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Whither Transfiguration?

by pastorjuhl ~ January 18th, 2010

Pr. McCain’s comments in Pr. Esget’s thread about the change of seasons forthcoming has me thinking along the same lines as he might be thinking. What did Lutherans in the Age of Orthodoxy do with Transfiguration? There are no Luther sermons that he (and I) can find in English on Matthew 17. Same for Gerhard. Same for Walther and Stoeckhardt. A look at three Lutheran Annuals from the 1940s shows that Transfiguration was not transferred to the Last Sunday after The Epiphany. Perhaps when the rare occasion of a Sixth Sunday after The Epiphany occurred, then Transfiguration was celebrated. Perhaps Transfiguration was celebrated on August 6.

Is there someone smarter than Pr. McCain and yours truly that could help us out?

13 Responses to Whither Transfiguration?

  1. ptmccain

    Let us hope that there is someone smarter. I'm thinking Weedon might have the answer, or know where to direct us for it. I ask this for, frankly, self-serving reasons. I am trying to blog on the historic lectionary every Sunday, offering the readings appointed, and Luther's sermon and a Bach Cantata for the day, but Transfiguration has me stumped!

  2. Matthaeus Glyptes

    I have a feeling that if Horn's book weren't "snippet view" we would learn something more about this "Lutheran peculiarity": http://books.google.com/books?id=Xe4WAAAAIAAJ&amp

  3. Matthaeus Glyptes

    The church order of Northeim (1539) provides for "Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Transfiguration of Christ, Christmas…" which seems to point to the retention of the August 6 date (or possibly the 7th or 8th sunday after Pentecost). http://books.google.com/books?id=y60WAAAAQAAJ&amp

    Here is another showing Corvin's order for Northeim. Note the special inclusion near the bottom of the page: "[We omit] all feasts except the customary ones, as well as Transfiguration of Christ"

    The Hussite Brethren church order also retained it among their commemorations of the "chiefest works of Christ"– "only with the same Christian freedom with which we keep all other feasts"

  4. Andrew Strickland

    Found this about the Orthodox church understanding about the Transfiguration and the possible dates of when it was celebrated. I used to be Orthodox, but now am Lutheran.


  5. Andrew Strickland

    Thought I'd throw this one in as well.

  6. Bomberger

    From Edward T. Horn, The Christian Year, pp. 200-201

    The Transfiguration of Our Lord – August 6

    This scriptural festival (Matt. 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36) has been a major festival in the Eastern church since the fourth century, and has been observed in the West since the ninth century. In 1456 John Hunyadi and the great Franciscan preacher, Juan Capistrano, won a great victory over the Turks in a crusade at Belgrade. Capistrano died there of the plague. In token of thanksgiving for the victory, Pope Callixtus III in 1457 assigned the Feast of the Transfiguration its present date of August 6 and made it an ecumenical festival. The date had previously been kept in the East.
    Because of its scriptural basis, it was retained in the Lutheran calendar, through omitted by the English reformers from the 1549 Prayer Book. In 1561 it was included as a black letter day. It first became a red letter day in the 1892 American Prayer Book, and since has been taken into all Anglican calendars.
    In Lutheran use, however, there has been a difference of dates. The Church of Sweden has continued August 6, but many German orders of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries adopted the Transfiguration propers for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany. A fixed date festival in August gets scant attention except when it falls on a Sunday, and there was Roman precedent in transferring the Transfiguration propers (cf. the Second Sunday in Lent). The American Common Service Book, following the precedent established by the Church Book, set the Transfiguration propers for the last Sunday after the Epiphany in every year except when there was only one Sunday after the epiphany. There is some merit in this arrangement. The transfiguration was a spectacular manifestation of our Lord, and it was after this incident that Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem. It is, however, a departure from the practice of ecumenical Christianity to neglect the date of August 6 for the festival. The Lutheran Service Book restores the propers to August 6, and repeats them for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany. In years when there are not six Sundays after the Epiphany, the Transfiguration propers may be used on the last Sunday after the Epiphany, except when there is only one Sunday after the Epiphany.

