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Lent 2 confusion

Some notes about tomorrow, for Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and of course – for all of you interested.


The NZ Lectionary does not provide an email address for questions. I receive emails asking for explanation, not only from the “person in the pew” but also from senior, well-trained clergy trying to make sense of the changes from year to year, changes which are not accompanied by explanations.

The Sunday before Lent and the Second Sunday of Lent provide me with plenty of questions.

The Revised Common Lectionary(RCL) is a revision of the Roman Catholic 3 Year Sunday reading cycle (3YR). Both are formularies of the NZ Anglican Church. The 3YR has the Transfiguration as the focus of the Second Sunday in Lent – this has been the tradition of the majority of Christians in the West for centuries.

Some other denominations have an “Epiphany Season” that concludes at Lent. The RCL provides for an option of Transfiguration being the focus of that last Sunday in the “Epiphany Season”. Beginning in 1996 (when this option was not yet licit in NZ) and ending abruptly, without explanation, after 2005 – Transfiguration was an option in the NZ Lectionary for the Sunday prior to Lent.

In 2006 it could still be called a “Sunday after Epiphany” but (although licitly, of course it could be celebrated) there is no mention of Transfiguration on the Sunday prior to Lent in the Lectionary.

Transfiguration has always been a possibility on Lent 2 – either as the only option, or as one option amongst others. The NZPB (formulary) suggests the Transfiguration collect for Lent 2. 2007 and 2010 Lectionaries follow NZPB’s suggestion, other years, including this year, the Lectionary does not offer the Transfiguration collect as a suggestion for Lent 2. Last year was unique in suggesting Transfiguration be mentioned in the proper preface (strange, then, that, as I’ve mentioned, it didn’t use the Transfiguration in the collect!).

My approach: There are places where RCL enhances 3YR – in stories of women, in enlarging readings, in greater integrity around the Hebrew Bible; but where options are provided I would tend towards using the options followed by the majority of Christians. Tomorrow I will use the Transfiguration collect, the Transfiguration gospel, and the Transfiguration proper preface.

Roman Catholic

The new translation Roman Catholics will use tomorrow for the collect is:

O God,
who have commanded us
to listen to your beloved Son,
be pleased to nourish us inwardly by your word,
that with spiritual sight made pure
we may rejoice to behold your glory.
Through our Lord…

Technically “O God, who have commanded us…” may be correct, but English doesn’t work by rules written in a room disconnected from actual usage.

Furthermore, this is not a translation of an ancient collect preserved as part of our great heritage – this is a new composition.

The 1973 translation may have been lacking:

God our Father,
help us to hear your Son.
Enlighten us with your word,
that we may find the way to your glory.
We ask this through…

But if I needed to choose between the one that Roman Catholics will use tomorrow and the 1998 translation rejected by the Vatican, I would choose the 1998 version. Here it is:

O God,
who commanded us to listen to your beloved Son,
nourish us inwardly with your word of life
and purify the eyes of our spirit,
that we may rejoice in the sight of your glory.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

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22 thoughts on “Lent 2 confusion”

  1. Thanks Very much for that Bosco.
    This had been puzzling me, and I’d wrongly assumed that Transfiguration was always the Last Sunday before Lent. I shall have to do a small rewrite for tommorow’s sermon now 🙂
    (I did think however that the position before Lent also allowed some interesting possibilities, however I’ve had more than enough years to explore those now!

    Thank you for clearing it up!

    1. Thanks, Eric. I’m pleased you could make sense through what I was writing – I had a lot of information before me and struggled with how to present it in the clearest manner. I tend to follow the “Ordinary/counting Time” approach – putting down the readings for the Lent/Easter Season, and picking them up again, essentially from where we left off, after Lent/Easter is over. Blessings.

  2. Here in the USA, the Episcopal Church has Transfiguration Sunday as the last Sunday of the Epiphany season and the last Sunday before Lent — a position that “makes sense” to me, as it’s the most major epiphany of Christ Jesus before his crucifixion, so it forms a natural “bridge” or “segue” between the seasons of Epiphany and Lent, since the first dwells on his manifestations of divinity incarnate and the second points to his cross, death and resurrection. Or as one ancient Eastern Christian makes the connection between the two:

    Christ our God,
    you were transfigured on the mountain,
    showing your disciples
    as much of your glory as they could bear,
    so that when they see you on the cross,
    they will understand that you suffer freely,
    and they will tell the world
    that you are indeed the radiance of the Father.

