And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray; and as He prayed the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistering.
We are permitted this day, beloved brethren, once more together, by the goodness of God, to. commemorate the three anniversaries of the CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION.
This is the ANNIVERSARY of our SURPLICED CHOIR: which, this afternoon at 4 o'clock, will mark its special commemoration of the day with the worshipping and praising of Almighty God in Choral Even Song. It is seven years to-day since, with the present Organist and Master, a Surpliced Choir of men and boys was here first introduced. It must be the general opinion that these years have witnessed a steady and very observable improvement in that so considerable and important part of divine worship, for which Organist and Choir-master and Choir are, in such large measure, responsible. This improvement and present satisfaction and future anticipation are due to the unfailing painstaking of the former, and to the faithful correspondence to that painstaking of the latter. The two have, surely, very greatly contributed to the devout and worshipful character which, it is hoped, may ever distinguish the Services at the CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION; and they deserve this public acknowledgment which is now made to them.
 But the number SEVEN has, in the language of the Old Testament Scriptures, a peculiar signification which may well be heeded by them and by us all; the purpose, from this day henceforth, of the heeding of which might well distinguish this, our Choir's, present anniversary. The number SEVEN is known as the sacred number, as the Sabbatical number. Its Hebrew original signifies restrest mainly in the sense of ceasing from whatever in the past might the better be laid aside. It is associated with the discontinuance of all that is not holy and worshipful.
By one of the Bishops in our mother Church of England it has, within the year, been recommended that, as a rule, the Choirs consist of devout communicants of the Church. Would that it might be so! Would that the lips, from which weekly issue such holy words, were weekly sanctified by the holy things of the Altar! Would that every man and boy of our Choir were a worthy communicant, or duly preparing to become such! Would that there were the same volume in the Confession and in the Psalter and in the Litany, that there is in the Venite and in the 'Fe Deum and in the Gloria Patri! Would that there were as meekly kneeling upon the knees of every man and boy for the Prayer, as there is ready alacrity in rising to the feet for the Chanting! Would that the participation in the other parts of the service were answerable to the Singing! Would that there might never a thing here be wanting as regards completeness in the worship of Almighty God--nothing as regards the harmony of lips and gestures and manners--as regards harmony between that which is outward and that which [4/5] is within--harmony between the lips here and the lives elsewhere!
This, with the resolution that this shall be so, my dear, good Choir-master--my Asaph, as I sometimes call you--and my dear, good Choir-men and Choir-boys, were a most excellent way; a way most acceptable to God, wherewith to mark this, your Seventh, your Sabbatical, your Sacred anniversary. [Mr. James P. Dod.]
Brethren beloved of the congregation, shall it not be so with us also--shall there not be such a purpose this day with us each and all? Shall we not see to it that here, henceforth, with every best worshipful member that we have, with head and mouth and ears and hands and feet and knees and HEART, and with silence in the time of silence as well as with sound in the time of sound, we, one and all, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness? And that, every elsewhere, the lives of every one of us who frequent this place and are members of this Church of the Transfiguration, be continual, unceasing, anthems of praise to Almighty God by their uprightness and usefulness? If we cannot all praise God through the singing of our lips, we can all, and we should all, praise God by the integrity of our lives, by doing the thing that is right and refraining from the thing that is wrong, by leading the godly, righteous and sober life of which our Prayer Book speaks. With the resolution that this henceforth shall be so, we can all of us, brethren beloved of the congregation, mark this the Seventh, the Sabbatical, the Sacred Anniversary of our Church Choir.
 But, brethren beloved, there is another way, and that the annual way, in which you must needs be asked to mark this anniversary. If we have the Choir and the Choir-master that we have--and surely we would not be deprived of them--we must pay for them. We should be honest and open-handed in matters of Church dues as well as in matters of all other dues. We should be as ready to pay for what costs money here, as well as for what costs money elsewhere. We who deny ourselves little elsewhere and are liberal elsewhere, should not here avail ourselves of what may come from the self-denial of others or from the offerings of others. Now these seven years past, as regularly as has fallen St. Barnabas' Day on June the eleventh, so regularly then has annually come a check for one thousand dollars, for the maintenance of the music of the Transfiguration, from one who is the least frequently of any of us here to join in our worship. But, as you have hitherto so often heard, brethren of the Congregation, there are three thousand dollars more that are annually needed to meet the cost of the music. This is the way, then, in which the matter stands: One thousand dollars are annually voluntarily given by one member of the Transfiguration, who is, comparatively, infrequently here, and three thousand dollars are annually asked from all the rest of us who are here the year round, the time of our summer sea-shoring, or sea-going, or mountain-seeking, or watering-place-abiding, at it matters not what cost, excepted.
