The Collect For Transfiguration
Sunday's Collect, while beautiful and apropos, seems to omit something important. The divine logic of this event, it's raison d'etre. It reads:
"O God, in the glorious transfiguration of your beloved son you confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of Moses and Elijah. In the voice that came from the bright cloud you wonderfully foreshadowed our adoption by grace. Mercifully make us co-heirs with the King in his glory and bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven; through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever."
I'm not sure what is meant by "the mysteries of the faith" in this context. It is assumed by most preachers and commentators that the appearance of Moses and Elijah means that their Offices are fulfilled in Christ. That he is the new Law Giver, and Prophet (Deut 18:15ff). True enough! Or said another way that the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New, Christ himself, his body and blood, being the New Testament. Again, true enough!
I don't see how "our adoption by grace" is taught in this metamorphic event, except indirectly.
The prayer: Mercifully make us ... is excellent enough, here or on any occasion.
But what is missing is the meaning of the metamorphosis which occurs and is witnessed by the 3 chief disciples. What's the point of this happening? Is it a divine PR stunt? God forbid! An object lesson? That's not saying enough.
There are many warmed over explanations: that as Moses glowed, so Jesus glows even more, showing his divinity -- again true enough! Or as our hymn says: "shines with unborrowed light." Meaning he is God of God, Light of Light. That Light is native to him who is the Light of the World (John 8:12). Also true, and never to be denied. But I don't think that Jesus is looking to make a Pieper-esque dogmatic statement here.
So what is the actual point of the event?
I think, if anything, that this metamorphosis, this CHANGE IN FORM (for that is what it is), demonstrates the goal of our faith. We too, by virtue of our baptism, by virtue of the holy words we hear and speak in worship, by virtue of the body and blood we eat and drink, by virtue of the faith we confess and the prayers that we pray, and of the pure lives we live, we stand transfigured in and with Christ!
Now in faith!
But later in fact!
As Paul writes: When Christ who is your life appears, then you to shall appear with him in glory. Or as St. John the Divine writes: 1 John 3:1-3 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
But our glorification is not only a future event. As often as we come to the Mount of Transfiguration, the high and holy altar of God, our form is changed from perishable to imperishable; mortal to immortal; corruptible to incorruptible. Then the saying will come to pass: 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 "Death is swallowed up in victory." 55 "O grave, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"
Yes, in Christ all things are changed in form. Transfigured. Metamorphized. Death into life. Fear into courage. Sinners into saints. Time into eternity. "That where I am you may be also."
Finally, though I ask questions of this Collect, please don't take them as criticism. This is the church's Collect and we will pray it as is. We don't get to choose our Collects, any more than we get to choose our Introits, Graduals, Readings, or our Liturgy (this needs to be said because there is some confusion on this fact). CLC is a member of the universal church of heaven and earth, and not a church unto itself. We must never be sectarian. And so we will pray as the church prays.
More in Pastor's Blog
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February 17, 2018St. John Chrysostom On Protection From The Devil
February 17, 2018Commentary On The Gospel For Lent 1 - Mark 1:9-15 By Two Church Fathers