KB Categories Archives: Christian Year

Keep the Groundhog in His Shadow

Marc Brown:

Recently our church’s Christian Life Center (Gym) had a visitor, a small bat. The bat had somehow made it into the building and was spotted one morning zipping around, flying in tight little circles all around the CLC. Word of the bat spread through the church staff till many dropped what they were doing to come and help try to wrangle the small mammal into a net so it could be taken outside and released. If you have ever had a similar experience with a bat in a large building, you can imagine what a spectacle it was. You also can imagine that all church programs normally using the gym were stopped until the unwanted guest could be escorted out.

groundhog-dayThis brought to mind another small mammal that all North American Christians have encountered. This small mammal has also strangely entered into the church to disrupt and often influence our programming– perhaps even our worship: The Easter Bunny. I’m not going to rail against the Easter Bunny. However, it is interesting to me that the Easter Bunny is not the only small mammal that has come through secular culture to disrupt and even derail important expressions of Christian worship. Enter the Groundhog.

Somewhere in the past, I overheard a church history professor explaining to someone how Groundhog Day is actually covering up a date that formerly was quite important to all Christians. My interest was peaked. Groundhog Day is 40 days after Christmas. This coincidence has never occurred to me. 40 days are very important in Scripture. It rained on the earth for 40 days during Noah’s time on the ark. For 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert preceding his public ministry. Jesus ascended to heaven 40 days after His resurrection. And Mary, 40 days after giving birth to Jesus, was considered ceremonially cleansed from the birth process enough to come out of her home and present herself and the child at the Temple. Many Christians are familiar with the stories of the infant Jesus’ presentation at the Temple and the interactions with both Simeon and the prophetess Anna. These are the stories of Presentation Day or as many know it, Candlemas. As many more know it, Groundhog Day.

What Exactly is Candlemas?

Just as 40 days after Christ’s resurrection we remember Christ’s Ascension, so 40 days after Christmas we commemorate Jesus’ presentation at the Temple.

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” -Luke 2:22-24 (NIV)

The other significant parts of this story are the Holy Family’s interactions with Simeon and Anna. Scripture tells that the prophetess Anna, a faithful 84-year-old woman, blessed the infant Jesus and testified to all around concerning his significance. Scripture describes Simeon as a man in Jerusalem who was righteous and devout and that the Holy Spirit was upon him as he waited for the consolation of Israel.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. -Luke 2:26-27 (NIV)

Simeons Song of Praise. Aert DeGelder

Simeons Song of Praise. Aert DeGelder

Scripture goes on to report that as soon as Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the Temple courts “to do for him what the custom of the Law required,” Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. Simeon’s praise is written in the form of a song. As a song, it has been treasured as a canticle of scripture and for centuries it has been set to music, given the title Nunc dimittis. Within Simeon’s canticle is the theme of Christ as a “Light to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (2:32). The theme of Christ as a light inspired the worship services commemorating this day. Services usually include the use of candles which help give it the name, Candlemas. One of the ways many Christians celebrate in these services is by bringing candles from home that will be used later in family worship. Another practice is for churches to distribute candles in the service meant for use in family worship throughout the following year. This worship celebration closes off the season of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany in the same way that Ascension closes off the redemptive cycle of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. These days the observance of Candlemas is not as prominent as it was in past times. As with some other important occurrences in the Christian year, the remembrance of Christ’s presentation at the Temple has been sadly forgotten and in this incident, inexplicably replaced with a woodchuck.

How did this happen?

How is it that Christians traded this symbolically rich and meaningful time of worship for the spectacle of cameras and crowds around a groundhog hole? There are a few explanations. There is some evidence that pagan European cultures used badgers as a clue predicting the end of winter, thus determining the best time to plant spring crops. Also, because of dueling calendars, there were two competing methods for calculating the astronomical end of winter and beginning of spring. The badgers began serving as the tie-breaker for this dispute. Years later, the ancient superstition/pseudoscience of badger watching was still mentioned in poems and songs from several Northern European cultures. These poems all referred to the timing of the badgers in relation to Candlemas. Overtime, the well accepted and valued remembrance of Candlemas lost ground to the quaint pagan weather prognostication of the badger. This was brought to North America and transferred to the groundhog.

Why does this matter?