I would that without another worrying word, more worrying to the speaker than to the hearer, hands might go to pockets and purses and check-books, and the [6/7] needed three thousand dollars go cheerfully thence to the Treasurer of the Church, for the maintenance of the music for the coming year, as a very practical, substantial, way of distinguishing this, the Seventh anniversary of our Surpliced Choir.
We commemorate to-day, brethren beloved of the congregation, the EIGHTH anniversary of the introduction and establishing here, for all time to come, please God, of the DAILY EUCHARIST. It is now eight years since here, in the Church of the Transfiguration, at seven o'clock each morning, the practice was begun of offering up to Almighty God the commemorative Sacrifice of the death on Calvary, for the redeeming of all mankind, of His Only-Begotten and Well-Beloved Son, Our only Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST, ever-blessed be his Name: the practice of the' daily-pleading, before our Heavenly Father, of the merits of the Lord's Passion and Death, for those present and for those absent, for the Church Universal, the living and the departed, to the end that we and they, we and all others, might obtain forgiveness of sins and all other benefits of that Passion and Death.
It is now Eight years since, on any morning whensoever any would, whosoever, would could hither come to receive from that Altar the Holy Communion of the comfort-giving, the strength-giving, the life-giving, Body and Blood of the Lord. It is now Eight years since whosoever would could daily come to offer up prayers, for whatsoever need, with the ascending, commemorative, prevailing, Sacrifice. And who can tell, who but God and good Angels know, what have been the issues, for time and for eternity, of these eight years of DAILY EUCHARISTS? [7/8] To whom else but to Them are known all the comfort, all the help, all the answers to prayer, that have here been had at the time of the morning Sacrifice?
Let me touch your hearts, brethren of the congregation beloved, and my own heart anew, by rehearsing here the contents of a note, written to me the last spring from a distant city; concerning one most blessed association with the hour of the morning Sacrifice in this our CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION.
"I am constrained to tell you of the special Providence which brought about the meeting of my son and myself in your Sanctuary. I hesitated much that morning whether I might go to the Celebration, as I had intended, or ought to use the time in the continued search for my poor boy. I decided upon the latter. But, as it was so very early, a little after six, the thought came to me that there was at least time to say a prayer at that hour in the quiet Church. So I turned my steps thither. I saw one kneeling there before me, and, as I passed him softly, recognized my own son. Had not my steps been so directed, and his also, I know not when or where we should have met again; for in the place where I was intending to seek him, he would not have been found.
It was a great comfort that he made, before you, that tearful acknowledgment of wrong, and had your blessing. They seemed to me Sacramental.
I had a word from him, written on the Bark in which he sailed, written a few hours later, bidding me to hope that the prayer made for him in the Church that morning would yet avail.
I keep always in my Manual the leaflet, "The Church [8/9] of the Transfiguration." Its words are verified indeed. The blessing of him that was ready to perish rests upon it; and it has caused the heart of the widowed and sorrowing to sing for joy; and may the dumb and deaf spirit be indeed cast out, where parent and child sought its gift of healing."
THE CHURCH OF THE
Let each one who worships here not only seek to be whited to an unwonted whiteness of personal sanctity, but let him or her seek, that the sorrow of every other one may be gladdened, the nakedness clothed, the emptiness replenished.
Let ours al ways and everywhere be a holy and a happy transfiguring influence, substituting the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
When the ear hears us, then let it bless us; when the eye sees us, let it give witness to us; because we delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help
Let the blessing of him that is ready to perish come upon us. Let us cause the widow's heart to sing with joy. Let us be eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame--ever following in the blessed steps of the most holy life of our only LORD and SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST, Who descended from the Mount of His Transfiguration, to comfort the hearts of the sorrowing parents, as He cast out the dumb and deaf spirit that had so long tormented their son. G. H. H.
It is now but a few days since I received from the young man a letter, written off the coast of the Argentine Republic, South America, in which, after referring to our meeting and parting on that early morning here, he says: "I have prayed and prayed for guidance and help, and it is my earnest wish, if God spares my life, to live as a Christian and a gentleman and please Him and be of service to somebody. Please pray for me that, if it is best I may recover my health and be restored in safety to my dear mother and lead the residue of my life in the fear of God and to His glory; and pray that I may be strengthened day by day to overcome evil, and be [9/10] able to do something for my Master. I almost feel like a coward to neglect God when I am well, and then run to Him the moment I am in trouble; but I know that the Psalm says: 'He shall call upon me and I will hear him, I am with him in trouble.'"
