In the vestry, at the moment, is the figure of Jesus in a glass of water. He is happily growing, his glass is now a little small. I am using this toy as an example for school to show that Lent is a time for us to draw close to God. This week’s Gospel reading from Mark is the Transfiguration of Jesus. In his Transfiguration, we see an anticipation of the glory of Jesus’ Resurrection. The disciples cannot possibly understand Jesus’ Transfiguration until they also witness his passion and death. We hear the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration early in Lent, but we have the benefit of hindsight. In our hearing of it, we anticipate Jesus’ Resurrection, even as we prepare to remember Jesus’ passion and death.
Francesco Zuccarelli invites us into the Transfiguration of Christ in his painting. Present in the scene are the key characters of the Gospel story: Peter, the bearded elder whose symbolic keys rest on the grass in front of him, John the youngest in the middle of the Apostles, and James, arms thrown upward. Christ himself is luminous in the cloud, flanked by Moses to the left and Elijah to the right—symbols of the Law and the prophets.
The figures tell the story through their expressive gestures. Peter is almost prostrate in adoration, James’s arms are raised in praise, and John rests in a pious bow. Zuccarelli offer three versions here of what a person’s natural response might be to such an amazing experience of the divine. Christ’s own gesture is one of openness, embrace, and ascent. He is giving himself fully to his Father with luminous and serene expression. Moses and Elijah are the steadiest figures of the scene—figures of heavenly transcendence breaking in to our reality with an otherworldly centeredness and poise.
The most important element of this is the cloud—a common element of nature, which here becomes the vehicle that both reveals and conceals a glimpse of heaven. The cloud is heavy, with darker edges on the outside, and it lightens toward the centre. It has a dimensionality to it, as if its centre is a portal, an opening that invites us into an ever-brightening depth. Clouds normally reflect the light, but this one seems to generate its own—or it holds within itself a source of immense brightness, which tells us, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Bringing together heaven and earth, the Transfiguration is a comprehensive experience in which the divine voice addresses the human heart through all of its senses.
Commentary is by Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, assistant professor of liturgy, catechesis, and evangelization at Loyola University New Orleans.
The Reverend Anne Price
- Christian World Service appeal to assist Tongan communities affected by Cyclone Gita. Support the Tonga Trust and the churches providing help and shelter. Details 0800 74 73 72.
- Roadworks: different road closures will be in place next weekend. See map in parish lounge.
- Communion: today at 3:00 pm.
- Stations of the Cross: Sundays at 5:00 pm during Lent.
- Bible Study Group meets weekly during Lent, 7:15 pm in the school staffroom. Details Peter Oakley (960 0974).
- Vestry meets on Tuesday, beginning with Mass at 7:00 pm.
- Meditation Group meets in the Lady Chapel on Wednesday at 12 noon. Details Margaret Maclagan (359 9215).
- Lent Study Groups: Thursdays at 11:00 am and 6:00 pm in the parish lounge.
- Canterbury Shakespeare Society: Thursday, 7:30 pm in the parish lounge.
- World Day of Prayer: Friday 10:00 am in the Knox Hall. Details on poster.
- Double knitting or 4 ply wool, any colour, needed to make hats for distribution through Walsh House. Please place in basket at the back of the church.
- Book Swap: in the parish lounge. Koha to parish.
- Inasmuch basket: please continue to support the City Mission with your gifts of groceries and other household items.