I wrote an article several months ago on the topic, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, which means, the way we worship shapes our faith. When our worship services, even for purposes of evangelism and seeker-sensitivity, begin to resemble secular culture more than the Gospel, we can end up sacrificing things that should never be lost. Groundhog Day is a great example of this. Somewhere along the way, our fathers and mothers in the faith lost their will to observe and remember some parts of our faith story. Candlemas can be a meaningful and memorable worship service involving prayer, scripture, music and candles that reminding believers Christ is the light of creation. As worshipers re-tell the story of his presentation at the Temple, they remember that Christ came to redeem all of creation. Just as Jesus was formally presented to the world, we as believers are also presented by God to minister to a hurting and dying world.

Modern Western Christians (mainly we evangelicals) may be the inheritors of a faith that has been sadly stripped of some of the jewels that were meant to help us become more like Christ. It doesn’t have to stay that way. In past times, particularly ancient ones, it was more common for believers to orient the way they experienced time, not according to secular culture, but around the important stories of their faith. This is how observance of the Christian year began. When and what we do in worship is extremely important. Robert Webber wrote,

We are now called to live in the pattern of his death and resurrection. And it is Christian-year spirituality that helps us live in our baptism, for it is ultimately an ordering of our lives into the pattern of dying to sin and being raised to the new life in Christ.

February 2nd may be a day that popular Western culture gathers to pull a blinking and confused groundhog from its hole. But I encourage believers to meditate on the stories of Candlemas. I encourage Christians to examine the special days in your personal calendar. Are they generated by the transient whims of popular culture or by the timeless and holy stories of our faith? I also encourage believers to have times of family worship in your homes. There are numerous websites and books with great ideas for fun and engaging ways that families can worship together– rehearsing the stories of our faith. Let’s orient our lives around things more important than a groundhog.


Connell, Martin. Eternity Today: On the Liturgical Year, volume 1. New York, NY. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006.

Stookey, Laurence H. Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church. Nashville, TN. Abingdon Press, 1996.

Webber, Robert E. Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year. Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Publishing Group, 2004.

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Advent Begins with Trouble

Edwin Searcy:

UntitledAdvent_FellowshipCommunityAdvent begins with trouble. This is the odd counter-cultural movement of the Christian year. Just when the stores are in full swing with jingling bells providing encouragement to Christmas shoppers, along comes the season of Advent. Advent is the first season of the year. Its liturgical color is blue. Advent is the season that tells the truth about the blues. It is the season that refuses to ignore the troubles that plague the world, the nations, the church, the family and the soul. Advent is the deep blue of the morning, just at dawn as the dark night is coming to an end.

This could be depressing. But it is not. Telling the truth about the trouble can lead to liberation, to transformation, to the new life that awaits on the other side of repentance. Telling the truth about the trouble draws God into the fray. In the ecumenical lectionary the first Advent text of the first year of the three year cycle begins: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.” We often imagine that our sung kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy) is all about our guilt and transgression. But it is much more. It is also a daring, bold cry to rouse God to save us from the forces of greed and envy and violence that separate us from the kingdom come, God’s will done.

Over the years Advent and Christmas have regularly been domesticated, their high voltage reduced to a pleasurable buzz. Advent is an invitation to host the odd texts that take the church deep into the ache and grief that cries out for a savior. Instead we often reduce the four Sundays of Advent to four safe platitudes: hope, peace, joy and love. Christmas is a journey into the vulnerability of God’s mission to save the earth. The savior cannot escape the troubles– born in obscurity, hunted down by the powers. How much of this fragility and danger remain in our festivities?

There is no more difficult season in the year than this one in which to practice the challenging work of forming alternative Christian identity in western culture. My friend and rabbi, Martin, likes to say that it is much easier to be a rabbi at Hannukah than to be a minister at Christmas. “After all,” he says, “no one else in the culture is trying to tell our children what Hanukkah is all about.” Without careful work, the recovery of Advent can feel like the “scrooging” of Christmas. The prophetic rage of John the Baptist does not easily transform a culture that is determined to party in the middle of winter.

Over the years at University Hill Congregation we have worked to cultivate Advent as a distinctive alternative to the celebration of Christmas that surrounds us. We often mark New Year’s Eve on the Saturday night before the first Sunday of Advent. We share a potluck meal and looked to the seasons of the Christian Year ahead. We taught our children that we hold dual citizenship– as Canadians and as citizens in the reign of God. We mark time with two different calendars- the secular calendar and the Christian Seasons calendar- to remind us of the oddness of living between times.

qavahOn Sundays in Advent we prepare for the amazing news of Christmas. We wait. We do not sing carols, yet. We long for the coming of Jesus Christ, just as our children long for the arrival of gifts. We do not open the present early (just as we do not sing Easter hymns during Lent). We practice “waiting upon God.” We remember that the root word for “wait” in both Hebrew and Latin also means “hope.” We will not give up on God, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary that is around us. We prepare our lives and homes for the reign of God with all the vigor that goes into our preparations for Christmas morning and Christmas dinner.

