I entered into lent this year captivated by the idea of anticipating the resurrection. It has been 10 years since I began to observe Lent. During those years I have fasted from habits and I have fasted from food. I have contemplated dying to self, wrestling with sin, and receiving forgiveness. But this year as I entered Lent I was captivated by the anticipation of the Resurrection.
It began as I was preparing my homily for the last Sunday after Epiphany. The reading was Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration in chapter 17. I have preached on the Transfiguration twice a year since I was ordaineda priest 4 years ago. The bonus of preaching from the lectionary is that I don’t have to worry about finding a passage to preach on every week. The down side is that certain passages repeat so many times I worry that I will run out of sermons.
As I stared at the passage Matthew 17 I thought this was going to be one of those moments that I dread. I approached the moment where a preacher ceases to delivery inspiration and offers up information instead. In frustration I asked myself why I had to preach on the Transfiguration twice, once before Lent and again in August. None of the other events in Jesus’ life get the same amount of air time. So what makes the Transfiguration so important?
It was at that moment that I had an epiphany: The transfiguration is a foreshadowing of The World to Come. We see this as Jesus is viewed in his perfected body, a point the disciples are forbidden to talk about until after the resurrection. We also see this foreshadowing of the World to Come in Peter’s desire to build tabernacles, a recognition that God is dwelling in their midst and one of the few Jewish feasts that will be celebrated in the Messianic age (Zechariah 14:16).
There is a line at the very end of the Nicene Creed that gets mumbled through as if it were merely a footnote. This line points to the reason the Gospel is truly the good news. “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the World to Come.” That was it! That funny obscure line at the end of the creed was the reason I had to preach on the transfiguration twice a year. That anticipation of the Resurrection and the World to Come is why we read the Transfiguration before Lent. That anticipation of the Resurrection and the World to Come is precisely the reason why we observe Lent. Sure there is the part about spiritual discipline, of self sacrifice, of repentance and restoration but the reason behind all of those things is “the Resurrection and the World to Come.”
Lent is far more about life than it is about death. Death has been defeated! I can’t wait until Easter morning to shout, “Hallelujah!”
Fr. Andrew Wyns (MA '08) has served as the executive director of Bridges of New York, a
transitional housing program for addicts and parolee's and as the priest in residence at Christ the King Church in New Paltz, N.Y. He is currently serving as the Dean of the Cathedral of the Northeast for the Charismatic Episcopal Church in North America.