The Collect for the Feast of the Transfiguration (transferred from 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)

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, BCP 204). 

The Preamble, “O God, 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’s 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 Acknowledgement, “being delivered from the disquietude of this world,” is embedded in the phrase also containing the Petition.  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 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’s face transformed and his clothing white and bright—which invites us to wonder how does one describe beauty beyond compare?  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’s divinity shining through his humanity.   

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 first 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’s 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’s 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). Second, that we speak directly to the Father and to the Holy Spirit in this Collect can serve as our affirmation that the glory of the King in his beauty is the glory shared by all three persons of the Holy Trinity.   

During this time of pandemic, we have had the opportunity to reflect upon what in the pre-pandemic world caused anxiety and what new anxieties have been generated by the pandemic and society’s response to it.  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.
(BCP 243)

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)

© 2021 Donna Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick

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