Monday, August 06, 2007

Does it have anything to do with the Turks?

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Today, we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although we read the story on the last Sunday before Lent begins in the new lectionary, the feast day always falls on August 6th.

In the story, Peter offers to construct tabernacles (or "booths") for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, telling us that the event is occurring at the Hebrew feast of Succoth (the feast of Tabernacles), which falls in the month of October. So how did the Christians end up commemorating the Transfiguration (which must have occurred in October) on August 6th?

The feast originated in the Eastern Church, becoming widely observed by the end of the first millennium on the 6th of August. From there it spread to the Western Church, but was not universally observed there. Many places in the West observed it on August 6th, others kept the feast on different dates. In Gaul and England in was 27 July; at Meissen, 17 March; and at Halberstadt, 3 September.

The deciding factor would come a few centuries later out of the clash of Moslems and Christians. August 6th was universally established as the date for the feast in the Latin rite by Pope Callistus III to mark the victory of Hunyady and the resulting Christian deliverance from the Turks at Belgrade on August 6, 1456.
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