FROM THE RECTOR: TRANSFIGURATION
When I was in seminary the standard thinking about the transfiguration, recounted in Mark, Matthew and Luke, was that it was a post-resurrection appearance that had come to be a part of the pre-passion narrative in the telling of the story of Jesus. It turns out that while I was learning one thing the scholarship was heading in a new direction, more faithful to the text and more convincing.
In 1981 Enrique Nardoni (1924–2002), Roman Catholic priest and biblical scholar, surveying the history of interpretation, changed the direction of the debate with an analysis of Mark (9:1-13). He was able to show that the story was very much a part of Mark’s ongoing narrative of the Good News (“A Redactional Interpretation of Mark 9:1,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 43  265-384).
In Mark, the story of the transfiguration follows Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question to the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds, “You are the Christ.” Peter doesn’t like what follows: Jesus’ prediction of his suffering, death, and resurrection. He responds by taking Jesus aside and “rebuking” him. The other disciples are close. Jesus turns so that all can hear him say, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Mark 8:27-33).
Before the next story, the transfiguration, Mark’s narrative addresses directly the situation of Christians when he was writing. It was a time of persecution. Jesus said,
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself or herself, take up his or her cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his or her life will lose it, but whoever loses his or her life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his or her life? What could one give in exchange for his or her life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)
Then, comes the difficult verse that causes so much debate, “He also said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power’” (Mark 9:1). The Risen Jesus did not return to establish the complete reign of God over creation. The word we have come to use for this return is “parousia.” It’s English for the Greek word παρουσία which Paul uses for the return of Jesus at the end of time in his First Letter to the Thessalonians, the oldest New Testament writing. (It’s also used in nine other New Testament books).
By the time Mark wrote almost certainly most, if not all of the disciples who heard Jesus speak these words, had died. With the story of Jesus revealing his heavenly glory one can say Peter, James and John saw this glory. In the private, personal center of our lives, where Christ has made himself known to us, one might say that we too have seen, each of us in his or her own way, the glory of God.
The subject of just these few verses is a large one. My own study will continue. More can certainly be said—and I have other material for my sermon for the feast, Wednesday, August 6 (Sung Masses at 12:10 PM and 6:00 PM).
When Jesus and the three others came down from the mountain, their journey to glory continued, as does ours in the days God has made for us.—Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Charles, Donn, Suzanne, Reha, Rebecca, Burt, John, McNeil, David, Takeem, Sylvia, Rick, Jack, Linda, Arpene, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . August 3: 1886 Jessie Allen Henshaw; 1900 Frank Ludwig Hoffman; 1949 Madeline Estelle Lightbourne; 1969 Mary Campbell.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR . . . are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Wednesday August 6: The Transfiguration of Our Lord: Sung Mass at 12:10 PM and 6:00 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, August 2, by Father Gerth and on Saturday, August 9, by Father Pace.
THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY . . . Friday, August 15, is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also known as the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin. Father Donald Garfield instituted a solemn celebration in 1972. Father Edgar Wells began the tradition of preceding weekday evening Solemn Masses with an organ recital. The Assumption is observed with Sung Matins at 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer & Sung Mass at 12:10 PM. An organ recital by Stephen Rumpf will be at 5:30 PM. Solemn Mass of the day is at 6:00 PM. The full parish choir will sing for the Solemn Mass, and great hymns will be sung. A reception will follow in Saint Joseph’s Hall.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Charles Arthur Schaefer was admitted last week to Beth Israel Hospital to treat an infection. He remains in isolation. We do not expect him to be able to receive visitors. Please keep him and his partner Donn Russell in your prayers . . . Congratulations to Rector Emeritus Edgar Wells who will celebrate his fifty-fourth anniversary of ordination to the priesthood on Saturday, August 9. Father Wells was rector of the parish from 1979 until his retirement in 1998 . . . Many thanks to Father Park Bodie for his help with weekday Masses while Father Smith continues on sabbatical. Father Smith returns to the parish on Saturday, August 30 . . . Sister Deborah Francis returns to the parish on Tuesday, August 5 . . . Sister Laura Katherine will be on vacation from Thursday, August 7, through Wednesday, August 13 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 191.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) has been at the pinnacle of church music for as long as we’ve known his name. He met with considerable success during his lifetime, especially as an organist and improvisator, and has been a pivotal influence in the Protestant world since that time. He wrote chorales (Lutheran hymns), harmonized the chorales of many others, and wrote volumes of chorale preludes on dozens of these tunes. He wrote some of the most engaging and challenging organ music in the catalogue for that instrument and is widely known, even outside the church, for his Brandenburg Concerti and Orchestral Suites, not to mention many other secular compositions. His major choral works, particularly his passions and oratorios, fell from favor soon after his death and were not performed for nearly 70 years, until reintroduced to the world in 1829 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847), a great composer of the early romantic period. It is Mendelssohn who gained an audience for the music of Bach in England, and his popularity has not flagged since that time. As a prelude to Solemn Mass this morning, we hear a setting of Magnificat, one of the six Schubler Chorales written about 1748. Bach’s E-minor Prelude and Fugue, often called the Cathedral Prelude and Fugue is the postlude. At the ministration of Communion, baritone Joe Chappel sings the recitative and aria, “Draw near, all ye people,” from Elijah, Opus 70, one of two great oratorios by Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847).—Mark Peterson
OUTREACH . . . We welcome donations of hand sanitizer; granola bars; applesauce, sold in small, plastic cups with peel-off tops; water; peanut butter and crackers; and other small items that can be packed in bags for distribution to those who are homeless . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please place your donations in the basket near the ushers’ table on Sunday mornings. You may also make cash donations.