Next Sunday we will be on the Mountain of Transfiguration with three of Jesus’ lieutenants, Peter, James and John, watching agog as a larger than life dazzling Jesus converses with the long-dead patriarchs, Moses and Elijah. This event traditionally marks the shift from the season of Epiphany to the season of Lent. Traditionally, the Christian faithful trade in their epiphany crowns as sons and daughters of the Highest for the sackcloth and ashes of introspective penitence leading to Easter. What a downer!
Ancient Christianity, I’ve just been reminded, did it differently, just by shifting the kaleidoscope. Same story, same drama, different perspective. You can hang onto those crowns – they are permanent!
Apparently, Transfiguration Sunday begins the Rite of Election, a period that embraces the journey through Lent, Easter and Pentecost. Enquirers intending to commit their allegiance to Christ participated in this drama of learning and preparation culminating in a mass Pentecost Baptism. It eclipses the Western journey that often leaves us stuck in Good Friday as the climax (and Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection, as an afterthought).
We had a saying where I last served – “We are an Easter People!” – meaning we lived in a state of Spirit-inspired resurrection vitality. We meant to take in the full story. As Lent approaches and many readers of this blog begin the 40 day period of introspection, remember not to cast your crowns aside. Yes, we must embrace our humanity and explore and learn humility through our weaknesses. We will follow the sombre procession led by the man with the cross and lament the high cost of love at the foot of that same cross. We will rejoice at the empty tomb and the alive Man who now walks in our midst. We will receive the Pentecost pouring of the Spirit and the reminder that we are now and always have been created in the image of the Highest. We wear crowns. We are Easter people!