The Collect for the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6)

Note:  The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, Lake St. Louis, celebrates its title feast on the first Sunday of August (for more information about the transference of feasts, see BCP 16).  For the rest of the week, the Collect for Proper 14 is used for the Daily Office and will be posted on the website on Monday morning).

O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son,
wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening:
Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world,
may by faith behold the King in his beauty;
who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 243)

According to Marion Hatchett, this Collect was originally composed by the Rev. Dr. William Reed Huntington and was first included in the 1892 Book of Common Prayer.  Huntington used the Gospel appointed for this feast day, Luke 9:28-36, as this Collect’s biblical foundation.   Hatchett mentions that the Collect has been slightly revised, but he did not provide details regarding what was revised or why (Hatchett, 204). 

The Preamble, “O God” doesn’t tell us much about who God is. 

The Acknowledgement, “who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening,” focuses our attention on the Father, who allowed the eyes of the disciples who were with Jesus to see Jesus’ glory and provided instructions to them.  In the Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter, we prayed for God the Father to “Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold [God’s blessed Son, Jesus] in all his redeeming work.”     

The Petition provides us with one of the eternal things that we need to see:  “Mercifully grant that we … may by faith behold the King in his beauty.”  The disciples report Jesus’ face transformed and his clothing white and bright—which invites us to wonder how does one describe beauty beyond compare?  That we ask that the Father might grant that we, too, see King Jesus in beauty and splendor provides us with an insight into God’s mercy. We ask that the veil over the eyes of our faith be lifted so that we see the eternality and majesty of Jesus’ divinity shining through his humanity (2 Corinthians 3:18).  

In the Eucharist, we have an opportunity to practice seeing through our spiritual eyes.   We are invited to see Jesus sacramentally in the consecrated bread and the wine and spiritually in each of us, the body of Christ (see “The Church” in the Catechism, BCP 854).  We need this training in order to live into our Baptismal Covenant in which we pledge to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” (BCP 305).  It seems to me that this Collect is asking for grace to live into this part of our Baptismal Covenant, so that, as we pray the Song of Simeon in Compline, like Simeon, we can declare that “these eyes of mine have seen the Savior” (BCP 135) through the eyes of our faith being opened to the mystery of Christ being formed in us, the Church (Colossians 1:27).

The Petition also includes a request that we didn’t ask directly but need to have answered:  in order to see Christ our King in his beauty, we need to be “delivered from the disquietude of this world.”  Part of the ongoing, healing work of the Holy Spirit is to deliver us from the anxiety-producing effects of our society.   The world invites us to worry about temporal things, but Jesus invites us to consider the lilies of the field who neither spin nor work and yet are beautifully clothed (Matthew 6:25-34).  We need this healing work of the Holy Spirit to still our hearts and minds so that, setting aside our anxieties and worries, we see past the temporal things to catch glimpses of eternal things. 

The Pleading, “who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen,” is one of the few times in the 1979 BCP that that we directly address the Holy Spirit (see the note at the end of this meditation for the other instances) and the only instance in the Contemporary Collects.

That we speak directly to the Father and to the Holy Spirit in this particular Collect is  a reminder that the Transfiguration is one of the two times in the New Testament that all three persons of the Trinity are simultaneously experienced:  at Jesus’ baptism, the Father speaks and the Holy Spirit descends like a dove as Jesus the Son comes up out of the water (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-23) and at Jesus’ Transfiguration, the Father speaks and the Holy Spirit is experienced as the cloud that descends and overshadows (Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:1-8, Luke 9:28-36).

Since the last Feast of the Transfiguration, what have we, as a parish, experienced as anxiety producing?  From what disquietude of the world are you being delivered during this time?  From what disquietude of the world is our parish being delivered?

What does the thought of beholding our King, Jesus, in his beauty stir up in your imagination?  How might the merciful gift of desiring to see Jesus in his beauty challenge us to live so that we cooperate with the quieting of disquietude within us and among us?

O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son,
wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening:
Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world,
may by faith behold the King in his beauty;
who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Note:  the other times in the 1979 BCP that I have found the Holy Spirit directly addressed are:

  1. In Evening Prayer, “O Gracious Light” (BCP 64, 118)
  2. The Collect for Proper 27, Traditional only (BCP 184)
  3. The Collect for Trinity Sunday (BCP 199, 251)
  4. The doxology in The Prayers of the People, Form V (BCP 391)
  5. The Collect at the Prayers, #5 (the concluding Collect for the Prayers of the People, BCP 395)
  6. The beginning of the Litany at Time of Death (BCP 462)
  7. The beginning of the Litany for Ordinations (BCP 548) 
  8. In the Consecration of a Church (BCP 569)

© 2022 Donna Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick
The citations from Marion Hatchett are from his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, HarperOne, 1995
The reference to Paul V. Marshall is to his Prayer Book Parallels, Vol 2, 1990.
Quotations and page references to The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) are from the 1979 standard edition.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

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