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Feast of the Transfiguration

August 6, 2023

Today’s Invitation

Today, we invite you to explore transformation and transfiguration through theological reflection on transgender experiences; engage and combat Catholic Social Teaching that is harmful to trans people; and embody the openness to transformation in all people.

Commentary by Allison Connelly-Vetter

Feast of the Transfiguration

Reading 1

Dn 7:9-10, 13-14

As I watched,
Thrones were set up,
and the one who sat there was the Ancient of Days,
whose clothing was snow white,
with a head of hair as white as wool;
whose throne was flames of fire,
with wheels of burning fire.
A stream of fire surged forth,
flowing from the Ancient One’s presence,
with tens of thousands ministering,
and hundreds of thousands standing in attendance.
The court was convened,
and the books were opened.

I gazed into the visions of the night once again,
and I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven,
one who looked human,
but somehow more than human.
This One came to the Ancient One
and was led into the divine Presence.
Thus was conferred sovereignty,
glory and dominion,
and all peoples, nations, and languages
became this One’s subjects.
This sovereignty is an eternal Sovereignty
which will never pass away,
nor will this dominion ever be destroyed.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 97

Response: O God, You rule; for You are the Most High over all the earth.

O God, You rule; let the earth rejoice; / let the many coast-lands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are round about You, /
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your judgment seat.
R: O God, You rule; for You are the Most High over all the earth.

The heavens proclaim Your righteousness; / and all the peoples behold Your glory.
All gods bow down before You.
R: O God, You rule; for You are the Most High over all the earth.

For You, O God, are Most High over all the earth; / You are exalted far above all gods.
R: O God, You rule; for You are the Most High over all the earth.

Reading 2

2 Pt 1:16-19

We did not cleverly devise fables
when we taught you of the power and coming of our Savior Jesus Christ:
we ourselves saw the majesty of our Savior.
For Jesus was honored and glorified by our Creator God
when the voice of the Majestic Glory spoke out,
“This is my Own, whom I love, and with whom I am well pleased.”
We heard this ourselves – this voice from heaven –
when we were with Jesus on the holy mountain.
Moreover, we have the prophetic word, which is even more certain.
Depend on it for your own good
as a light shining in the dark,
until first light breaks and the morning star rises in your hearts.


Mt 17:1-9

Six days later,  Jesus took Peter, James and John
up on a high mountain to be alone with them.
And before there yes, Jesus was transfigured –
his face becoming as dazzling as the sun and his clothes as radiant as light.

Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said, “Rabbi, how good that we are here!
With your permission I will erect three shelters here
– one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah!”

Peter was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them.
Out of the cloud came a voice which said,
“This is my Own, my Beloved, on whom my favor rests. Listen to him!”

When they heard this, the disciples fell forward on the ground, overcome with fear.
Jesus came toward them and touched them, saying,
“Get up! Don’t be afraid!”

When they look up, they did not see anyone but Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountainside, Jesus commanded them,
“Don’t tell anyone about this until the Chosen One has risen from the dead”

The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved. 

The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.



Transfiguration and Transformation

The story of Jesus’ transfiguration has a deep resonance with experiences of transness and the gender understanding of gender-diverse people in the Church and beyond. In his piece “On Transfiguration” in L’Esprit Créateur, Vol. 53, No. 1 (2013), Romance Studies scholar Cary Howie describes Jesus’s transfiguration as “a template for other transfigured and transfiguring bodies, including those of transgender persons.” Just as trans people do not exist in a vacuum, but rather in the context of communities that may or may not affirm them, Jesus’s transformation did not occur in isolation. As Howie writes, “When Jesus’s body appears more intensely, it appears in community.” He continues: “This appearance, this transfiguration, is not even limited to Jesus, Moses, and Elijah but extends in fact to the disciples present and by implication the entire Christian community.” This communal transformation is important: just as trans people may experience transformation or transition in their own lives, socially, medically, spiritually, or otherwise, so are the communities which surround trans people transformed by their presence. 

As Howie puts it, “To be transfigured is to implicate others in your transfiguration; it is to suggest that ‘luminous glory’ may erupt from, and within, any flesh whatsoever. This implication is part of what makes transfiguration terrifying: no one is untransfigurable, and no one is transfigured alone.” While trans people do not exist as object lessons for cisgender people, transness has much to teach all humans, inclusive of all gender expressions and identities, about the possibility and potential for transformation of all kinds in all moments. Whether that transformation is from child to adult, oppressor to ally, powerful to vulnerable and vice versa, the transfiguration reminds us that even for those whose futures seem most certain, transformation is always possible and is always an option. 

