August 6 marks the Feast of the Transfiguration which curiously (ask a liturgical scholar for an answer) is celebrated twice a year; in the summer and to end the Epiphany season. This always strikes me as overkill, but it does serve to remind us how important this festival is.
In 2020, it has another poignant remembrance as this date marks 75 years since the bombing of Hiroshima. Today we have seen pictures of Japan marking this milestone in a limited way due to the on-going world-wide pandemic. The recent chemical explosion in Beirut serves as another reminder of the death and destruction that some in our world meet upon fellow human beings.
The feast of the Transfiguration presents a vision of Jesus with Moses and Elijah, the two heavyweights from Hebrew Scripture, who represent respectively the Law and the Prophets. This event was witnessed by three of the close disciples: Peter, James and John. The gospel writers describe this as an historic event. It was first celebrated in the eastern tradition and was common by 1000 BCE, but came much later to the western church.
The concept of being transfigured links with Moses first appearing amongst the Israelite people having received the stone tablets containing the Law. In Exodus 34 we read that ‘… the skin of [Moses’] face shone because he had been talking to God.’ In 2nd Corinthians Paul suggests that we no longer need to veil our faces (as Moses had done) as we see ‘…the glory of the Lord as through reflected in a mirror … transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
The key word here is transformed. By seeking God and by following the way of Christ, we look to have our lives changed, transformed. By being in God’s presence and by doing what Christ asked of us we put away our old ways of sin and selfishness and look to being honest and generous with one another as well as with ourselves.
Peter (never one to stay in the shadows) wanted to make booths to commemorate this moment, one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. But Jesus told him that this was not the plan. Rather than historic mementos to remember a one-time event, Jesus was far more interested in how the disciples acted in their lives and how they worked to spread the good news.
In our way we need not worry too much about artifacts of our faith and be more focused on how we share our faith and how we live lives worthy of the name of Christ. As we enter a new phase of returning to Church (to receive the sacrament of communion once again) we are conscious of those who will still be at home in the knowledge that technology enables us to be spiritual present as a body even if we are in separate venues.
- The Reverend Stephen Rowe is the Rector of the Anglican Parish of the Church of the Epiphany, Surrey and a regular contributor to diocesan communications online vehicles and Topic.
COLLECT FOR THE DAY
Almighty God,on the holy mount you revealed to chosen witnessesyour well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured.Mercifully deliver us from the darkness of this world,and change us into his likeness from glory to glory;through Jesus Christ our Lord,who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and for ever.