    1. Thanks, Gregory. As I point out, there are those who have an “Epiphany season” ending with this reading. I respect that, but would also point out some problems with it. With a longer “Epiphany season” in some years, the readings will, after a couple of weeks, be less and less of an “Epiphany” nature – excepting suddenly one is thrust back into “Epiphany” mode on the Sunday prior to Lent. Your approach loses another set of Sunday readings in the sequence of systematic reading – your system still picks up after Pentecost where one left off prior to Lent – but with more than one Sunday missing. With this system you follow of continuing after Pentecost where you left of prior to Lent, I think the Ordinary/counting approach, abandoning an (artificial, and most-Sundays not relevant) “Epiphany Season” might make more sense. All that you say about the value of the Transfiguration celebration, as Christ encounters the Law and the Prophets in the images of others who have fasted 40 days, continues to hold by celebrating it on Lent 2. Blessings.

  3. Hi Bosco
    My understanding is that our Church has chosen (via the Common Life Liturgical Commission) to mark Transfiguration on the traditional date of August 6th. While I am aware that the majority of Protestant denominations have opted for the Sunday before Lent I am surprised by your comment that Lent 2 has been the preferred option for Christians in the West for centuries. While aware that it is an option I have never encountered the Lent 2 usage in any church I have been involved in and would question that it’s been more commonly used than August 6.



    1. With respect, Brian – I am not at all sure what to make of your comment. You may need to expand it.

      No one is questioning the August 6 date for celebrating the Transfiguration. We are talking about the Sunday readings, not the calendar of months & dates.

      In the New Zealand-created “Two Year Series” of readings, and since at least 1966, New Zealand Anglicans had Transfiguration as a Sunday focus on the “Fourth Sunday after Epiphany” (see page 565 of our Prayer Book). Since the introduction of the Roman Catholic-created “Three Year Series”, those churches using that (I would have thought the majority, until the more-recent chaos) would have celebrated Transfiguration on the Second Sunday in Lent (see page 697 of our Prayer Book). In the 1998 NZ Lectionary and Lectionaries preceding that, there was no option but the Transfiguration for Lent 2. That you “have never encountered the Lent 2 usage [of the Transfiguration] in any church [you] have been involved in” is a fascinating point that I would not like to comment on.

      You may “be surprised by your comment that Lent 2 has been the preferred option for Christians in the West for centuries” – it is, nonetheless, correct. It has not been, as you suggest a “question that it’s been more commonly used than August 6” – it has, for those centuries, always been both-and: both Lent 2 and August 6.

      My question to you is: how has the Common Life Liturgical Commission communicated what you are saying is their choice? Via a report to General Synod? On a website? Or just over a beer to one or two people like yourself? It is certainly unknown to the rest of us, to the formularies we sign up to, or to the senior clergy I started my post off with who are sending me the emails seeking explanations…


  4. Thanks for your insights, Bosco. As an aside, it’s interesting to note that the feast of the Transfiguration on August 6 occurs 40 days before the feast of the Holy Cross on September 14. I’ve read a pre-Easter celebration of Transfiguration was the earlier tradition, but it somehow got moved to late summer — but even then, the Church kept echoes of its Lenten connection by counting back 40 days from Holy Cross Day, a feast also connected with Christ Jesus’ passion and death.

    1. You have just made my day, Gregory!!! It’s something I’ve never noticed. I just did the counting – you have to do it inclusive. I’ve always noticed the 40 days from Epiphany to Valentine’s Day (the same distance from Christmas to Candlemas), as if there’s some street memory of an Eastern Candlemas, and the moving of days (particularly in England) in the changing of calendars from Julian to Gregorian. Fascinating! Thanks & blessings. Bosco

  5. Bosco,

    The CLLC certainly doesn’t report to me, but I do get answers to questions when I ask. It doesn’t take much effort to discover who the members are, or who undertakes various tasks on their behalf. For example, Lawrence Kimberley is directly involved in the production of the lectionary and would be an obvious person to direct questions about that to in Christchurch. Not to mention of course the Bishop of Christchurch who is a member of the Commission.

