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The Transfiguration narratives have received considerable attention from New Testament scholars, but so far very little has been written about them from the point of view of their reception-history. The purpose of this article is to examine the ways in which they have been interpreted in the Latin West from the time of Hilary of Poitiers in the fourth century to Peter of Blois in the early thirteenth. Among these writers, from the big names like Jerome to the lesser known figures like Peter of Celle, a varied tapestry emerges where light allegory plays an important part, whether in the symbolisms given to the choice of the three disciples, Peter, James and John, or to the dazzling clothes of Christ as baptismal – a particular insight of Bede, which keeps recurring in subsequent writers and preachers. Unlike the East, where the Transfiguration became a major festival on 6 August from the seventh century onwards, the Latin West was slow to absorb it; but it was given particular impetus by Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, in the twelfth century. Whether read as narrative in connection with Lent (‘glory before cross’), or as a festival in its own right, the Transfiguration emerges as an unusually rich source of biblical interpretation that poses real challenges to the use of the religious imagination today. And it provides a significant contribution to the development of a balanced view of reception-history in our own time.
The purpose of this article is to look at how the Lord's Prayer, with its scriptural base (Matt 6:9–13) and frequent use in late medieval piety, came under careful scrutiny at the Reformation: Luther retained it as central to catechesis and worship; Calvin regarded it as an essential guide to the character of all prayer, but was cautious about its liturgical use; and Thomas Cranmer took a conservative approach, so that it appeared in all the services of the Book of Common Prayer and sometimes twice. Richard Hooker, the late Elizabethan theologian, had to defend Prayer Book usage against Genevans in the English church, who were suspicious of ‘vain repetitions’ – the Geneva Bible's translation of Jesus' warning about prayer (Matt 6:7) – and sought to base his defence by seeing the prayer as an essential part of all worship, both at the daily offices and at the eucharist. Some of his arguments, however, have not stood the test of time, as witness the revisions of the twentieth century, where the prayer is recited only once at each service, and invariably with the doxology – which Calvin favoured, and which Cranmer did not adopt.
Early in March 1617, King James followed what he himself described as a ‘salmon-like instinct’ and made his first (and last) return visit to his native Scotland since his departure fourteen years previously on the death of Queen Elizabeth. The occasion was the fiftieth anniversary of his coronation, at the age of fifteen months, as James VI of the northern kingdom. Among the events in Edinburgh to celebrate the visit was the Whitsun eucharist in the Chapel Royal at Holyrood Palace. The sermon was delivered by the King's favourite preacher, Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Ely.
It is a well-known fact that many a modern eucharistic prayer shows signs of handling the relationship between Supper and Calvary with due care, even with some creative ambiguity. For some, indeed, the very concept of offering is fraught with problems which can only be faced in liturgical formulae by having recourse to paradox. The bread and wine are on the table, but they are neither ‘offered’ sacrificially, nor are they ‘held back’ from the good purposes of God. The act of memorial is neither a re-enactment of Calvary nor is it an insignificant feature of the Church's life, as if all the eucharistic community did was to bask in the sunshine of Christ's single offering, and that is that. Yet many modern prayers are the direct result of creative movements such as liturgical research, patristic theology, and the rapprochment between the Churches that has been so much part of twentieth-century history.
Easter 1985 in the Church of England was a strange experience, resounding with the controversy which David Jenkins had begun the previous year during a television interview, after he had been elected Bishop of Durham. The scenario has been widely discussed by the media, by professional theologians, and by ordinary church-folk, north and south of the border. For the writer, it was the first Easter he can remember since being ordained when the resurrection was actually being discussed, not just in Senior Common Rooms, but in pubs. I was even taken to task by someone working in my local wine-store. In some respects, the furore was well summed-up in his attitude: he had long ceased to attend church, but shouldn't church-leaders believe in what they are supposed to believe?