The Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration, and before we examine the scripture readings for this morning, I want to give you a brief liturgics lesson. There are a lot of feast days in the year. There are dozens every month, but we don’t celebrate most of them here at St. Mary’s or anywhere—no church celebrates all of them. There is a spectrum of importance of the Feasts: Christmas is one we always celebrate; some Feasts are on Sundays: Easter, the Baptism of our Lord, Pentecost. These are the really important Feasts of the year. And there are a number of Feasts at the other end of the spectrum that are minor Feasts. You can choose whether you want to observe them or not. If they fall on a Sunday, they actually get moved because Sunday always preempts minor Feasts of the year, which are then transferred to Monday instead. But there is a group of Feasts in the middle of the spectrum that are important, but not quite as important, like All Saints, a Feast that is allowed to be moved to the first Sunday after November 1st. The Feast of the name of your church is another, St. Mary’s for us, that may be moved to a Sunday so the whole community can gather to celebrate it. And then there is the Feast of the Transfiguration, which is important enough so that if it falls on a Sunday, you are supposed to celebrate it. But not important enough that it is moved to a Sunday if it falls on any other day of the week. Therefore, we don’t get to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration very often. It’s only every seven years, except for that leap-year thing that gets in the way. So this celebration is actually a first for me: in my decade of ordained ministry, we’ve never celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration together.

Every year for the Transfiguration, we get these same scripture readings that we just heard. We have the Gospel in which Jesus takes Peter and James and John to the mountain, and before their eyes he is transfigured. He becomes dazzling white, and Moses and Elijah are up there with him talking. Moses and Elijah, of course, are two great ancestors of our faith. Each one of them represents one of the great pillars of the faith: Moses represents law, and Elijah represents the prophets. Jesus is there, with the embodiment of the law and the prophets. The expression, the law and the prophets, is familiar to us: we say it every Sunday. The greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul, love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

So Jesus is up there with the law and the prophets as the fulfillment, the wholeness of the law and the prophets. There are clouds and a voice from the heavens that says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, in which I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” In this glorious, marvelous moment the Disciples are struck with awe and wonder at this sight. They want to stay there forever; they are distracted by the shiny object.