The number Eight is known in Holy Scripture as the Dominical number, the Lord's number.
It is Bishop Wordsworth, late of Lincoln, now of Paradise, who, in his notes on the New Testament, says: As the number Seven is the Sabbatical number, or number of rest, in Holy Scripture, so Eight may be called the Dominical. Seven is expressive of rest in Christ. Eight is expressive of resurrection to new life and glory in Him. The Eighth day was appointed under the old dispensation as the day when the child was brought into covenant relation with God, became, as in the Baptism of the present dispensation, a new creature. The eighth day was the great day of the Feast of Tabernacles, which is the type of the Incarnation. It was about an eight days after the Lord's uttering of certain sayings--when the other Evangelists say six days, they reckon but the intermediate days--that the Transfiguration took place: when the three apostles, St. Peter and St. James and St. John, beheld the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, the glory which all the Saints shall behold and that forever in the [10/11] Eternal world, and of which they shall there in their measure partake.
The Eighth day is the day of the Resurrection, the Lord's Day of the Church.
And if the name Jesus be rendered into numerals, corresponding to Greek letters, they are eights--888--that form the result. [See Palmoni. M. Mahan.]
Eight, then, is the Dominical number, the Lord's number; and the number of the Resurrection and of the Life and Glory everlasting. Eight, then, is the number that indicates, points to, Him, and indicates, points to, the Life that shall follow this life--the true Life, in comparison with which this life is the no life.
In no other better wise, then, in no other comparable wise, then, could this, the eighth, anniversary of a Daily Eucharist in the CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION be commemorated than in the purpose of henceforth heeding and following that which the Dominical number, the Lord's number, and the number of the Life and the Glory everlasting, indicates.
In this regard these are the words of the Lord himself--"I am the living Bread which came down from Heaven; if any man eat of this Bread he shall live forever. Whoso eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. He that eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood dwelleth in Me, and I in him. He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me."
It is, then, rather than any thing else, the Holy Communion [11/12] of the Body and Blood of Christ, meekly received, that unites us more closely to Him, is His own appointed means so to do, and plants within us the seeds of the Life Everlasting. It is That through Which, by His own Will, we become partakers of Him, Who is the Resurrection and the Life.
There are other means, it is true, by which we draw near to Him and are united to Him, and further our attainment of the Life Everlasting. But it is neither wise nor well to attempt the giving of the whole Gospel in every sermon. It is wise and well, rather, when one thing is the theme to keep mainly to that one thing. And if there be the sufficient knowledge, the right understanding, and the due realizing of what the Holy Eucharist commemorates and of what It. is, and of what It was instituted to accomplish, as well as of what is required for Its meet reception; and if we be moved thereby accordingly, so that we do the things and live the life that those, who partake of the Holy Communion of the Body and of the Blood of the Lord, should do and should live, then may we say, that the Holy Communion embraces all and every thing, is all and every thing, in the bringing us .and in the uniting us to Christ, and in the insuring to us, through Him, the Life Everlasting.
The anniversary, that has the Lord's number, the number that points to Him and to the Life Everlasting, and as such commemorates the DAILY EUCHARIST in the CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION, commemorates the daily establishment therein of That Which unites us, as nothing else, to Christ, and is to make us, as nothing else, partakers of Everlasting Life (if we believe what the Lord [12/13] says) should have something peculiar, something which has to do with the Eucharist, the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ wherewith to distinguish it.
From this day onward, then, there might well be the endeavor with us all, by the more diligent and devout reading of the Holy Word, by prayer, by seeking the instruction to be had from approved books and competent teachers, to attain to some less inadequate conception than we now have of this most Holy Mystery.
With this day there might well be associated the purpose, on the part of us all, to be more careful in making the preparation that should be made in coming hereafter to the Holy Communion, and in remembering the thanksgiving that none should fail to offer who have received It. With this day there might well be the beginning of the making of our lives, at home, and in society, and at our places of business, and in our intercourse with our fellow men, as entirely as possible, the upright, useful, kindly lives that the lives of Communicants ought to be: of the seeing to it that the life of no Communicant of the CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION be, in a single particular, a scandal and an offence to any, but an example and an encouragement to all.
From this day on, it might be the endeavor to honor our Lord more and more generally by observing the old time custom of making our Communions in the early morning, and of receiving, as the first food of the day, the Sacred Food of the most precious Body and Blood of the Lord.