When the season of Christmas arrives we delight in knowing what the culture around us has forgotten: there are twelve Christmas mornings, twelve Christmas dinners. Others move on to Boxing Day sales and New Year’s plans while we are just beginning our Christmas celebrations. This bi-cultural life is a challenge. We easily fall into the habits and patterns that shape Christmas as mid-winter feast rather than as the rending of the heavens. But it is dawning on us that the twelve days of Christmas are a subversive gift, given to us by our ancestors as a mid-winter Sabbath. Twelve holidays– holy days- to tell the story, to sing the carols, and to enjoy living in the good news that God still answers the earth’s aching cry in the cry of Mary’s child.

Image above right: Untitled work on Advent. Fellowship Community, Louisville, KY.

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Beholding His Glory

Chris Alford: AFFN Contributing Member Donald Richmond has written a beautiful piece of work on the Transfiguration. A collection of 40 meditations on the Transfiguration text found in Matthew 16-17, the introduction is presented here, and the rest is available by download (see link below).


Beholding His Glory: Transfiguration and Human Transformation


transfiguration-lewis-bowmanIt has been suggested that the Transfiguration of our Lord (St. Matthew 17: 1–9; St. Mark 9: 2–10; St. Luke 9: 28–36; 2 Peter 1: 16–19) is one of the most important yet most neglected events recorded in the Bible.[i]  I wholeheartedly agree. Briefly reviewing my theological training, spiritual formation and pastoral ministry, I am ashamed to say that this critical event has historically had very little cognitive influence on my daily life.

This truth is disturbing for a number of reasons, but mostly because of its objective theological importance and subjective spiritual capacity to change lives. If God’s written word has seen fit to emphasize this event, and devout persons throughout history have also sought to visually depict what was communicated, I am convinced that intense and informed visual (icon) and verbal (inscription) reflection upon the Transfiguration has a unique capacity not only to change my life, but, also, the lives of every human being. The Transfiguration is history, health and hope for humanity.

This crucial event is history. It really happened. It is not specious speculation, but an event which was observed. In his second letter, St. Peter tells us that the Transfiguration was not a “cleverly devised” tale, but, rather, an “eyewitnesses” experience. And it is to be noted, with absolute joy, that this history is our heritage.

This crucial event promotes health. Do we actually believe God? Do we actually believe and seek to assimilate what He has communicated in and through His written word? Saint Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3:18, hints at the great possibility and promise of changing our lives through contemplation upon the image of God. Originally created in the image and likeness of God, and fallen from our primal grace, we have received the abundance of God’s mercy through Jesus Christ. God’s offering of himself in Christ has secured our healing. Isaiah the prophet tells us that we are healed through the “stripes” our Lord endured for us (Isaiah 53:5). St. Gregory of Nazianzus wrote, “What has not been assumed has not been healed.”[ii] In Christ our sins are “assumed,” and we shall be like him as we behold him as he is.

This crucial event encourages hope. It is hope because the Transfiguration does not simply dwell in the past as an historic event. Instead, as with the Sacraments (albeit differently), the Transfiguration is an historic “happening” of current significance. It exists in the perpetual “now.” By observing the Transfiguration we can be transformed. Just as Peter, James and John were forever changed by this event, we can “behold” and be changed. What we “behold” we become.

Transfiguration_by_Feofan_Grek_from_Spaso-Preobrazhensky_Cathedral_in_Pereslavl-Zalessky_(15th_c,_Tretyakov_gallery)Although these meditations are suitable for any occasion, they are specifically intended as a devotional resource for the forty days between the Transfiguration (August 6) and Holy Cross Day (September 14). The format of these meditations is simple, following a pattern that I have used in other texts written for the seasons of Lent and Advent.[iii] In this volume we will also be asked to reflect upon an icon of the Transfiguration. In this way, our quest to be like Christ will be both visually and verbally enhanced.

