscere in Roman usage, but we use MT15:21-28, probably another Western variant (Reminiscere being known as the 2nd Sunday in Lent in some quarters).

William Weedon said...

Veit Dietrich was the Lutheran who suggested moving Transfiguration to the close of Epiphany - a brilliant suggestion, though more observed by Germans than Scandinavian Lutherans, I believe. In Bo Giertz' *Hammer of God* it is still observed in August.