Sunday, 3 March 2019

Prague moves from the era of Marx
to the age of Marks and Spencer

Good King Wenceslas looks down on Wenceslas Square and the centre of Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019; cick on images to view in full-screen resolution)

Patrick Comerford

This year marks the eightieth anniversary of the start of World War II. Most of us think World War II began on 1 September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, followed by declarations of war by Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand.

But World War II began earlier for the people of Czechoslovakia, 80 years ago on 15 March 1939. Hitler had already annexed Sudetenland the previous October following the appeasement at the Munich Conference. Then, on 15 March 1939, Nazi Germany invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia, dividing the 20-year-old central European state into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the puppet state of Slovakia.

Hungary annexed much of Slovakia and all of Carpathian Ruthenia. Some months earlier, Poland had occupied Zaolzie, an area with a Polish majority population.

An exhibition in the Pinkas Synagogue recalls the deportations and the Holocaust during World War II (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Today, people in Prague and the Czech Republic are marking the 80th anniversary of the beginning of World War II, but they are also remembering the Prague Spring 50 years ago, which included Jan Palach’s self-immolation in Wenceslas Square in January 1969 and culminated in the dismissal of Alexander Dubček in April 1969. And they are commemorating the ‘Velvet Revolution’ 30 years ago, which restored democracy in 1989.

Cold War perceptions still linger in western Europe, so that we often think of Prague and the Czech Republic as an Eastern European city and country. But they are very much at the heart of Central Europe, and the two most iconic national figures seen as shaping Czech identity and culture are both religious heroes and saints: ‘Good King Wenceslas’ of Christmas carol fame, and Jan Hus the reformer, who preached a century before the major figures of the Reformation.

Flowers and candles in Wenceslas Square recall the Prague Spring of 1968-1969 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

In recent weeks, Wenceslas Square has been filled with wreath and candles recalling Jan Palach and the other heroes of the student uprising in Prague in early 1969. But high above these makeshift memorials is the proud statue of King Wenceslas, who looks benignly down on the heart of the city.

The Old Town Square in Prague at night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Good King Wenceslas

The man we know as ‘Good King Wenceslas’ was actually Vaclav I or Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia. He was also known as Vaclav the Good, or Svatý Václav in Czech, and was born about 907. His grandfather was converted to Christianity by Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, the missionaries to the Slavs. His mother was the daughter of a pagan tribal chief – although she was baptised before she was married.

When young Vaclav’s father died there was a power vacuum: the young boy’s mother was banished and his grandmother was murdered by assassins – it is said she was strangled with her own veil. Vaclav’s mother ruled Bohemia as regent until Wenceslas reached the age of 18. When he came of age, he banished his mother and divided the country in two with his younger brother, Boleslaus ‘the Cruel.’

However, Boleslaus was not happy with the arrangement, and in September 935 he plotted with a group of noblemen to kill his brother. The three nobles – Tira, Česta, and Hněvsa – stabbed Wenceslas, before his own brother ran him through with a lance.

The Astronomical Clock was installed on the Old Town Hall in 1410 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Wenceslas was regarded as a martyr and saint almost immediately after his death, and within a few decades four biographies of him were in circulation. These biographies influenced mediaeval concepts of the rex Justus or righteous king, so that he was revered as ‘the father of all the wretched.’

Many years later, the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I posthumously promoted him from being a duke to the title of king. Several centuries later, following his example, Pope Pius II walked barefoot for 15 km in ice and snow as an act of pious thanksgiving.

A 12th-century preacher said: ‘His deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty.’

Prague Castle and Cathedral tower above the city (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Jan Hus, early Reformer

The other great monument in Prague is the statue of Jan Hus (1369-1415) in the centre of the Old Town Square.

Hus was a Czech theologian, philosopher, teacher and dean, and rector of the Charles University in Prague. He was an early church reformer, a key forerunner of the European Reformations a century later, and the leading figure in the Bohemian Reformation, as well as an important figure in Czech culture and national identity.

