Today is one of those occasions when, even though the second reading is not chosen to correspond to the theme of the Gospel and first reading, it does in fact fit very well. Indeed, much of the letter to the Romans is explained in this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word: the whole theme is summed up in this: the Messiah came first of all to the people of Israel, to whom the promises were made in the past - but it could not remain there. The good news had to be taken to the ends of the earth, so that all peoples, indeed the whole of creation could welcome the Messiah and take a place in the Kingdom of God. All nations are welcome on God’s holy mountain:
The commemoration of the death of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Dormition, or falling asleep, as it was known in the East) is known as the Assumption because of the tradition that her body did not decay but that she was raised up, body and soul, into heaven. This tradition was already present in the sixth century; by the beginning of the twentieth century it was widespread (for details, see this article in the Catholic Encyclopaedia); and after consulting the views of bishops all over the world, the Pope formally and infallibly declared the doctrine of the Assumption to be part of the authentic and ancient doctrine of the universal Church.
The Transfiguration of the Lord can sound embarrassingly magical. Jesus goes up onto a mountain and his clothes become dazzlingly white. Prophets appear and talk to him. And then it is all over and Jesus tells his disciples to say nothing.
We should hold on to the absurdity of the incident. There is simply no reason for all this to have happened. In particular, there is no reason to put it into a gospel – the evangelist makes no capital out of it, it is simply there.
And this is the strength of the Transfiguration as an historical incident. There is no reason for anyone to have invented it. It is not central to the Christian case. It is not used to win arguments. There is only one reason to put it into the Gospel, and that is because it happened. It is one of those cases of the evangelists writing things down without knowing why they were important, and their very puzzlement is what makes the story so convincing.
Why, then, did it happen? Surely so that we could see and understand that Jesus is at once one of the prophets and the one that was prophesied by them; and that he is God, and lives for all eternity in a blaze of dazzling and unapproachable light.
The true miracle of the Transfiguration is not the shining face or the white garments, but the fact that for the rest of the time Jesus hid his glory so well.
We apologise for the lack of streaming for the last few weeks, but we have had problems with the electrics. We hope that all should be back to normal now!
ALL SAINTS CHURCH
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