Why is the mount of transfiguration observed on the last Sunday following the epiphany? Perhaps it is the ultimate epiphany of Jesus’ divine nature? Perhaps, it is that iconic “mountaintop experience” that we all must descend from to face the struggles and suffering in life, as Jesus did turning his face toward Jerusalem, the church turns her face to LENT? Perhaps it is the image of being so close to Jesus as Peter, James, and John were, and still not understanding the significance of his life? They, like ourselves, still naïve and foolish in our understanding of the unseen and divine wonders that are all around us. Thus, calling us to a deeper walk, a walk of mindful reflection and willing to bear the suffering in this world, and intercede on behalf of the suffering and powerless in this world which is the call of LENT? There are various good answers to the question, why is the mount of transfiguration observed the Sunday before Lent.
I find the timing and placement of this story within our liturgical journey of the church very telling and appropriate. The spiritual journey is all about coming to new awareness of life, followed by a dying process, followed by resurrection to new life. If any of us reflect mindfully upon our lives, we will recognize this cycle time and again. Like Jesus, our lives emerge from anonymity to peaks of glorious realizations and affirmations, followed by the challenges and struggles of life, resulting in a dying/suffering process, culminating in resurrection, being born into new life, new realities, new awareness, greater depth. We see our lives cycle from lows to highs to lows to highs and along the way we have the invitation to walk in the grace, the hope, the faith, the boundless love of the Christ, God incarnate in creation, or we can suffer and experience all that life brings with a sense of selfishness or isolation. I choose the former, to see my life within the full embrace of the divine who says to me, just as it was said to Jesus, while in the womb of Mary, lying in the manger in Bethlehem, being lifted out of the waters of the Jordan in Baptism, and upon the mount of transfiguration, “You are my beloved Child, with whom I am well pleased.”
We not only see this cosmic cycle from conception to resurrection happen in individual lives, we see it in whole cultures, civilizations, cities, and communities, such as our own parish life together. This parish of St. Andrew walks the holy path of Jesus’ life every year, along with the turning of the seasons in creation, but it experiences its own cycle of life to death to resurrection in its own natural course throughout its history. I have been here long enough to have experienced this cycle at least two times and in my observation we are presently in a season of resurrection and new birth. Much of what was our life together has changed, much of the old has passed away, behold new things are being born all around us, and in all of my learning and observation, the joy and enrichment of life , along with the eternal resurrections of life, belong to those who allow themselves, along with the world around them, to be born, again. Not to be born OVER, again, repeating the same life course and choices, But, born again to live life in new ways, with deeper perception, with greater understanding, in more intimate communion with the divine within and all around us.
As we enter the season of Lent, I, along with the vestry, are committed to the much needed revitalization and re-imagination of the parish. As spring emerges all around us, we follow her cue to nurture and cultivate the new life that is emerging around us, along with all that has been given to hibernation and rest. It is our prayer and intention to see Lent as a season of reorganization and revitalization of our parish. Our Wednesday soup suppers will be devoted to strengthening the circle that is our parish family and to see the formation of the smaller circles of service, outreach, and fellowship. Bring a crock pot of soup and/or a large bowl of salad to share and let us do the work of reviving the life and function of our shared life together.
Life transfigures us. We are born in the appearance of infancy, and allowed the natural course of a full life, we are in the appearance of one worn and aged by the sands and tides of life. Together with our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our souls are transformed as we experience all that life brings our way. It is all done within the cosmic and mystical presence and grace of God incarnate upon the earth, the same spirit that dwelt in Jesus dwells in and with us, being our companion along the way.
Allow this Lent to be a time of renewal and return to the intimacy of that fellowship with God through your faith in Jesus, the Christ. Allow the Stations of the Cross to reveal God’s grace in the midst of suffering and struggle. Allow the beauty of our common worship at Lent to renew the bonds of affection we share in this parish. Attend the formation class facilitated by Karen Altergott Roberts on spiritual renewal and centering prayer, commit yourself to offering the daily office in the chapel at least once/week during this season of Lent, come on Wednesday nights to revitalize the circle of our parish, give yourself to the season of Lent for intentional personal and communal renewal of mind, body, and soul.