After John Wycliffe, Hus is considered the first Church reformer, and lived before Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Cranmer. His main centre of preaching was the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, and his demands included received Holy Communion as both bread and wine, using the local language in liturgy and preaching, an end to compulsory clerical celibacy and to rid the Church of ethical abuses.

The rooftops of Prague seen from the slopes of the castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Hus also introduced improvements into the mediaeval Czech language that continue to influence how it is spelt, printed and pronounced today. His teachings and writings led to the formation of a reformed Bohemian church, and, more than a century later, influenced Luther and the other European reformers.

Hus was burned at the stake in Constance in 1415. It is said that as he was about to die, he cried out his last words, a variant of the Jesus Prayer, ‘Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy on us!’ After his execution, his ashes were scattered on the River Rhine.

His followers, who became known as Hussites, rebelled and defeated five consecutive papal crusades between 1420 and 1431 in the Hussite Wars.

The Charles Bridge links the two sides of Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

A fresh Hussite revolt began with the Fenestration of Prague on 23 May 1618, when the Hussites threw their opponents out of windows, and leading to the Thirty Years’ War.

Until then, the majority of people in both Bohemia and Moravia remained Hussite. But the Hussite defeat at the Battle of the White Mountain brought the Lands of the Bohemian Crown under Habsburg rule for the next 300 years. The local people were subjected to a campaign of forced conversion and an intense campaign to make Roman Catholicism the Church of the land.

The 27 Hussite martyrs who were executed on the Old Town Square in Prague on 21 June 1621 were the first victims of the sweeping changes after the Battle of the White Mountain and became the first victims of the violence of this phase of the ‘Counter-Reformation.’

The Jan Hus Memorial and Saint Nicholas Cathedral in the Old Town Square (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The heirs of Hus

The Jan Hus Memorial in the Old Town Square in Prague was unveiled in 1915 to mark the 500th anniversary of the martyrdom of Hus. The huge monument depicts victorious Hussite warriors who were forced into exile 200 years after Hus following their defeat at the Battle of the White Mountain during the Thirty Years’ War, and a young mother who symbolises the rebirth of the Czech nation.

The monument was so large that the sculptor Ladislav Šaloun had to design and build his own villa to vary out the work. The memorial was paid for solely by public donations.

The Moravian Church or Unitas Fratrum, the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, which was reconstituted in 1918, and the Czechoslovak Hussite Church all see themselves as the spiritual heirs to Hus and his followers.

The site of the Hussite martyrs in the Old Town Square (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Czechoslovak Hussite Church was formed in 1920, two years after Czech independence in 1918, by former Roman Catholic priests who wanted to celebrate the liturgy in Czech, to administer the Eucharist in both kinds, and to abolish compulsory clerical celibacy.

The church uses Sant Nicholas’s Cathedral on the corner of the Old Town Square, near the Jan Hus Memorial. The Church has women priests and bishops. Although it claims to trace its origin to Hus and to be ‘neo-Hussite,’ it contains mixed Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant elements, and shares much with the Anglican and Old Catholic traditions.

Inside the Spanish Synagogue in Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

War and the Holocaust

The occupation of Bohemia and Moravia by Nazi Germany from March 1939 was one of brutal oppression. The Jewish population of these areas numbered 118,000 in 1930. The walls of the Pinkas Synagogue in the Old Jewish Town in Prague record the names of 77,297 known Bohemian and Moravian Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

The memorial was designed by painters Václav Boštík and Jiří John. The names are arranged by communities where the victims came from and are complemented with the date of birth and death of each individual where these are known.

Despite World War II, most of the significant historical Jewish buildings in Prague were saved from destruction, along with their liturgical and cultural assets. They were preserved, ironically, because the Nazis planned to use them for a ‘Museum of an Extinct Race.’

