I guess my mind is really hung up on the Feast of the Transfiguration this year. There are quite a few things that draw me to this liturgical celebration, the first point is the fact that it is really a Catholic version of the Jewish Feast of Booths. That is, in the Old Testament the Israelites during the sojourn in the desert following Mount Sinai lived a relatively nomadic life, in tents or booths. This was customary for people in a transitional state to live in a communal environment that was hastily constructed and intended as just that: a temporary environment. What I find significant is that when Jesus’ transformation on Mount Tabor happens, the disciples Peter and John ask Jesus if He would like “booths” or “tents” constructed for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. What is really interesting here is that the Greek verb used is , “aighponhks” (skenopegia) which is the verb used to refer to the act of ,”pitching a tent.” Also this same Greek verb in a different form is used in John’s Gospel, John 1:14 Â Â neswnhksewhich refers to the physical Incarnation of Jesus as the Word became flesh, and pitched his tent among us.
iak o Vogol xras otenege iak neswnhkse ne ,nimh iak aqemasaeqe nht naxod ,uotua naxod Vw Vuonegonom arap ,Vortap Vhrhlp Votirac iak .Vaieqhla
I suppose what I find most interesting about this reference about “tent-pitching,” is this; the action of pitching a tent is transitory and not really intended to be determined as a definite period of time that is to be “lived” in the tent. Namely, when one “pitches” a tent, it is meant for a short period of time, not a permanent dwelling. It occurs to me that if the Incarnate Word is using the Greek form of the verb, Â neswnhkse then our own Catholic identity and purpose should reflect the transitory nature of this rarely used Greek verb.
When during the Feast of Booths, reference is made to the construction of a booth or tent it implies that there will be a period of rest and hospitality extended to those individuals that are living for a short period in the encampment. I think that notion of hospitality is what really draws me to compare the celebration of the Transfiguration, and the fact that the event places the historical Jesus into the context of movement and development. Namely, movement and development towards the crucifixion. It is also very significant to note that the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church places the Transfiguration, 40 days prior to the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross (Sept.14) which is the ultimate transfiguration for Jesus as he undergoes and experiences the Paschal Mystery.
As well we know, 40 days are significant in our liturgical season of Lent as a period of fasting and expectation for the coming of the great celebration of Easter. Forty days also seems like such a long time for people such as us Catholics that are engaged in a theological pilgrimage. But I think this transitory period for all of us that seek theological answers and liturgical expressions of our faith is an exceptionally good period to think about our unfolding ecclesiology in the Catholic Church as we deepen our appreciation of what it means to be “Transformed”, and “Transfigured” in so many new and in one case an old familiar way.
Throughout the life of the Church, the act of “pitching” a tent for worship has happened on quite a regular basis. All of our Catholic Churches, are basically “tents” or Tabernacles that are intended to provide a place of worship and hospitality to all of the faithful as we travel on that spiritual and cosmic journey towards life with Christ Jesus and ultimately the Father. Maybe this is why I find the notion of transfiguration so appealing in so many ways. When I think of transfigurationâ€¦it implies a radical transformation of a personal essence to a new and glorified form. The same holds true with the notion of transformation, a new form, radically different from the old form which also in turn continues to manifest new transformations again and again and again until the ultimate end result is realized. However, the essential core of us as a human person, a worshipping person, a Catholic person remains intrinsically the same; humanity seeking participation in the life of the Divinity. The dynamics of our faith imply that we constantly seek understanding as we progress along our Catholic avenue of faith. St. Anselm tells us this in his, “Fidens quarrens intellectum!”, and our entire earthly life constantly seeks a prayerful understanding to all of God’s creation.
â€¦continued on Friday!