Transfiguration Sunday (7 Feb 2016) is the last Sunday of Epiphany, which is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, andmarks the beginning of the Lenten journey.1
Though not universally observed, the Roman Catholics retain this day on its original date of 6 August. The Protestant Church, however, moved the commemoration from a weekday to the Sunday before Lent. This move has wisely connected the final epiphany of Jesus with the Lenten season. The Transfiguration of Jesus thus acts as a bridge into Lent by further identifying who Jesus is and anticipating what would occur as our Lord steadfastly headed for Jerusalem.2
A fitting hymn to sing on Transfiguration Sunday is Brian Wren’s 20th century hymn: ‘Christ, Upon the Mountain Peak’. This was the second hymn text that Wren wrote at Mansfield College, Oxford, England in 1962.3 Emeritus Professor Wren’s text captured the awe in the event when Jesus underwent a dramatic change in appearance as the “inner circle” of His disciples beheld His glory in dazzling brightness.
The Transfiguration narratives in the Gospels reveal Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah. With Moses personifying the Law and Elijah, the Prophets, Jesus symbolises the fulfillment of the Law and the countless prophecies in the Old Testament (stanza 2). The poetic text in stanza 3 presents God’s affirmation of His beloved Son through the cloud: “Jesus as the Son by name!”
The disciples never forgot what happened that day on the mountain. Many years later, both John and Peter gave testimonies: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son… We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (John 1:14; 2 Peter 1:18)
1 Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality Through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2004), 89.
2 Laurence Hull Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996), 136.
3 ‘Christ, Upon the Mountain Peak’; available from http://www.hymnary.org/text/christ_upon_the_mountain_peak (accessed on 30 Nov 2015)
Dr Yeo Teck Beng is Principal of the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.