The names of 77,297 Czech victims of the Holocaust cover the walls of the Pinkas Synagogue (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Today, the Jewish Quarter has six surviving synagogues: the Old-New Synagogue, the High Synagogue, the Maiselov Synagogue, the Klausen Synagogue, the Spanish Synagogue. The other buildings and sites that have survived include the Jewish Town Hall, the Jewish Ceremonial Hall and the Old Jewish Cemetery. Together, they form the best-preserved complex of historical Jewish monuments in the whole of Europe.

On 3 May 1945, the third US Army of General Patton entered Pilsen from the south west. On 9 May 1945, Soviet Red Army troops entered Prague.

Inside Saint Nicholas Cathedral, now used by the Czechoslovak Hussite Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Bringing peace

The equestrian statue of Saint Wenceslas, surrounded by the other patron saints of Bohemia, looks down the full-length of Wenceslas Square in Prague. It is a popular meeting place in Prague, and was the venue for demonstrations against the Communist regime 50 years ago in 1969 and 30 years ago in 1989.

The balcony where the writer Vaclav Havel addressed the crowd in Wenceslas Square during the Velvet Revolution is now part of Marks and Spencer. People in Prague joke: ‘Before 1989, we only had Marx. Now we have Marks and Spencer.’

‘Before 1989, we only had Marx. Now we have Marks and Spencer’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Havel served as the last President of Czechoslovakia from 1989 until the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992, and then as President of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003.

In 1999, Pope John Paul II expressed ‘deep regret for the cruel death inflicted’ on Hus. He added ‘deep sorrow’ for Hus’s death and praised his ‘moral courage.’ Jan Hus Day on 6 July, the anniversary of his martyrdom, is a public holiday in the Czech Republic. Hus was voted the greatest hero of the Czech nation in a survey by Czech Radio in 2015.

Saint Wenceslas, whose feast day is 28 September, is buried in Saint Vitus’s cathedral in Prague, and he was recently proclaimed the patron saint of the Czech Republic.

It is said in Prague that if the Czech Republic is in danger this statue in Wenceslas Square will come to life, Good King Wenceslas will raise a sleeping army and he will reveal a legendary sword to bring peace to the land.

Good King Wenceslas … waiting with a sleeping army to rescue Prague in times of danger? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

This feature was first published in the March 2019 editions of the ‘Church Review’ (Dublin and Glendalough) and the ‘Diocesan Magazine’ (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory)

Prague at night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Images of Christ and
masks that hide us in
the presence of others

A mask for the Carnival in Venice … do we hide our personae behind masks before other people … before God? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 3 March 2019, The Sunday before Lent,

Transfiguration Sunday


11.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry.

Readings: Exodus 34: 29-35; Psalm 99; II Corinthians 3: 12 to 4: 2; Luke 9: 28-43

An icon of the Transfiguration in the Analipsi Church in Georgioupoli in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

This Sunday is in the Sunday before Lent. In the Calendar of the Church of Ireland, we mark this as Transfiguration Sunday. But, in the past, it was also known as Quinquagesima, and in some places it is also known as Shrove Sunday, just as Tuesday next is known in many places as Shrove Tuesday.

The Carnival of Venice (Carnevale di Venezia) takes place at this time of the year, each year. This year, it began two weeks ago [16 February] and it ends at midnight on Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

The Carnival in Venice is known everywhere for its elaborate masks. And it grew in prestige and developed in its revelry in the 17th and 18th centuries, to the point that it became a symbol of licence and pleasure.

Mask-makers (mascherari) had a special position in Venetian society, with their own laws and their own guild. But the masks allowed many people to spend a large part of the year in disguise, hiding their secret lifestyles. When he occupied Venice, the Emperor Francis II outlawed the festival in 1797 and masks were strictly forbidden.

It was not until 1979 that the Carnival was revived in Venice. With it came the revival of the tradition of making carnival masks, and one of the most important events at the Carnival is the contest for la maschera più bella (‘the most beautiful mask’).