Our lives have a context, in fact many contexts, by which we come to understand the world, our neighbors, ourselves and God. Similarly, the Transfiguration has a specific context which requires careful consideration. As you read and reflect upon these meditations you will note that I do not begin or end with specific references being made to the Transfiguration. At first this may seem unusual; after all, these meditations are intended to focus upon this important event. Upon analysis, however, there is a reason for my approach: In order to understand and apply the message of Christ’s Transfiguration, or any life-event, we must appreciate the context in which it took place. It is crucial for the reader to understand, therefore, the entire context in which the Transfiguration occurred. Without this context, significant life-lessons would be lost. The disciples needed to learn about how to walk in the light of the Transfiguration, in all of its life-contexts, and so must we. As such, as with everyday life, context tells us a great deal about the content. If we want to know the content of anything we must understand the context.

It is my hope that these meditations will fill a need that has often been neglected, and help us to become more like Christ as we are transformed into his image.

         Donald P. Richmond – Commemoration of the Appearance of our Lord to St. Thomas after the Resurrection

red-white-pearl-download-arrowTo download the complete devotional, please click here.




[i] Andreas Andreopulous. Metamorphosis: The Transfiguration in Byzantine Theology and Iconography (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2005), 15.

[ii] Pope Benedict XVI. The Fathers (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2008), 87.

[iii] Donald P. Richmond. Suffering: Job’s Very Human Path to Holiness (Missionary Society of St. Jude) and A Short Season in Hell: Meditations on Dante.

Image above, right: “Transfiguration.” Lewis Bowman. Contemporary.

Image above, lower left: “Transfiguration.” Icon. Theophanes the Greek. 15th century.

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Covenant Themes in Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem

Richard Leonard:

Assisi-frescoes-entry-into-jerusalem-pietro_lorenzettiIn this discussion we’ll follow the Passion account of the Gospel of Mark, bringing in other sources. The entrance of the King (Mark 11:1-25) would be part of the structure of the enactment or renewal of the covenant. Here Jesus comes as a King according to Zechariah 9:9-11. The Zechariah passage contains an explicit reference to the King’s dominion (9:10) and the “blood of the covenant” (9:11). The acclamation of the disciples (“Hosanna,” or “Save us!”) refers to the reappearance of Davidic rule in Israel. (more…)

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Disastrous Distractions

Donald Richmond:

Adam-and-EvePeter Wenzel’s lushly illustrative Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (right) highlights critical issues related to both Lent and life. A reflective analysis of this visual text presents critical cautionary notes to which we would be wise to attend. Failure to “see” his essential message will inevitably result in spiritual compromise.

Take a moment to “read” and “reflect” upon Wenzel’s masterpiece. Begin with the front of the painting and progressively move toward the distant horizon. Here we find a multitude of animals, both wild and tame, placed within a lush landscape of green pastures, quiet waters, misted mountains and (slightly to the left of center) a waterfall. Dominating our attention, with luminous light radiating upon the text’s theme, are Adam and Eve beneath the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Both are naked, with Adam reclining.

According to Father Mark Haydu, “the international coordinator of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums,” there are “more than 200 distinct animal species” represented in this picture (Meditations on Vatican Art, Ligouri, 2013). This fact alone, coupled with all of the other colors, sights, smells and sounds in this work, communicate a visual cacophony that can easily distract us from the purpose of the picture.

As mentioned above, the dominant theme of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is, not unsurprisingly, Adam and Eve. With all of the other “action” in the picture, this might be easy to miss. Look again at Adam and Eve. Note the visual “conversation” between them and the important textual “commentary” provided by Wenzel. In her hand Eve holds a fruit. She is presenting this to Adam whose feature and form seem to simultaneously suggest nonchalance (he is seated), hesitation (his slightly raised right hand), questioning (his facial expression) and the rise of fear, guilt and shame (as evidenced in his slightly elevated left knee that protects the viewer from seeing his more private parts).  Foliage and the position of Eve’s left arm, as well, shield us from seeing her nakedness. In both cases we are witnessing a bit of dramatic foreplay — the outcome being now fully known by each of us.

Look again. Eve’s right arm and finger point to the upper right hand of the Tree. Here circles the Serpent. Look to the upper left part of this Tree and you will see a monkey who also holds a fruit not unlike Eve’s. Is this a “monkey see, monkey do” critique? Is Wenzel calling such action foolishness; an aping of the devil and of evil? As well, just to the right and behind Eve’s feet, is a “proud peacock” in full fan. Pride does, after all, go before the Fall! Pride is at the foot of all evil. It is, quite literally, base.