    I’m not sure why it is that you would not like to comment on the fact that no church I have been involved in has celebrated Transfiguration on Lent 2. They have mostly been rather orthodox, granted though that up until the late 90s they were not Anglican. I do take your point that you are talking about the readings rather than the feast day – The CoE I note has the Transfiguration readings on the Sunday before Lent but the Feast Day set down in August. I was surprised the lectionary didn’t give that as an option this year, especially given the Transfiguration focus of many lectionary-based resources (such as Seasons of the Spirit).

    Personally I would have found the Tramsfiguration readings unhelpful today as we try to maintain a Lenten focus and the ‘take up yor cross’ reading worked very well.

    I recently had a conversation with a ‘consultant’ to CLLC who was surprised by the Tikanga Pakeha Liturgical Working Group’s request for explanations to be included in the lectionary whenever there is a change of practice (such as colour changes). That person expected clergy at least to understand the underlying reasons. My response was that if people like you and me – who are perhaps somewhat more attuned to liturgical variations than many – don’t understand the rationale without clarifcation its unlikely others will. Hopefully that conversation will feed into the Commission’s discussions this coming week.


    1. Thanks, Brian.

      Most importantly, you are not answering why the CLLC, according to you, has abandoned the annual Sunday celebration of the Transfiguration alongside the August 6 celebration. The August 6 celebration obviously only occurs once every seven years on a Sunday (and is limited only to Luke’s version – unlike the prior pattern of celebrating from each of the synoptic versions).

      Can you please let us know the answer that you received from CLLC that you are talking about here.

      You mention the Ven. Lawrence Kimberley. I can assure you that Lawrence has celebrated the Transfiguration on Lent 2 for every year of his two decades of priesthood, and many years prior to that.

      Anyone is welcome and encouraged to add their perspective and answers to threads here. That includes members of CLLC, TPLWG, and others you name. Your assurance that all questions will receive an answer from them has not been the experience of those who write to me.

      I did not put up this thread to seek an answer for my own practice – in fact in both parts of my post I was very clear about my own position and practice.

      Your suggestion, in your third paragraph, that the Transfiguration celebration does not “maintain a Lenten focus” is astonishing. Setting the Transfiguration story on Lent 2 goes back to the early development of Lent itself, and was well established by the early fifth century. It is the reading that the majority of Christians who celebrate Lent will have heard this Sunday. The proper prefaces and collects make strong Lenten connections with the Transfiguration. Moses and Elijah both fasted for forty days, as did Jesus. Many great, historic Lent 2 sermons will make the connections between the Transfiguration, Lent, the catechumens, and us all. [Sermon 51 of Leo the Great, in today’s Office of Readings, springs to mind.]

      On your example of the Lectionary having no explanation for changing a day’s colour: the Lectionary claims that what is provided “reflects common practice in most parishes.” If we have not seen any change in the common practice in most parishes, the alteration in the Lectionary is plainly dishonest. If there is another reason why the Lectionary alters the colour (and in the introduction no such possibility is provided) then the suggestion that we should “at least understand the underlying reasons” makes no sense – what has suddenly altered in the practice of decades/centuries that we are supposed to mind-read and “understand”?

      The issue is much bigger than changing colours. The template for the NZ Lectionary is currently changing every year without any explanation!


  6. Bosco,

    You would need to direct most of your questions to CLLC, I would suggest via your bishop, and those specifically about the lectionary through Lawrence, one of the producers of this year’s lectionary. The only conversation I ever had re Transfiguration was with the then chair of CLLC about why we hadn’t followed the Episcopalian model of offering the Feast on the Sunday before Lent. The answer was as described in my first comment.

    I would be interested to know how many of your correspondents have failed to receive answers to questions put formally to CLLC in the past few years. My experience is a question posed via email through the General Secretary will be responded to following the next meeting (acknowledging that those meetings only happen twice a year).

    I have clearly spent my time in parishes that have opted for the Episcopalian and / or alternative CoE lectionary paths! On top of these of course are the vast majority of Protestant denominations which have only just celebrated Transfiguration a fortnight ago so naturally would not have repeated the readings this morning, so yes, very few of us focusing on Mark 8 today.



    1. Thanks for taking the time to expand your points, Brian.

      To return, then, to your first comment: the Transfiguration IMO is too important a story to be celebrated by the Christian community on Sunday only once every seven years, with respect as this is the experience of your community.

