Clergy Letter for July and August by the Rev’d Emily Davis
As Christian feast days go, the Transfiguration of our Lord must be one of the most overlooked, if not neglected, of them and it often seems to pass without much notice. It’s feast day of August 6th probably doesn’t help, always falling in the middle of the summer holiday season. Although by chance, this year, it happens to fall on a Sunday and so for those who are around, we will mark the feast in our worship that day.
But I wonder why it is so generally overlooked. Maybe it’s because, having celebrated the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ this past (liturgical) year, we are left wondering what the transfiguration of Jesus could possibly add. Why is it so important and seen as worthy of a feast day? Why does it really matter to us?
It is said that as Christian’s we live between memory and hope. The memory of the salvation bought for us by Jesus Christ and the hope of our salvation and life everlasting to come in the kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus ascended the mountain with Peter, James and John, those disciples witnessed him enter a state of metamorphosis in which his divinity and glory was revealed to them. (Matt 17, Mk 9, Lk 9) It was the revelation of the hope that the disciples had of Jesus; that he wasn’t just a man, some kind of a magician or prophet, but that he really was the Messiah and the Son of God.
But it was also a precious memory that I’ve no doubt those three disciples took with them and treasured for the rest of their lives. Perhaps it gave them sustenance when they left the mountain and returned to the everyday of Jesus’ ministry – the preaching and teaching amongst the crowds and the healing of the sick. Soon they were to witness the passion and death of Jesus, when their faith must have been really shaken and encroached by doubt. I wonder whether they ever recalled the memory of the transfiguration of Jesus in those darkest moments and whether in it they found any hope.
For when we face the harsher realities of this world, such as its poverty and injustice, violence and war. Like those three disciples and countless Christians since, we can hold onto the memory of Jesus Christ whose glory was revealed to humanity – in his resurrection, his ascension but even before that, in his transfiguration on the mountain.
Just as when we consider the Transfiguration it also affirms our hope. Our hope for the day when Jesus will come again in the full revelation of his glory, and God’s kingdom and the new Jerusalem will be fully established and completed. Hope for the day when we may join God in his heavenly kingdom and our own bodies will be transformed in the resurrection.
As Christians we live between memory and hope. A memory and hope that revolves around the person of Jesus Christ whom we believe to be the Messiah and Son of God. It is a memory and hope that is illuminated by the transfigured body of Jesus Christ on the mountain, when “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” (Matt 17:2)