Transfiguration


#1

What’s the story/rationale for the Feast of the Transfiguration being on August 6? Google and whatnot has turned up that it’s connected with the Kingdom of Hungary’s victory over the Ottoman Empire at the Siege of Belgrade; Callixtus III elevated it as a Feast for the whole church to be celebrated on Aug. 6 in commemoration of the great victory. The problem is, the Siege of Belgrade ended on July 22, not August 6. I don’t think it is connected with the Julian/Gregorian calendar issue, since the Gregorian reform wasn’t for another 130 years.


#2

Laudatur Iesus Christus.

Dear Applefan:

On a website claiming to have the texts of the old Roman Breviary (breviary.net)), I found this passage on the Feast of St. John Capistran:

It was mainly through his advice and by his power that victory was gained at Belgrade, when one hundred and twenty thousand Turks were either slain or put to flight. The news of this victory reached Rome upon the sixth day of August, and Pope Callistus thereupon consecrated that day for ever to the solemn commemoration of the Transfiguration of the Lord Christ. (boldface added) (breviary.net/propsaints/propsaints03/propsaints03283.htm)

Gratia tibi et pax.
John Detwiler


#3

Well huh. That’s interesting. I’ll go ahead and second-guess Cal3 on that one. It seems strange to celebrate something forever more on the day you got news of it. I imagine he was happy that it occurred, not that he was celebrating that the news had successfully made it to Rome (I mean, even in the 15th century news did get around, eventually).

The next question is, why the Transfiguration? It’s still a little hazy on why, if you’re the Pope, your reaction when you get this news is “Hey! I’ve got an idea. Let’s celebrate the date of our receipt of this wonderful news by elevating a traditional devotion to the status of a universal feast!” The two concepts just seem unrelated.

On the other hand, this is a major breakthrough (for me, at least) that there’s any explanation at all of why August 6 is at all relevant.


#4

Laudatur Iesus Christus.

Dear Applefan:

Here’s a passage on the Feast of the Transfiguration, from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The Latin Church was slow in adopting this feast; it is not mentioned before 850 (Martyrology of Wandelbert, Gavanti, “Thesaurus Liturg.”, II, August); it was adopted in the liturgy about the tenth century in many dioceses, and was celebrated mostly on 6 August; in Gaul and England, 27 July; at Meissen, 17 March; at Halberstadt, 3 September, etc. In 1456 Callixtus III extended the feast to the Universal Church in memory of the victory gained by Hunyady at Belgrade over the Turks, 6 August, 1456. Callixtus himself composed the Office. It is the titular feast of the Lateran Basilica at Rome; as such it was raised to a double second class for the Universal Church, 1 Nov., 1911. (boldface added) (newadvent.org/cathen/15019b.htm)

It seems that the feast was already celebrated on the 6th of August. Why Pope Callixtus extended that feast rather than instituting or extending another isn’t mentioned. The concurrence of the reception of the news and an already widely celebrated feast may be reason enough.

Celebrating on this day seems theologically poignant. God was already incarnate; at the Transfiguration, His divinity was clearly revealed. Similarly, the battle against the Turks had already been won; on the 6th of August, the victory was clearly revealed.

Gratia tibi et pax.
John Detwiler


#5

Your last point, regarding the theological poignancy, is coherent and internally consistent, but at least to my “ear,” it sounds a bit like a “backronym” (sorta like how “golf” is sometimes said to stand for “Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden,” since it was associated with upper-crust, male-only country clubs). You’d think if the rationale were as clever as you suggest, it’d be plastered all over the Catholic Encyclopedia article and anywhere else on the internet you see this Feast brought up.


#6

Laudatur Iesus Christus.

Dear Applefan:

Whether or not it was consciously thought of by Pope Callixtus, it seems that the Holy Spirit arranged or allowed things to fall out so that the connection between the revelation of Christ’s divinity and the revelation of the Church’s victory might be found.

He works in surprising ways, don’t you think?

Gaudium tibi et pax.
John Detwiler


#7

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