So often, we all have our own masks. We are afraid that others might see us or get to know us as we really are. We hide behind a persona, which is the Latin word for a theatrical mask. We are worried, ‘What if someone saw me for who I truly am?’ ‘What if they came face-to-face with what I am really like?’

Lent is a good opportunity to come to terms with our true selves.

This morning’s readings all invite us to a mutual face-to-face encounter with the living God.

In our first reading (Exodus 34: 29-35), God is revealed to Moses, who reflects the glory of God on his face and has to veil his face from view, to put on some sort of mask in case people see what is now truly like.

Saint Paul says in our second reading (II Corinthians 3: 12 to 4: 2) that because of Christ we no longer need a veil or mask to screen us from God, for we see God in Christ, and through Christ God sees us in our full humanity.

In Christ, there is no need to hide any more or to feel any shame (4: 1-2).

In our Gospel reading (Luke 9: 28-36), the inner circle of disciples, Peter, James and John, ascend the mountain with Christ, and in the clouds they see who he truly is: he is the God of Moses and Elijah, and the vision is so dazzling that they are dazzled and overshadowed by the cloud.

When they come back down the mountain, like Moses, there is a great crowd waiting for the healing that restores them to their place in the covenant with God.

The original Greek word for Transfiguration in the Gospels is μεταμόρφωσις (metamorphosis), which means ‘to progress from one state of being to another.’ Consider the metamorphosis of the chrysalis into the butterfly. In the epistle reading, Saint Paul uses this same word (μεταμόρφωσις) when he describes how the Christian is to be transfigured, transformed, into the image of Christ (II Corinthians 3: 18), he uses the word ‘icon’ of Christ.

The Transfiguration reveals not just who Christ should truly be in our eyes, but who we should be truly in God’s eyes. It is a reminder of our ultimate destiny as Christians, the ultimate destiny of all people and all creation – to be transformed and glorified by the majestic splendour of God himself.

The Transfiguration points to the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God, when all of creation shall be transfigured and filled with light.

In the second part of the Gospel reading, we have a second story that may not seem to be related to the first story. But it is oh so intimately connected with it.

The Transfiguration is not just an Epiphany or Theophany moment for Christ, with Peter, James and John as onlookers. The Transfiguration is a story of, a miracle that reminds us of how God sees us in God’s own image and likeness, sees us for who we are and who we are going to be, no matter how others see us, no matter how others dismiss us.

So it means, quite naturally, that Christ sees the potential of the child, the only son, of a distressed father, a troubled and paralysed child. Christ sees the boy’s potential as the image and likeness of God and restores him to being seen as such.

When we become adults, do we love the child we have been in our childhood?

When we become adults, many of us are messed up and mess up in life, not because of what is happening in the present, but because of what has happened to us as children in the past.

Are we going to blame our problems in the future on what happened to us in the past?

In secular life, there is a temptation to accept our human nature as it is now. But the Transfiguration of Christ offers the opportunity to look at ourselves not only as we are now, but take stock of what happened in the past that made us so, and to grasp the promise of what we can be in the future.

In the present and in the future, can we take ownership of who we have been as a child. Do we remember always that we are made in the image and likeness of God?

As Saint Paul reminds you, you are an icon of Christ.

We need no masks, no personae, in God’s presence. God sees us as we are: made in his own image and likeness, sees us for who we were, who we are and who we are going to be, no matter how others see us, no matter how others dismiss us.

No matter what others say about you, how others judge you, how others gossip or talk about you, how others treat you, God sees your potential, God sees in you God’s own image and likeness. God sees through all our masks and sees an icon of Christ. God knows you are beautiful inside and loves you, loves you for ever, as though you are God’s only child.