Transfiguration, while in many ways particularly connected to trans people, reveals deeper truths about all bodies. Howie writes: “Transfiguration…is the sign, the name, for that which, in every body (without exception), crosses over, exceeds itself, and thereby intensifies – instead of relinquishing – what it has been. It is crucial for this argument…that the transfigured body be more intensely what it has been all along, as counterintuitive as this may at first sound. It is not, in other words, that my body, subjected to the techniques and technologies according to which its gender is apparently reframed, ceases to be what it was as it becomes what it will be, but instead that what I am becoming has been there, nascent, all along. (Which to say that this being-there is unthinkable without its attendant becoming.) My transfiguration, in other words, is my birth to presence.”

For Jesus, transfiguration was also, in many ways, his “birth to presence” – Jesus comes down from the mountain with his disciples and begins his journey to Jerusalem. Jesus’s transfiguration is, in a meaningful sense, his “coming out” moment, when he is revealed as the child of God and the possibilities for his future are entirely transformed. Just as trans people experience a variety of responses to their “coming out,” so did Jesus. His disciples and friends were quick to offer hospitality, even respite, after his transformation, just as networks of queer and trans mutual aid offer one another care during and after medical procedures, experiences of harm, gender-based discrimination, internal revelations, and more. At the same time, Jesus’s coming out exposed him to even greater violence from the state, as the ways he trans-gressed the boundaries between human and divine threatened the power of the Empire. 

Cary Howie has been on faculty at Cornell since 2003. He received his B.A. in Literature from Bard College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Stanford University. Cary’s writing and teaching tend to put medieval literary and religious sources into conversation with modern practices and preoccupations. He is the author of essays on medieval gender and sexuality; on the difficulty of letting go; on meditation, mysticism, and saints’ lives; and on a range of authors. He is the author of three books: Claustrophilia: The Erotics of Enclosure in Medieval Literature (Palgrave 2007), Sanctity and Pornography in Medieval Culture: On the Verge (with Bill Burgwinkle, Manchester University Press 2010), and most recently Transfiguring Medievalism: Poetry, Attention, and the Mysteries of the Body (Manchester University Press 2020).

Commentary by Allison Connelly-Vetter

Allison Connelly-Vetter (she/her) holds a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary with an interdisciplinary concentration in disability theology. She is currently working in church communications, faith-based racial justice organizing, and children, youth, & families ministry. She also preaches and teaches on disability theology for religious congregations and institutions around the country. Denominationally, Allison is both Catholic and United Church of Christ. She lives in Minneapolis, MN with her wife, Brooklyn.

Engage Catholic Social Teaching

LGBTQ+ Justice

As Catholic Social Teaching frequently reminds us, our theology is not only personal, it is political. In the same way, Jesus’s transfiguration and its connection to transness has political implications for Christians. For example, Pastor Rachel Johnson, a Lutheran (ELCA) clergy in northern Minnesota, writes in response to legislation targeting trans youth in Texas in 2022: “I can’t help but think that, as the church celebrates TRANSfiguration Sunday, we ought to be more open to TRANS-figures in our world. In the name of a God who TRANScends time, space, materiality and gender, who TRANSforms our hearts of stone, who TRANSfigures their own face to reveal the glory of God…Let me unequivocally denounce this new Texas directive against TRANS youth and families.” 

Unfortunately, there is a significant body of Catholic doctrine and practice which perpetuates violence – political AND spiritual – against trans people. Most notably, in June 2019 the Vatican released a document titled “Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education,” which “rejected the idea that gender is distinct from biological sex” and claimed that “a transgender identity…seeks to ‘annihilate the concept of nature.’” Previous to this document, in 2016 Pope Francis “expressed shock that ‘today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex’” (source). Institutional Catholic transphobia not only harms trans people, it also harms equality for all genders: the USCCB refuses to support the Equality Act, claiming that it “forc[es] health care professionals, against their best medical judgment, to support treatments and procedures associated with gender transition’” and “codifies the new ideology of ‘gender’ in federal law, dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting ‘gender’ as only a social construct“ (source). Catholic transphobia also manifests on local levels: In 2021, a Catholic diocese in Michigan claimed that trans people cannot be baptized until they have “repented” of their transness (source). 

