Sunday, March 3rd, is Transfiguration Sunday, the Sunday that we remember when Jesus went up on a mountain with Peter, James, and John and was “transfigured” into dazzling white before their very eyes (and no, he didn’t learn it from Professor McGonagall, Harry Potter fans!). This is celebrated on the last Sunday before Lent begins, just 3 days before Ash Wednesday.
The Transfiguration story helps to set the stage for the coming Lenten season. Until now, Jesus has been teaching and doing miracles and healing people – behavior not too different from any other rabbi. However, the Transfiguration gives us an opportunity to see that this rabbi is different. Our eyes are opened to the unique relationship Jesus has with God, and we catch glimpses of him as Messiah. Once Lent begins, we are solidly on the road with Jesus to Jerusalem, to the cross and resurrection – so the Transfiguration provides a good bridge from “rabbi Jesus” to “revolutionary Jesus” who will be executed.
So what’s the point of burying the alleluia on this Sunday? It certainly isn’t mandated by the church, and it’s not a necessary exercise. It is a fun tradition we’ve adopted to help us to experience visually, experientially, the transition to the more somber season of reflection during Lent. We at St. Paul’s have an “Alleluia” Banner; as we all sing choruses of “alleluia,” the children carry the banner in procession to the altar, where they “bury” it in a purple cloth bag, waiting patiently for the Easter Vigil service when the cries of joy will be welcomed again as Jesus’ resurrection is announced. This blog post has a beautiful explanation of the origin of the tradition that I encourage you to read: https://www.buildfaith.org/origin-burying-alleluia/.
With the alleluia silenced, we all become a bit more reflective, a bit more somber. Lent is a church season to, as Godly Play states, “prepare to enter the mystery of Easter.” You see, Easter is such a grand mystery that it takes time to prepare ourselves for it. Many people choose to engage in Lenten disciplines that help them to enter the Mystery: fasting (heard of someone “giving up” something for Lent or only eating fish on Fridays?); almsgiving (special generous offerings); and prayer. How might you fast, give, or pray in a new way this Lent? Are there other spiritual disciplines that you engage that help you to experience God? I assure you that keeping a thoughtful Lent can be a transforming experience, especially when you reach Easter’s joys. If you’re looking for ideas, please join us for the Lent Festival in the Parish Hall on March 3rd – devotions, reflections, offering boxes, and more resources will be available there. If you’d like to explore spirituality in a new way, please be sure to engage our Wednesday night Lent series (see related article for more information)! If you’re looking for accountability or want to talk through ideas, please feel free to talk to Jennifer or Paul personally. We’d be more than happy to explore ideas with you.
Wishing you a deep experience of brokenness and awareness of God’s healing and reconciling love this Lent.