You are his beloved child in whom he is well pleased.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

‘He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud’ (Psalm 99: 7) … ‘and they were terrified as they entered the cloud’ (Luke 9: 34) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 9: 28-43 (NRSVA):

28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’ – not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.’ 41 Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.’ 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

The Transfiguration … an icon in the parish church in Piskopiano on the Greek island of Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical colour: White

Penitential Kyries:

Your unfailing kindness, O Lord, is in the heavens,
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
and your justice as the great deep.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For with you is the well of life:
and in your light shall we see light.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Collect

Almighty Father,
whose Son was revealed in majesty
before he suffered death upon the cross:
Give us grace to perceive his glory,
that we may be strengthened to suffer with him
and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

Christ will transfigure our human body
and give it a form like that of his own glorious body.
We are the Body of Christ. We share his peace.

(cf Philippians 3: 21, 1 Corinthians 11: 27, Romans 5: 1)

Blessing:

The God of all grace,
who called you to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus,
establish, strengthen and settle you in the faith:

Hymns:

325, Be still, for the presence of the Lord (CD 20)
634, Love divine, all loves excelling (CD 36)
374, When all thy mercies, O my God (CD 22)

Souvenir masks from a stall in Venice … do we hide our personae behind masks before other people … before God? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2018)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Do I hide my persona
behind a mask in
the presence of God?

A mask for the Carnival in Venice … do we hide our personae behind masks before other people … before God? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 3 March 2019, The Sunday before Lent,

Transfiguration Sunday


9.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick

Readings: Exodus 34: 29-35; Psalm 99; II Corinthians 3: 12 to 4: 2; Luke 9: 28-43

An icon of the Transfiguration in the Analipsi Church in Georgioupoli in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

This Sunday is in the Sunday before Lent. In the Calendar of the Church of Ireland, we mark this as Transfiguration Sunday. But, in the past, it was also known as Quinquagesima, and in some places it is also known as Shrove Sunday, just as Tuesday next is known in many places as Shrove Tuesday.

The Carnival of Venice (Carnevale di Venezia) takes place at this time of the year, each year. This year, it began two weeks ago [16 February] and it ends at midnight on Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

The Carnival in Venice is known everywhere for its elaborate masks. And it grew in prestige and developed in its revelry in the 17th and 18th centuries, to the point that it became a symbol of licence and pleasure.

Mask-makers (mascherari) had a special position in Venetian society, with their own laws and their own guild. But the masks allowed many people to spend a large part of the year in disguise, hiding their secret lifestyles. When he occupied Venice, the Emperor Francis II outlawed the festival in 1797 and masks were strictly forbidden.

It was not until 1979 that the Carnival was revived in Venice. With it came the revival of the tradition of making carnival masks, and one of the most important events at the Carnival is the contest for la maschera più bella (‘the most beautiful mask’).

So often, we all have our own masks. We are afraid that others might see us or get to know us as we really are. We hide behind a persona, which is the Latin word for a theatrical mask. We are worried, ‘What if someone saw me for who I truly am?’ ‘What if they came face-to-face with what I am really like?’

Lent is a good opportunity to come to terms with our true selves.

This morning’s readings all invite us to a mutual face-to-face encounter with the living God.

In our first reading (Exodus 34: 29-35), God is revealed to Moses, who reflects the glory of God on his face and has to veil his face from view, to put on some sort of mask in case people see what is now truly like.

Saint Paul says in our second reading (II Corinthians 3: 12 to 4: 2) that because of Christ we no longer need a veil or mask to screen us from God, for we see God in Christ, and through Christ God sees us in our full humanity.

In Christ, there is no need to hide any more or to feel any shame (4: 1-2).

In our Gospel reading (Luke 9: 28-36), the inner circle of disciples, Peter, James and John, ascend the mountain with Christ, and in the clouds they see who he truly is: he is the God of Moses and Elijah, and the vision is so dazzling that they are dazzled and overshadowed by the cloud.

When they come back down the mountain, like Moses, there is a great crowd waiting for the healing that restores them to their place in the covenant with God.

