I am daunted by the task to compose an original hymn for the Transfiguration of Our Lord, when there are already several excellent ones, each approaching the story from a different but spiritually useful angle. The story of Jesus' transfiguration is recorded in Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36 and briefly with interpretive comments in 2 Peter 1:16-21, which happens to be the Epistle for the mass of the Transfiguration. The Gospel thereof is Matthew's account. The tune is the chorale MEIN SCHÖPFER, STEH MIR BEI by Franz H. Meyer, 1740.
On Peter, James and John!
For them alone the sight
Of garments white as light!
For them dead saints appearing,
The Father's dread voice speaking,
Till at the bright cloud's breaking
Your word roused them from fearing
To gaze with comprehension slight
On You, O Christ, alone!
Lord, as You left that peak
You warned them not to speak
Of features like the sun
Until Your course was run.
For You yet loomed the shaming,
The ruler's scourge and mocking,
The tree of anguish shocking,
But one blind heathen naming
The Son of God, O Christ, in One
So wretched, low and weak!
Lord Christ, our poor eyes spare
Such glimpses all too fair!
Give us instead as food
Your stricken flesh and blood!
For us Your promise certain
Is armor from sin's sallies,
Light on our road's dark valleys,
And hope beyond death's curtain.
To bear Your cross will be our good
Till we Your glory share!
The Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord is a funny thing. In most of Christendom, outside Lutheranism and a few other Protestant bodies, it is celebrated on Aug. 6 or, in communities too conservative for the Gregorian calendar, Aug. 19. In some Scandinavian Lutheran bodies it is observed on the 7th Sunday after Trinity, a.k.a. 8th Sunday after Pentecost. Most Lutherans observe Transfiguration on the last Sunday after Epiphany, but among them those who follow the revised lectionary of the period influenced by Vatican Council II consider that to be the Sunday immediately before Ash Wednesday, formerly known as Quinquagesima. But in the increasingly narrow sliver of liturgical tradition in which I feel most at home, the Pre-Lenten "Gesima" Sundays still stand as a buffer between the Epiphany season and Lent; so Transfiguration is three weeks earlier on the Sunday before Septuagesima - except when there is only one Sunday after Epiphany, which can happen when Easter falls between March 22 and 24. So this hymn, understand, is intended for that interpretation of Transfiguration Sunday within a projected series of hymns for every Sunday of the church year. Perhaps ironically, it's the only scenario that includes the (slight) possibility of a year without Transfiguration.