A humbling glimpse

By | February 25, 2010

Each year, on the Second Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of the Transfiguration is proclaimed. This year’s account is by Luke. Jesus took three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, up the mountain to pray. While he was praying, “his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.” A cloud came over them and they became frightened. They heard the voice of God and “fell silent.”

Along with this Gospel, we also hear an account of the sealing of the covenant between God and Abram. “As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him.”

During these two encounters with God, the humans respond with awe bordering on terror. We can imagine them falling to their knees as they are overwhelmed by the experience. During the Mass we too exhibit an attitude of awe and wonder when we kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer and when the priest holds up the host, transformed into Christ, and invites us to the Lord’s Supper. The posture not only expresses that attitude, but also helps us to feel awe as we humbly kneel.

Many also encounter the kneeling position at the beginning of Mass. We are invited to kneel for the Penitential Rite, but only during Lent. The rite may also be sung. The seasonal planners intend to emphasize this rite as we begin the Mass because Lent is, in part, a penitential season. We scrutinize our lives to uncover what hinders us from following Christ whole-heartedly and ask God for forgiveness and grace as we seek to become more faithful to our baptismal calling. When kneeling is used our postures reflect an attitude of humility and penitence. As we hear the music, respond with sung prayer and kneel we may feel humility and recognize our need for God’s mercy. And then we are moved to desire to allow God to change us as we ask for forgiveness. Such use of our bodies engage our emotions and move our spirits.

Abram received a glimpse of God’s glory. Peter, James and John saw the glorious divinity of Jesus on the mountain. As we participate in the Mass fully and consciously, with mind, body, spirit and emotion we catch a glimpse of God’s awesomeness and loving kindness. We may also catch a glimpse of the persons God intends us to be and the community that makes up the Body of Christ.


Johnston is the former director of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Manitowoc.

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