Wenzel’s Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden illustrates an important lesson for Lent and life: Do not become distracted. We must not allow ourselves the dangerous luxury of multiple-focused living. As we know, the world, the flesh and the devil provide a great many of them. Although evil “proceeds from the heart,” as says St. James, an environment of temptation, or an unharnessed heart, can set the stage for failure. We must, by the grace of God, again be stripped down to what is most important. What is central? What is the “single eye” to which we must aspire and attain? Eve, in our picture, with her luxuriant left hand holds the fruit just above the heart of Adam. The cock is crowing just below Adam’s feet. We know his choice. What will be ours?


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Chapter 49: The Observance of Lent

Donald Richmond:

A Monk’s life should at all times resemble a continual Lent, but few have such virtue.
    The Rule of Saint Benedict (Saint Benedict Press)

weeding“Is it Lent, again?” whines a rather delinquent monk in the 1985 film Ladyhawk. He is much-relieved to discover that it was not, and that meat was potentially on the menu for the week. We, however, are not so lucky. Lent begins on Wednesday and, as a general rule, some form of self-sacrifice is strongly encouraged. Such self-sacrifice simultaneously reminds us of Christ’s Via Dolorosa, our own earthly pilgrimage, the need for self-sacrificial living and our eternal destination. For us, Lent is a reminder.

On the other hand, for the Monk, Lent is a rule. It is, in fact, THE RULE. The monk is called, challenged and (if truly called) charismated to the task of self-sacrifice. The black cassock of our Benedictine friends is not simply plain garb, but, rather, is a robe of perpetual repentance and the portal of penitential prayer. 

But Saint Benedict is a realist. He understands that “few have such virtue.” Recognizing this, in Chapter 49 of the Rule, he “encourages everyone during Lent to live in all purity, and during this holy season to wash away all the negligences of other times” (Emphasis mine). In short, our father Benedict suggests that we, by God’s great grace and mercy, give ourselves a thorough spiritual scrubbing. Purity, especially at this time, is to be rigorously and patiently pursued.

And Saint Benedict, thankfully, was also a pragmatist— in the best sense of the word. Urging abstinence and virtue, he provides the Monk and “everyone” with some very practical tips. He shows us what abstinence and virtue (or abstinence toward virtue) looks like. He shows us what works.

First, cutting to the very heart of the matter, St. Benedict tells us that a true Lent is to “refrain from all defects and apply ourselves to tearful prayer.” According to the author, “Reading” plays an important part in this. As we enter this Season of Lent, with the full intention of living more perfectly before God and other human beings, let us seek God’s voice through reading His word more diligently and praying more consistently. Let us immerse ourselves in what God says, the standards of God as found in the Word, in order to be convicted and cleansed by “the washing of the water of the word.”

As well, St. Benedict tells us that we should add to that which is good and abstain from that which is bad. He refers to “adding something” and “abstaining from” in Chapter 49. It is, now citing ‘a Kempis’ Imitation, a seasonal rooting out of one vice — and, as well, the planting of one virtue. Note that he emphasizes “something.” He does not say “do it all” or do “everything.” He says to do SOMETHING. This is important. Many of us at times feel immobilized by sin. We feel like we have so many problems that we do not know where to begin. We become overwhelmed. Instead of doing SOMETHING, we do nothing. St. Benedict says to uproot “something” and plant “something.” Replace vice with virtue. Begin, of course, with thorough repentance from sin and faith in God through Jesus Christ! Do “something.”

Furthermore, the Rule of Saint Benedict talks about our use of “meat and drink.” We get this. Lent is often a time of “giving up” something. My wife gives up chocolate and desserts. I have given up a variety of things and, in keeping with my “all or nothing” personality, have had to learn not to do it “all.” I have to repeatedly learn the spirituality of “something” and resist the devilish economy of seeking to do “everything.” My Lenten observance at times has been, therefore, not to be so very hard on myself. Whatever we choose to give up is, according to Benedict, by our own “free will” and in “the joy of the Holy Spirit.”