God forbid that any obstacle should here be put in the way of any one receiving the Communion at the time [13/14] when only one can receive It. God forbid that the least feather's weight of a burden here be laid upon backs weakened with age, with sickness, with infirmity of any sort, which He, who said "I will have mercy and not sacrifice," would not have laid thereon. But, brethren, Communicants! Communicants! ye who are young enough, and well enough, and strong enough, to be up and away betimes for business and for pleasure, do not when the Lord, at seven in the morning, is calling you to meet Him at His Altar and to feed on Him for the Live Everlasting, make that the special time for rejoicing in your beds. Surely are there, should there be, any more Asas, diseased in their feet, at the time of the morning walk to the Communion among us than among the Romans! [2 Chron., 16: 12.]
Brethren, Communicants! I pray you make your Communions, every soul of you who can, henceforth in the morning! Make them more frequently! Come, or remain, to offer up your prayers at the time of the Holy Oblation, and with It, Sometimes at least, when ye are not minded or ready to receive, come to pray! Endeavor more and more to realize that the HOLY EUCHARIST IS THE SERVICE, the one GREAT SERVICE of all, the Service of highest WORSHIP, most ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP, offered to Almighty God, the ONLY SERVICE OF DIVINE APPOINTMENT.
Brethren, Non-Communicants! Un-Confirmed! Un-Baptized! Seldom frequenters of the courts of the Lord! Let this be the year in which ye shall cease to be such! And let there be the least possible delay in the matter! [14/15] Let there be an end and at once to this idling, this procrastinating, this wretched fooling, in the matter of all matters! Help shall here be yours for the asking, nay, even for the accepting. We shall keep but very few more anniversaries here together. Time is passing! Eternity is coming! Ah! if only ere this cease to be--the keeping of anniversaries here together--the congregation of the CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION, without a single exception, might be a congregation of worthy, or intending Communicants!
This is the FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY of the CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION. It is FORTY YEARS this first Sunday in October since the one now addressing you read its first service and preached for it the first sermon. There is not so much as one of those who joined with the Rector in that service, and listened to that sermon, here present to-day. In regard of them the Rector to-day stands here alone. There was then no Church of the name in our Communion in the land, nor, it is believed, in England or her Provinces. There is now, certainly, one Church in England, and there are certainly now four Churches in this country, beside this our own Church and our Chapel in West Sixty-Ninth street, that bear the name of the TRANSFIGURATION.
There is one in Philadelphia. There is one in the Adirondacks. There is one in Chicago. There is one in Minnesota.
From the time of the Reformation until after the organization of this Parish, nowhere in the Anglican Church and in the American Church, was that great event in the Lord's life which has given name to this [15/16] Church publicly commemorated. The old Service has now its place in our American Prayer Book, and the old day, the sixth day of August, on which it was observed throughout the whole Western Church for ages, is now with us, its appointed Feast I)ay. This restoration of the old Feast, this honoring of the Lord in the public commemoration of one of the most distinguished and significant events of His Life, this naming of Churches after this event, is humanly due, undoubtedly, to the creation. of this Parish of the. Transfiguration. It is also most likely due to a remonstrance sent by the Rector of this parish to the House of Bishops and the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies of our American Church, that the tradition of the ages that, the Transfiguration having occurred on the sixth of August, should then be commemorated as it was, was not broken and this our American Church put out of harmony and communion in the keeping of the day, by the making in this nineteenth century, by that same House of Bishops and House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, a new American appointment for THE FEAST of the TRANSFIGURATION. But for that remonstrance, the FEAST in all likelihood would have been set down for the eighteenth day of January, the House of Bishops having already determined that this should be done. Among other extraordinary reasons, it was urged that on the SIXTH OF AUGUST people would be in the country, and so could not keep it! As if wherever we go we should not carry our religion with us, and its observances! And as if country people should not keel) Holy days as well as City people, and especially such an Holy [16/17] day as The FEAST of the TRANSFIGURATION, the TRANSFIGURATION having taken place on the lonely height of a mountain in the country! A strange misconception of the idea and significance of the TRANSFIGURATION was also urged, by those in authority, for putting the American Church out of joint with the whole rest of the Catholic Church, in giving the Feast a Winter day, a day in the Epiphany Season, instead of a Summer day, the day on which it occurred: a day in the Trinity Season, which speaks of the World to come, of the life after the resurrection--and this misconception was met by a remonstrance from this parish. It was affirmed, by those who would make the change, that the TRANSFIGURATION was an Epiphany, when it was the theology of the ages that it was a THEOPHANY, a manifestation of God.
