Transfiguration (updated from a posting in August, 2011)
Tucked away on a quiet summer day – August 6 – is something known on our liturgical calendar as Transfiguration of our Lord. Actually, in our lovely mastery of compromise, Episcopalians celebrate this event twice. Once on the last Sunday of Epiphany (usually in late February) in accordance with Protestant practice and once on August 6, in line with the Roman Catholic Church. Celebrate might be too strong a word, since I’m doubtful that you’ve sent out your Transfiguration greeting cards or planned for a traditional Transfiguration meal. These dates in the lectionary ask us to remember that moment in the Bible when Jesus was suddenly filled with radiant light while on the mountain with his disciples, giving them another sign that he was indeed the Son of God. And so it was that by changing himself he was able to change others.
The Roman Catholic Church calls this day one of five “Luminous Mysteries” and it is an occasion to pray with the rosary. Luminous mystery – isn’t that a beautiful phrase? This piece by American composer Morten Lauridsen expresses something about luminous mystery for me:
As it happens, this piece was on the program sung by a choir from St. Alban’s during their pilgrimage to France last month. One of the shining moments on that trip was a concert we gave at Chartres Cathedral before their evening light show, an amazing event which created kaleidoscopes of color on the Cathedral’s facade. Both the singing and the light show were luminous experiences. As it also happens, my husband and I took two days at the end of the choir’s pilgrimage and made our own to Lourdes in southwestern France. There we participated in an evening candlelight procession with thousands of others, praying the rosary and singing songs to Mary. While not necessarily our piety, Anglicans that we are, it was moving to share light and prayers and the hope of healing with so many others from around the world. Time is often the better judge of these things, but perhaps Chartres and Lourdes were even experiences of transfiguration.