We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and today is the Ninth Sunday after Trinity (6 August 2023), which may also be celebrated as the Feast of the Transfiguration.
Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection in these ways:
1, Looking at a images of the Transfiguration I have seen recently;
2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
Images of the Transfiguration:
Today marks the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. Later this morning, I plan to attend the Parish Eucharist in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles in Stony Stratford. Later in the evening, I hope to attend the Hiroshima Anniversary Commemorations at the Japanese Peace Pagoda by Willen Lake in Milton Keynes.
Hundreds of thousands of people died in the attacks either immediately or from the consequential damage in the months and years that followed. Christian CND and the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship are holding their annual online vigil this evening to remember the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with readings, prayers and music, and prayers for the victims and survivors of nuclear weapons and for a nuclear weapons-free future. Tjis vigil is at 8 pm (UK time), 9 pm (CET) 3 pm (EDT), online on Zoom. Registration is free at www.christiancnd.org.uk/events.
This morning I am looking again at some images of the Transfiguration I have seen in churches I have visited in recent months.
The Transfiguration is depicted in a window in Saint Thomas the Apostle Church in Heptonstall in Yorkshire. The newer church was built in 1850-1854 to replace the older mediaeval parish church dedicated to Saint Thomas a’ Becket.
The two churches stand side-by-side, and the stained glass windows in the Victorian church, including the Transfiguration window, include fine work from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Reredos behind the High Altar in Saint Andrew’s Church, Rugby, is a painting by Alec Millar (1909), based on Fra Angelico’s painting of the Transfiguration (1441). The original of this is in Saint Mark’s Monastery in Florence.
In Saint Andrew’s Church, Great Linford, the three-light East Window by John Oldrid Scott and Henry Victor Milner (1889) is inspired by the canticle Te Deum. The East Window and the Reredos were erected in memory of Mary Uthwatt of Great Linford, who died in 1885. But the reredos was moved in the 1970s to an unusual place on the north wall, above the entrance from the north porch. This triptych shows the Transfiguration in the centre, with Saint Andrew on the left, and Saint Philip on the right.
The icon of the Transfiguration is one of the five new icons recently installed in the Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral. The five icons are of: the Baptism of Christ; the Wedding at Cana; the Preaching of the Kingdom of God; the Transfiguration; and the Last Supper.
These five icons were used each week as a point of discussion during the Lenten discussions in Lichfield Cathedral earlier this year. These too will add to the cathedral’s role as a destination for pilgrims and for all who seek healing.
Luke 9: 28-36 (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.
The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘A reflection on the Exodus narrative (Exodus 1-13).’ This theme is introduced today by Archbishop Linda Nicholls, who has been the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada since 2019. She writes:
The Hebrew people arrived in Egypt fleeing drought and famine in their own land. They came following Joseph whose leadership had wisely preserved food in anticipation of hard times (Genesis 41: 57). They settled in Egypt, initially in Goshen as shepherds and herders.
“They grew to outnumber the Egyptians which raised fears for a new Pharaoh. Therefore, they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labour” (Exodus 1: 7-11, paraphrased).
They continued to flourish so the oppressions increased. Moses is called by God to release the Israelites from their oppression (Exodus 5: 1), ‘Let my people go’. He begins by asking for permission for them to worship (Exodus 5: 1 ff). Instead, they are expected to work harder, longer with fewer resources – no straw provided for making bricks and no relief in expected production.
As the people cry for relief, God invites Moses to lead the people out of slavery into a promise of freedom and land. “Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Exodus 5: 7-9). Then begin the confrontations with Pharaoh to obtain the release of the people, culminating in the Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites.
This great narrative is the foundational text of redemption for the Jewish people, recited at every Passover celebration. It also invites us to reflect on the dynamics of slavery, oppression, and power and God’s call to action.
The Archbishop’s reflection from Tanzania and full Bible study can be read here.
The USPG Prayer Diary today (6 August 2023) invites us to pray in these words:
Lord, you are a God who sets the captives free. Your Spirit searches restlessly for those in despair, that they may find the life you are calling them to. We pray for those who are being trafficked and callously put to work in our region. May we who are blinded by the shallow distractions of daily life, feel the fear of the cornered and be roused to action. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Clewer Initiative).
Father in heaven,
whose Son Jesus Christ was wonderfully transfigured
before chosen witnesses upon the holy mountain,
and spoke of the exodus he would accomplish at Jerusalem:
give us strength so to hear his voice and bear our cross
that in the world to come we may see him as he is;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The Post Communion Prayer:
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.
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