ANY CHANGES were ushered in with the Third Edition of the Roman Missal in English. Among them, one of my favorites is the inclusion of a unique “Prayer over the People” with the orations for each day of Lent. These prayers are optional, but I like to use them because of the richness of their theology and because they contribute to the sense that Lent is a sacred time unlike the rest of the year.
The “Prayer over the People” appointed for today, the Second Sunday of Lent, is striking. Drawing upon the Gospel of the Transfiguration, it addresses the subject of beauty. The text of the prayer is as follows:
Bless your faithful, we pray, O Lord, with a blessing that endures for ever, and keep them faithful to the Gospel of your Only Begotten Son, so that they may always desire and at last attain that glory whose beauty he showed in his own Body, to the amazement of his Apostles. Through Christ our Lord.
The fullness of Beauty, we are to understand, was on display atop Mt. Tabor in the Body of our Lord. What must that experience have been like? Every artist has experienced moments in which his or her breath was taken away by beauty. It can happen while standing in front of a Rembrandt, or while listening to the string section of an orchestra, or while standing at the conductor’s podium before a polyphonic choir; it can happen while picking flowers, or while watching sunrise, or while meeting a stranger. But, none of these beauties are the fullness of Beauty.
What was the reaction of the chosen three who witnessed the Transfiguration? We are told that their reaction was “amazement.” How long has it been since you were truly “amazed” by the beauty of something or someone?
This could be a great Lenten discipline. What if we set out to be amazed at least once a week, in a truly profound manner? It would require exceptional sensitivity, developed interiority, and adequate silence on our part. Attempting to be “amazed” at this level might be too difficult to accomplish once a day, but perhaps once a week would be an approachable goal.
To be amazed in the same way that Peter, James, and John were amazed would, indeed, be a blessing on all people!