Above: Church of the Transfiguration, built on Mt. Tabor, Israel, traditional site of the Transfiguration of Jesus
Jesus: Consistent with the Law and the Prophets
The Assigned Readings for This Feast:
Psalm 99 or Psalm 99:5-9
2 Peter 1:13-21
O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
When I read about events such as the Ascension and the Transfiguration I suspect that more happened than I read in texts. I do not doubt the veracity of the accounts, but I suspect that words were inadequate to the full scope of events in question. One just had to be there to get the full effect, and I am about 2,000 years too late for that.
The Transfiguration was a revelatory experience for the accompanying apostles. They glimpsed the true nature of Jesus, which entails being consistent with the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). [A true story: Recently Beth Long, my Rector, repeated a question a child in the parish asked. How, this young person queried, did the apostles recognize Moses and Elijah? Beth replied that she did not know. Indeed, that is an intriguing question and a plot hole, but it does not distract me from the point of having Jesus, Moses, and Elijah together briefly.] Yet Peter–“God bless him,” as we say in the U.S. South–wanted to remain in the moment and institutionalize it. This reaction, although well-intentioned, was misguided, for Jesus and the apostles needed to move along.
They were headed for Jerusalem, where the Passion Narrative would unfold. Just a few verses later (Luke 9:51), Jesus “turned his face toward Jerusalem,” and his impending death. This is an important turning point in the Gospel of Luke, and one should read verses before it and after it in its context. With that in mind, I propose that the Transfiguration was also a “booster shot” for Jesus, who was about to embark on a difficult, yet necessary, course.
When pondering the calendar of the Christian Church, one needs to remember that the earliest feast Christians observed was Easter. Even Christmas (the observance of which developed later) exists in the shadow of Easter. And the Transfiguration does, also.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JUNE 13, 2010
THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C