‘We interrupt this prophetic diatribe…to bring you a few choice samples of apocalyptic vision.’ That’s about what it felt like at Mass today, with the great feast of the Transfiguration plopped down in the middle of a liturgical week otherwise devoted to a serious rant from the prophet Jeremiah.
- Daniel, describing the awesome spectacle as the Ancient One ascends a fiery throne…and confers everlasting dominion on ‘One like a Son of Man.’
- Peter, recounting ‘power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ and assuring the early church that he and certain other Apostles ‘had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.’
- Matthew, providing his version of the transfiguration event itself, when on a mountaintop Jesus’ ‘face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.’
It seemed odd, to have this big feast day—with all its dramatic images and earthshaking revelations—just kinda thrown in there, smack dab in the middle of Ordinary Time. So I did a little digging and discovered that there are some historical reasons for it to be celebrated on August 6.
For one, it seems that in the fourth century a church was dedicated on Mt. Tabor (the traditional site of the revelation) on this date—and the feast has been celebrated (at least by the Eastern Church) on August 6 ever since.
About 1100 years later, the feast of the Transfiguration became a fixture on the Roman (western) liturgical calendar, when Pope Callistus III learned on this date that his crusaders had scored an important victory at Belgrade a few weeks before.
But whatever the historical hook, I realized that the timing of the great feast appealed to me on a much different level today. I liked having a reminder, in the middle of ordinary time, that there’s something BIG and GLORIOUS about our Triune God.
I realized that sometimes I want a God like the one Daniel sees in his vision: A Mighty Power, worthy of praise—One who sits atop a throne with flames and pyrotechnics occurring all around.
Yeah, there are times when I want a Big Show in my God.
Except when I don’t. Except at those times in life when I’d much rather feel a gentle touch, a loving hand, a compassionate parent.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Ordinary Time is the perfect season for celebrating the Transfiguration…because it reminds us that the God we’ve come to know–through Jesus–really isn’t Either/Or.
God is Both/And: Glorious AND Approachable. Nurturing AND Transformational. Intimate AND Uncontainable.
There’s a lot to like, I realized, in the God Whose Persons are revealed to us on Mt. Tabor.
Our loving God is a Mighty God — worthy of praise indeed.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.