    Introit—Pss. 77:18b; 84:1, 2a
    Collect—Roman, fifteenth century
    Lesson—Exod. 34:29-35
    Epistle—2 Pet. 1:16-21
    Gradual—Pss. 45:2a; 110:1; 96:2, 3
    Gospel—Matt. 17:1-9
    Proper Preface—Epiphany

  7. Christopher Esget

    Luther Reed, *The Lutheran Liturgy," has very similar information:

    This feast, which was observed int he East as early as the sixth century but which was accepted slowly in the West, is observed in the Roman and Anglican Communions on August 6. This was the date on which in the year 1456 Pope Calixtus III announced the victory of Belgrade where Hunyady's army overcame the forces of Islam. The following year the pope extended the observance of the Feast of the Transfiguration to the whole church.

    Since this feast received only limited observance on August 6, usually a weekday; and since it seemed appropriate as a climax to the Epiphany season, the Reformers Bugenhagen and Veit Dietrich chose it as the theme for sermons on the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany. Eventually this became the general Lutheran use. The *Common Service Book* (not the Common Service), remembering that our Lord after descending from the Mount "set His face to go to Jerusalem," appointed the Transfiguration for the last Sunday after the Epiphany in every year "except where there is only one Sunday after the Epiphany." (page 449)

    Reed then goes on to discuss the propers themselves.

  8. Bomberger

    More of the same from Reed,
    From his lesser-known book, “Worship,” (Muhlenberg Press, 1959):

    pp. 40-41:
    The Propers (Epistle, Gospel, Collect, et cetera) for the Sundays of this season [Epiphany] refer to the manifestation of the glory of Christ in the areas of nature and of grace. One of the distinctive features of the Lutheran calendar is the permissive use of the Lessons for the Festival of the Transfiguration (August 6) on the Last Sunday in Epiphany. This activates the suggestion of Luther that this would be an appropriate climax and conclusion to the season’s thought. The Lutheran reformers Bugenhagen and Veit Dietrich appointed these Lessons for the Sixth Sunday. The new ‘Service Book’ continues this provision, but, adhering to the earlier American Lutheran precedent in the ‘Church Book’ and the ‘Common Service Book,’ permits (without requirement) the use of these Propers on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany in every year “except when there is only one Sunday after the Epiphany.”

  9. Christopher Esget

    I was not familiar with that book. Thanks for pointing it out – I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

  10. Matthaeus Glyptes

    "and Luther's sermon and a Bach Cantata for the day, but Transfiguration has me stumped!"

    I too would like to know if there is a Luther sermon on Matt. 17:1-9, or even on the Epistle. The "historic" hymns (how historic could they have been with a feast so new to the West?) were:

    On the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord
    Sequence: Laetetur hodie matris ecclesiae (St. Gallen) "Tis the feast of the change…"
    Sequence: Adest dies celebris quo pacatus miseris (St. Gallen)
    Hymn: Splendor aeterni luminis
    Hymn: Novum sidus exoritur
    Hymn: Caelestis formam gloriae
    Hymn: Gaude mater pietatis

    At Lauds
    Hymn: Celebri gaudio jugi praeconio
    Hymn: Fulget mundo celebris

    At Matins
    Hymn: Exultet laudibus sacrata concio
    Hymn: Caelestis forma(m) gloriae = “O Wondrous Type…”
    Hymn: Novum sidus exoritur
    Hymn: Gaude mater pietatis
    Hymn: O nata lux de lumine
    Hymn: O Sator rerum
    Hymn: Laetetur hodie matris ecclesiae

    There also seems to be a connection in Reformation writing with Psalm 89[:15], found on a woodcut of the period depicting the Transfiguration, with this inscription: “Wohl dem Volk, das jauchzen kann." The whole verse in English: "Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance. "

  11. Matthew Uttenreither

    Frank Senn cites Reed for his section on the Transfiguration in his "Christian Worship: Catholic and Evangelical."

  12. ptmccain

    Thank you all for the useful information here. I've shared it on my blog site, with my post for Transfiguration.

  13. Carl Beckwith

    Paul Strodach, The Church Year (1924) has a helpful description of the "distinctively Lutheran" use of Transfiguration on the final Sunday of Epiphany.

    For a solidly Lutheran nineteenth-century sermon on the Transfiguration, see Matthias Loy, Sermons on the Gospels (1888) pp. 182-194. His sermon on the epistle for Transfiguration is excellent too. See, Sermons on the Epistles, pp. 188-199. Loy's sermons are always outstanding and a real joy to read.

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