O Wondrous Sight, O Vision Fair
O wondrous sight! O vision fair
of glory that the church shall share,
which Christ upon the mountain shows,
where brighter than the sun he glows!
From age to age the tale declares
how with the three disciples there
where Moses and Elijah meet,
the Lord holds converse high and sweet.
The law and prophets there have place,
two chosen witnesses of grace;
the Father’s voice from out the cloud
proclaims his only Son aloud.
With shining face and bright array,
Christ deigns to manifest that day
what glory shall be theirs above
who joy in God with perfect love.
And faithful hearts are raised on high
by this great vision’s mystery;
for which in joyful strains we raise
the voice of prayer, the hymn of praise.
FOR CHURCHES THAT OBSERVE the lectionary readings, the 7th Sunday after Epiphany (the Sunday before Ash Wednesday) is Transfiguration Sunday.
UMH 258 “O Wondrous Sight, O Vision Fair” draws our attention to the transfiguration narratives (Matt. 17:1-8, Mk. 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36). Peter, James and John went with Jesus to the mountain where Jesus was going to pray. There they witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus:
Matthew 17:1-8: After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus … 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “ is is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
The hymn describes the transfiguration of Christ as one that reflects His majesty and glory. There was brightness. Jesus was in sweet conversation with Moses and Elijah. Jesus’ face was shining. There was a cloud. There was a voice from the cloud. The voice said “This is my son … listen to him!” That is a mandate we hear. The Father commands us to listen to Jesus.
A cloud overshadowed Moses and Elijah and the voice of God revealed Jesus’ identity. This was an epiphany. This was a confirmation of what happened during His baptism at the River Jordan.
These two epiphany events are important revelations of Jesus made manifest. Jesus’ baptism ended the quiet years of His life. It was the beginning of His public ministry. The Transfiguration leads us to Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem where He will suffer and die. These revelations of Jesus’ identity bear significance in our understanding of His mission on earth.
The fourth stanza of the hymn joins us to this glorious mystery. As Jesus’ human appearance was transformed at the mountaintop, we know that God has the power to transform us too. Transform us so that we may listen to Jesus His Son “with whom he was well pleased”. With this thought we can try to pay close attention to our activities and be sensitive to Christ’s transforming light.
We ask the Lord to empower us that we may act as a transfigured people.
Judith Mosomos is a Lecturer in Church Music at the Methodist School of Music.