Wow! Joy of the Holy Spirit! I bet we rarely think of Lent as even mildly pleasant, let alone a time of happiness or joy. It is often the horrific cry, echoed by the Ladyhawk monk, “IS IT LENT AGAIN?” Yes it is. And yes, it IS a joy. But it is JOY IN THE HOLY SPIRIT. Sacrifice without the Holy Spirit is little more than self-justifying action. It is Babel. With the Holy Spirit it is Tabernacle and Temple. It is Basilica and Cathedral. We may indeed deny ourselves, according to the Rule, “food, drink, sleep, talk, [or] laughter” as we “await the holy feast of Easter.” But let our abstinence be guided and governed by God. And, if we can think of nothing else, pluck the weed of slander and gossip and plant the seed of mercy, patience, and kindness. Or, if this is too much, exercise consistent mercy. Or, if this too is too much, ask God to plant in us the seed of great sorrow for our sins.

Finally, St. Benedict tells his readers to inform the Abbot of the decision they have made. For those of us outside of the monastery, whether Oblates (like me) or committed Christians, tell someone you trust about your plan for Lent. Let a mature person you know be aware of what your intention for Lent is. What we “intend to offer” should be made circumspectly known. This keeps us honest.

IT IS LENT AGAIN? Indeed it is! Let us, by God’s mercy, see this time as “joy in the Holy Spirit.”


DONALDPRICHMONDThe Very Rev. Dr. Donald P. Richmond, a widely-published author, is Priest-Oblate with the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Order of Saint Benedict, and is connected to St. Andrew’s Abbey in Valyermo, California.



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The Light of Transfiguration


Don Richmond:

“Let us open our eyes to the [Transfiguration] light that comes from God”     -Rule of Benedict

The Season of the Church Year that we are currently celebrating is that forty-day period between the Feast of the Transfiguration (6 August) and Holy Cross Day (14 September). A much-neglected Season, these days – emphasized in both the biblical narrative and the Rule of Benedict – have much to teach us. And, of course, we always have a great deal to learn and apply.

As we attend to the biblical narrative about the Transfiguration (Matthew 17: 1-9; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9: 28-36; 2 Peter 1: 16-19) there are at least five lessons we must learn into living.

Christ wants to reveal himself. The Bible tells us that our Lord took Peter, James and John with him up the mountain. Of course, as Hebrews tells us, God calls all of us up the mountain through the grace of his own descending into our own humanity (Hebrews 12: 18 – 28). The Living and Written Word of God, mediated through both Holy Spirit and living saints, are God’s means of revelation to us. But we must follow where he leads. The story of Christ’s Transfiguration begins with the calling and leading of his chosen up.

We sleep too much. The story of the Transfiguration highlights the sad fact that we are “soul somnambulists.” That is, we are prone to sleep when we should stay awake. The monastic hours of prayer – prayer itself – are meant to keep us awake, alert and aware. Prayer anticipates and helps actualize prophecy. If we “sleep” we will certainly miss something of great import.

Revelation is “good” but often misunderstood.  When Peter woke from his slumber, he said that it was “good” that he was there with Christ, Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. Of course, as God clearly stated, Peter got it all wrong.  We too, far too frequently, get it wrong. He, and we, should have listened.

Silent reflection clarifies revelation. When we see great light we are prone to speak. We want to swiftly share what God has shown to us. However, just like those times when light can be blinding until our eyes adjust, it may be prudent to restrain our conversation until we can see more clearly, love more dearly and follow Christ more nearly. The three Apostles were flatly instructed NOT to speak until certain events had transpired. They had to wait before witnessing. Silence is the nursemaid of speech.

Revelation ALWAYS leads us back to real life. After this glorious revelation of God, Peter, James and John went back down the mountain and had to face life as it was. In other words, life is lived more in the valley than on the mountain top. God led them down the mountain and not just up. As they entered the brokenness of daily life they were confronted with the harsh realities of Christian living in painful circumstances. People were struggling and suffering and, often, their faith seemed insufficient to the need. But there is a transfiguring lesson here also: We must always ask God to open our eyes to the transformational possibilities that are presented to us in every life-circumstance. It is here, amid the noise and the haste, where God also manifests himself.

Let us open our eyes! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

(Anyone wanting a daily devotional on the transformational impact of the Transfiguration, for either personal or parish use, may contact the author at recpriest2@verizon.net).


DONALDPRICHMONDThe Very Rev. Dr. Donald P. Richmond, a priest with the Reformed Episcopal Church, has been a monastic associate/oblate for over twenty years and connected to St. Andrew’s Abbey in Valyermo, California.

Image above: Icon. “The Transfiguration.” Theophanes the Greek (c. 1403).


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