Wednesday, 8 August 2012

40: Transfiguration (2/4) and Mass

Continuation of 39: Transfiguration (1/4) according to the Greek Fathers

The Byzantine tradition tells us that the Transfiguration is that important that it encompasses all the mystery of “christian prayer”.

It is only by willing to enter in this mystery (the Transfiguration's one) that one starts to discover how wide it is. Let us explore one of its aspects.

Transfiguration and Mass

The Transfiguration could be seen as a spiritual summary of the Mass.

1- First: the Mass used to be mainly celebrated on Sunday, where all the Christians used to gather to meet the Risen Lord. The most early accounts of that gathering could be found in s John 20, with the Apostle gathered in the upper room, the door closed; see as well Luke 24, the structure of the apparition to the two disciples of Emmaus.
The Three accounts of the Transfiguration give us a hint about the relationship between: the Resurrection (happening the 7th or 8th day) and the weekly Gathering (the Sunday Mass): “6 days later” (Mt, Mk), or “8 days later” (Luke).

2- Second: we enter in the Mass by climbing to that High Mountain of the Action of God (the “Divine Liturgy” that God will deploy). Notice that we have to receive a special grace in order to climb. The same greek verb is used in the Transfiguration and in the Mass: anapherei (“Anaphore” = “Eucharistic Prayer”). Jesus is the one who “grabs” them by His Grace and makes them climb with him.
We start the Mass (Kyrie) by asking forgiveness, preparing us to be put in the Hands of the Mercy of God. This is an act of purification and surrender (offering ourselves in the Hands of Jesus). Later in the Mass, will elevate our hearts (“lift up your hearts”), and He will put them in Him (or “under the shadow of the Cloud”).

3- Third: the early Church kept the readings of the sabath liturgy of the Synagogue: one reading from the Thorah (Pentateuk) and one reading from the Prophets (check that even now with the Jewish Liturgy) and added to it the reading of the Gospels and some reading from the Apostles (and Acts).
In the early Church Christians used to have a very special experience of seeing Jesus in the Old Testament (see Luke 24, 1Co 10). So what used to happen is that Jesus would “appear” in the Text of the Liturgy of the Old Testament.
In the Transfiguration we have Moses (Thorah) and Elijah (Prophets) and the fact that Jesus' cloths and face are transformed, transfigured. The letter of the text (the clothes of the text) of the Old Testament is transfigured and shows the Presence of Jesus. Jesus appears, and sheds a light over the Old Testament (Moses and Elijah). This is the first part of the Mass and the first part of the Transfiguration. The Power of the Light of the Gospel and the presence of Jesus in the Proclamation of the Gospel, sheds a light over the two readings from the old Testament.

4- Fourth: we then enter in the second part of the Mass, the Eucharistic part. We enter as well in the second part of the Transfiguration: where the Cloud (symbol of the Presence of God) will overshadow everybody, like the Eucharist will overshadow everybody, everybody will receive the Body and the Blood of Jesus, and then only Jesus will remain (as the text of the Transfiguration will state in Luke 9:36). This is “the vision” par excellence.

5- Fifth: the Transfiguration is about seeing, having a vision: it starts with a promise of seeing the Son of God coming (see this Promise before the Transfiguration), and ends (while coming down the mountain) with Jesus saying “don't say anything bout what you saw”.
Receiving the Eucharist is about seeing Jesus, the True Light. This is what everybody sings right after Communion in the Byzantine Rite: We have seen the True Light, and we received the Heavenly Spirit. We are truly overshadowed by the Heavenly Spirit as were the Apostles on the Sacred Mountain.

The parallel between the Transfiguration and the Divine Liturgy is tricking. For me, this shows that Jesus was entrusting to the 3 Apostles, as heads of liturgical traditions, the Divine Liturgy itself, so, through this unique experience on Mount Thabor, they can understand, enter, and measure the greatness of the one single Mass.
He asked them not to reveal what happened during the Transfiguration until He rises from the dead, until He is capable of delivering, on a weekly basis, the “apparition”, that “transfiguration”.

This is why we gather each Sunday.

Each Sunday we are invited to climb the Hight Mountain of the Glory of God, to listen to His Word, to see Him transfiguring the Old Testament text, each Sunday, with His Light, as “the Risen Lord”.
We then are invited to enter under the Divine Cloud (the second part of the Mass where the catechumens were excluded, and the doors shut (see John 20 and the doors shut)), and receive the Communion that makes all of us One in Him, that make us “one Jesus” only.

Do we really enter in the Mystery of the Divine Liturgy? Do we really enter in the Mystery of the Transfiguration? Do we understand that the Transfiguration (seeing the Lord's Glory) it is given to all of us?

We sing in the Byzantine rite, during Communion and say that we won't betray the secret of our Lord like Judas, with a kiss. The “secret” is what we see, what we experience during Communion.

Come on great people, be aware of your greatness, of the greatness of What God is offering you weekly (or daily)!

With the great intercession of the Mother of God, we thank You Jesus-God for your indescribable Gift. Amen.

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