I argue, however, that this harmful, violent theology and political perspective espoused by Catholic institutions betrays the insight of Catholic Social Teaching, which calls us to solidarity, to an understanding of the inherent dignity of the human person, and to protect the rights of each person. Solidarity with trans folks requires us to become accomplices in the work of dismantling every institution and system which enacts transphobic violence. Understanding the dignity of the human person requires us to trust trans people about their experiences and identities, allowing them to be the experts on their own lives. And our call to protect the rights of each person – most especially, the right to life – requires us to work for a world in which trans people live long lives filled with love (self- and otherwise), recognition and celebration, community and spiritual care, and abundant access to resources. 


A Contemplative Exercise

Trans Day of Visibility Guided Meditation from Point of Pride – a longer video version can be found here.

Sit or lie comfortably. Eyes closed or open. Take a deep breath, hold, slowly release. I like to hold my palms up. Imagine that you are sitting in front of a mirror. In this mirror is your most authentic self. You notice that the mirror is covered in gems of all colors, shapes, and sizes. You realize that you can reach out and remove the gem from the mirror. As you hold it in your hand, you notice that it is a worry, or concern, or anxiety that’s floating through your mind. Maybe it’s dysphoria. Maybe it’s an economic concern. Maybe it’s a health concern. Hold that feeling in your hand. Recognize that your feeling is valid. It’s understandable. Think for a moment as you hold it about the many other people in this world who are holding concerns similar to you. And then, set that feeling aside. Maybe you put it into a bowl next to you or or in front of you. Maybe it’s just a pile. You’re just setting that feeling aside — it’ll be there when you’re done but for now we’re just focusing on centering ourselves, grounding ourselves. Repeat this process until you have collected all the gems from the mirror. Then, take a deep breath. Imagine all the people in the world taking a breath with you. All the people you’re connected to in this meditation all over the world. All your trans siblings who love and support and affirm you. Remember that we see you, we are here for you, you are whole, and complete, and we love and honor your most authentic self. As you feel comfortable, maybe you want to end on an affirmation. Remind yourself that you are enough. Or maybe it’s a simple thank you – I find that practicing being grateful helps make other things feel more manageable. Thank you for being you.

A Witness

James Admans/Marge Erin Johnson

James Admans (they/she) is a trans theologian, digital minister, and drag queen who goes by the drag name Marge Erin Johnson. James regularly leads worship and preaches in drag for churches across the country, both in-person and virtually. James/Marge graduated from Union Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity concentrating in queer and trans theology. In their own words, James/Marge is “originally a quarantine queen who showed off her makeup looks on Instagram [and] is glad to join progressive and lefty faith communities living into the values of extravagant welcome and God’s radical love. 

[James]/Marge believes that the joy of drag can reach the ends of the earth and that drag combined with worship can unlock the magic to help us imagine the kin-dom here on earth.” In addition to liturgical leadership in drag, James/Marge is a talented designer and shares their public theologies of queer and transness at the handle @theologyqueen on Instagram and Twitter via memes and videos, and is also frequently featured in podcasts, interviews, blog posts, and other forms of media. James/Marge is currently curating an anthology for Riverdale Avenue Books that explores the sacredness of queer, trans, gender-variant identities, experiences, and concerns in relation to faith, worship, and theology. To learn more about James/Marge’s work and ministry, visit  

A Community

The Sacred Swarm

In Advent 2020, members from a cohort of Call To Action Re/Generators created a series of Queer and Trans Led Liturgies. That project has taken on a new form as the Sacred Swarm. The Sacred Swarm is a ritual space created for seekers of Spirit and Justice to build community and share ways to access the Divine. The Swarm was co-created by a group of Queer people who are inspired by the cyclical nature of the Christian liturgical calendar, and committed to creating space that is affirming all people of all genders, sexualities, races, faith backgrounds, and abilities. The Sacred Swarm comes together over Zoom once a month to celebrate, mourn, pray, contemplate, sing, and more. Like a swarm of honeybees, many Sacred Swarm members are branching out from their original faith traditions and are searching together for a more spacious spiritual home. You can find the Sacred Swarm on Instagram . And you can find Zoom information and register to get updates from the Sacred Swarm here.


Jesus Chills with Transgender Sheep Digital Cartoon


Image description: In a drawing of Jesus, he lies on the ground arm-in-arm with a sheep with a transgender flag pattern on its body. Jesus wears a simple gray robe and a crown of thorns, and he and the sheep smile at each other.