Monday, July 31, 2017

Deliverance from Disquietude


This coming Sunday, as you will no doubt be reminded on several occasions, we will interrupt our usual liturgical progression through the season after Pentecost to celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration. It's one of only ten festivals that rank above a Sunday in importance, and of those ten three always fall on a Sunday anyway (Easter, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday), one always falls on a Thursday (Ascension Day), and one is allowed to be transferred to a Sunday (All Saints'), so really there are only five liturgical observances that bump our weekly celebration of the resurrection (Christmas, Easter, Holy Name, Presentation, and Transfiguration). When August 6 falls on a Sunday, we skip whatever Sunday after Pentecost it would have been and celebrate the moment when Jesus climbed up the mountain with Peter, James, and John and was transfigured before them.

Since the event of the Transfiguration itself is important enough to supersede our weekly observance of the resurrection, it likely would behoove the preacher to preach on it. There's plenty of homeltical fodder there, and I'll get to it later in the week, but, before I do, I can't pass over the collect without digging into this beautiful prayer. I can already imagine attentive members of the congregation smiling or cocking their heads slightly to one side when they hear the presider say, "...mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty..." During the week, I read and study the Rite Two version of the collect since it is what is included in the lectionarypage.net website. Occasionally, I will get to the 8am service and read or hear the Rite One collect and think, "I wish I'd paid more attention to that during the week." This time, though, one need not wait until the early service to encounter the majesty of prayer book language. Collects are often sources of elegant if outdated English, but this one ranks among the top of those poetic prayers.

May God deliver us from the disquietude of this world so that we may by faith behold our King in his true beauty. There are several layers of good, old-fashioned theology there that are worth exploring. First, what does the prayer mean by "disquietude of this world?" Why not just say "anxiety" or "uneasiness?" In the Christian worldview, there is something remarkably not the way it should be about this life, but we experience moments of transcendence when the kingdom of God pokes through and finds us in this life. The word "disquietude" implies that there is a distance between the present state of anxiety and the quietude that we seek. Something is amiss, and God can help us see it.

We are asking God to help us behold our King, who is Jesus Christ, in his beauty. Partly, that beauty is revealed in the Transfiguration--when his garments and skin become dazzling white and the divinity within shines through like the sun. The three disciples with him that day knew Jesus, but they had not beheld the fullness of his divinity until they retreated to the mountain top, where they were separated from the regular chaos and noise of life. The stepping aside opened up a new possibility to see who had been with them all along. Our prayer is that God would open up that same possibility to us, and it is built on a recognition that, like those disciples, we first need to be delivered from the disquietude that makes it impossible to behold it.

The collect, therefore, transports the Transfiguration out of its historical context and contemporizes it for us. We, too, come to see our Lord transfigured. We, too, want to behold him in all his beauty. We, too, must step aside from the chaos, anxiety, uneasiness of life in order to see it. God, strip us of our disquietude. Deliver us from our disquietude. Center us on your kingdom as it breaks through into our lives. Relieve the doubt and fear that cloud our sight. Enable us to see the truth before us.

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