      Celebrating the Transfiguration annually on Sunday is the norm for the majority of Christians for the majority of Christian history. For most that is on Lent 2. For TEC and for CofE that is two Sundays earlier.

      NZ, being the Anglican Church of Or, allows the community to make the decision, as yours have, of only celebrating the Transfiguration on Sundays once every seven years. This is not a question I have of anyone – mine is a statement. If others have questions, they can follow your suggestions. I simply urge people in NZ to choose the Transfiguration option provided bearing in mind that the Mark 8 reading that you have opted for is read again in the normal sequence of readings later in the year, on September 16!!!


  7. I guess, Bosco, when all is said and done about the lectionary for Lent II, I must say that the story of the Transfiguration as an ‘Epiphany’ of Jesus, as Messiah and Redeemer, is quite important in the scheme of things.

    But whether it is observed today – as we did at St. Michael’s – or on the last Sunday of the Epiphany Season, it hardly detracts from its pivotal place within the experience of those three disciples who were witnesses. What a life changing experience for them – in terms of their later leadership in the Church!

    1. Thanks, Fr Ron.

      I agree with you that the story is pivotal. Hence my urging that this story be celebrated annually. Rev. Brian Dawson, a representative on Tikanga Pakeha Liturgical Working Group, in these comments above describes how, in his experience, it is only read on Sundays once every seven years. Instead, those communities read a reading that will be read again later in the year.


  8. Thanks Bosco

    I should clarify, the parishes I have been involved in have almost always celebrated Transfiguration on the Sunday closest to August 6, just as we have tended to ‘Sundayise’ other Feasts.


    1. Thanks, Brian,

      That, of course, is a whole other discussion. Whilst you know I am not a formulary-fundamentalist, that option is not provided for in our formularies – it replaces set readings – so your community ends up losing one reading and using another twice (and always, I’m presuming, the Luke version of the Transfiguration, rather than the RCL/3YR approach of rotating annually through the synoptics?). The question then follows, which celebrations to “Sundayise” and where to stop. Christmas moved to Sunday?

      I will follow this comment with a reflection I picked up yesterday from iBenedictines.


  9. I read this yesterday from iBenedictines:

    Lenten Transfigurations

    by Digitalnun on March 4, 2012

    I like the fact that we read the gospel of the Transfiguration on the Second Sunday of Lent, and that the collect of the day invites us to feast interiorly on the word of God. That feasting on scripture is such a stark contrast to the fasting from food that marks ferias in Lent, while the revelation of God’s glory shining through our human flesh and blood is such a powerful reminder both of what we are now, God’s children, and what we are to become when we see him as he truly is.(1 John 3.3) St Paul caught the wonder of this when he wrote of our being changed from glory to glory. (2 Corinthians 3.18)

    Mark’s account ends, ‘And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one with them anymore but only Jesus.’ (Mk 9.8) Isn’t that what Lent is about? All our observances are meant to help us see Jesus more clearly, and because we see him more clearly, we reflect his beauty and glory more perfectly in our lives so that others can see Jesus in us. That is the Lenten transfiguration we aim at: becoming true icons of Jesus Christ.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Brian. I appreciate the dialogue, and for others, I’m sure it helped flesh out some of the issues, possibilities, and points of view. Blessings.

  10. Well this will shock you but I have had absolutely no idea what the Transfiguration is all about, and regard it as one of those ‘nutty bits’ that I just avoid, like the Ascension. Bosco, you might not want to put this on the website. In reading through here, I have caught some glimpses of what it might be about.

    I teach Sunday School, and used the Old T reading with the children, as well as talking about the Bishop (Abp David) who was visiting us and who I believe preached on the Transfiguration. I might try to get a copy of the sermon if it is in written form.

    You are probably shocked that someone teaching Sunday School has such thoughts about the Tranfiguration and the Ascension.

    1. Thanks, Dorothy, for your honesty. I think you are in a much better position than some who are certain about things and unwilling to explore further. My primary ministry is with young people – always full of questions and wanting to explore further. Textweek is always a good place to start. I’m pleased the discussion has helped you catch some glimpses (a good metaphor to go with the story).

      It is of interest, in view of some of the discussions above, that our Archbishop is following Lent 2 being Transfiguration.


    2. I don’t think this is too shocking! Certainly the disciples don’t seem to have had much idea about what was going on!

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