The original Greek word for Transfiguration in the Gospels is μεταμόρφωσις (metamorphosis), which means ‘to progress from one state of being to another.’ Consider the metamorphosis of the chrysalis into the butterfly. In the epistle reading, Saint Paul uses this same word (μεταμόρφωσις) when he describes how the Christian is to be transfigured, transformed, into the image of Christ (II Corinthians 3: 18), he uses the word ‘icon’ of Christ.

The Transfiguration reveals not just who Christ should truly be in our eyes, but who we should be truly in God’s eyes. It is a reminder of our ultimate destiny as Christians, the ultimate destiny of all people and all creation – to be transformed and glorified by the majestic splendour of God himself.

The Transfiguration points to the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God, when all of creation shall be transfigured and filled with light.

In the second part of the Gospel reading, we have a second story that may not seem to be related to the first story. But it is oh so intimately connected with it.

The Transfiguration is not just an Epiphany or Theophany moment for Christ, with Peter, James and John as onlookers. The Transfiguration is a story of, a miracle that reminds us of how God sees us in God’s own image and likeness, sees us for who we are and who we are going to be, no matter how others see us, no matter how others dismiss us.

So it means, quite naturally, that Christ sees the potential of the child, the only son, of a distressed father, a troubled and paralysed child. Christ sees the boy’s potential as the image and likeness of God and restores him to being seen as such.

When we become adults, do we love the child we have been in our childhood?

When we become adults, many of us are messed up and mess up in life, not because of what is happening in the present, but because of what has happened to us as children in the past.

Are we going to blame our problems in the future on what happened to us in the past?

In secular life, there is a temptation to accept our human nature as it is now. But the Transfiguration of Christ offers the opportunity to look at ourselves not only as we are now, but take stock of what happened in the past that made us so, and to grasp the promise of what we can be in the future.

In the present and in the future, can we take ownership of who we have been as a child. Do we remember always that we are made in the image and likeness of God?

As Saint Paul reminds you, you are an icon of Christ.

We need no masks, no personae, in God’s presence. God sees us as we are: made in his own image and likeness, sees us for who we were, who we are and who we are going to be, no matter how others see us, no matter how others dismiss us.

No matter what others say about you, how others judge you, how others gossip or talk about you, how others treat you, God sees your potential, God sees in you God’s own image and likeness. God sees through all our masks and sees an icon of Christ. God knows you are beautiful inside and loves you, loves you for ever, as though you are God’s only child.

You are his beloved child in whom he is well pleased.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

‘He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud’ (Psalm 99: 7) … ‘and they were terrified as they entered the cloud’ (Luke 9: 34) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 9: 28-43 (NRSVA):

28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’ – not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.’ 41 Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.’ 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

The Transfiguration … an icon in the parish church in Piskopiano on the Greek island of Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical colour: White

Penitential Kyries:

Your unfailing kindness, O Lord, is in the heavens,
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
and your justice as the great deep.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For with you is the well of life:
and in your light shall we see light.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Collect

Almighty Father,
whose Son was revealed in majesty
before he suffered death upon the cross:
Give us grace to perceive his glory,
that we may be strengthened to suffer with him
and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

Christ will transfigure our human body
and give it a form like that of his own glorious body.
We are the Body of Christ. We share his peace.

(cf Philippians 3: 21, 1 Corinthians 11: 27, Romans 5: 1)

Preface:

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
whose divine glory shone forth upon the holy mountain
before chosen witnesses of his majesty;
when your own voice from heaven
proclaimed him your beloved Son:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Holy God
we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
May we who are partakers at his table
reflect his life in word and deed,
that all the world may know
his power to change and save.
This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

The God of all grace,
who called you to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus,
establish, strengthen and settle you in the faith:

Hymns:

325, Be still, for the presence of the Lord (CD 20)
634, Love divine, all loves excelling (CD 36)
374, When all thy mercies, O my God (CD 22)

Souvenir masks from a stall in Venice … do we hide our personae behind masks before other people … before God? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2018)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org