"In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with God, and the WORD was God... .and the WORD was made Flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory"--When, O John and Peter and James, did ye behold His glory--"the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth," save on the mount of the TRANSFIGURATION?
It was following directly the utterance of those sayings, that contain and concern the great truths of the Gospel, and in connection therewith, that the Lord took to Him the three chief Apostles, Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain that He might there display to them his power and glory: His power, as. He recalled to this world again the long departed Moses and Elias; His glory, as He suffered His Godhead to shine through the veil of His humanity. It was there, in His [17/18] TRANSFIGURATION and in the appearance with Him in glory of the dead lawgiver and prophet, that He vouchsafed to them a manifestation of His glory and of the glory of the Saints in the Life Everlasting. The TRANSFIGURATION is the witness, as nothing else, to the reality and the glory of the World unseen: to the Lord as the image of the brightness of God; as very God of very God. It was in connection with it that the acknowledgment came, that He was the beloved of the Father, and the bidding that His words rather than those of any other be heard. It was there that He was set forth as the One alone to Whom all things lead and tend: as the One before Whom, and in regard of Whom, and in comparison with Whom, all else must be as if it were not. With this manifestation of the World unseen and its glory, there is the after association of the misery of the world in which we now live, and of the relief thereof to be had only through the power of the Lord. On the top of the mountain there is the manifestation of the World which to us is yet unseen with the Lord and His Saints in glory; at its foot is the exhibition, in the writhing demoniac and His healing, of the misery of this world and the Christ relieving it.
They are the great truths of the Gospel, as we find them told in the chapter preceding the text--the Godhead and the glory of the Lord, and His alone sufficiency, They saw no man at the last save JESUS ONLY; the reality of the unseen World and the glory therein of the Saints, with the contrasted misery of this world and that which was done by the Lord and is to be done evermore by His followers for its relief--that the TRANSFIGURATION set forth and wherewith it is associated.
 These are the things that are commemorated by a Church bearing the name of the TRANSFIGURATION. In brief and comprehensively: There should these truths be set forth and illustrated; and there should likeness to the Lord, in the life, the spiritual, the Transfigured life, and in the works of mercy to men, abound.
Forty years experience in things spiritual on the part of the Rector should count for something. The benefit of that experience is at the bidding and beck of you all, and of all others who desire it, so far as may be. Seldom has man or woman, since there was a Rectory bell to pull, pulled at that bell to no purpose. There is a night bell and there is a speaking tube to the Rector's chamber at the Rectory door, also; pull away at those bells vigorously and frequently as ever you will, and speak up through that tube at whatever hour you will, and, so far as it is humanly possible, while there are ears to hear and strength to do, an answer shall not fail.
As his days grow fewer, come to him all the more frequently and readily with your whatsoever cares and sorrows and spiritual needs and perplexities, and, please God, he will not fail you until the end shall come. The end May it come, if it please Thee, O God, while Thy servant can still minister at that Altar and speak from this place?
This is what he has to say to you, brethren beloved, on this on our Fortieth anniversary and what have you to say in return, as regards the CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION? What, with regard to the perpetuating of its worship and its work when another, and another, and another, please God, shall stand here in his stead? You [19/20] have been told this morning of its coming year's need--its need of three thousand dollars for the music. But another, interested in the welfare of the TRANSFIGURATION as no one more so, has suggested that the future as well as the present be placed beyond all human peradventure, and an end be put to the annual asking for Choir and other needs, in the following way:--He proposes that the Fortieth Anniversary of our Church, its Fortieth Year, be marked by the bringing up of its present Endowment Fund, through the offerings of its members and other friends, the offerings of those who have received from it benefit and blessing, to Sixty Thousand dollars; and that the annual interest derived from this sum be hereafter yearly added to the ordinary annual income of the Church. [This Fund is now about Forty-two Thousand dollars.] The increase of the principal would still be continued by means of the offerings made at each Christmas and Easter.
It has been the Rector's wish, however, that, in his day, the interest of the Endowment Fund might not be touched, but that it should be added annually to the principal. But that which he especially desires is, that, when he leaves his work here, the CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION may be in the best possible condition spiritually and financially. And that which this good friend suggests, if carried out, would seem to ensure that such in the latter regard would surely be the case. Can this be done? Shall this be done?
And now, brethren beloved, what further on this day remains, save it be only, on the one hand, to acknowledge [20/21] that whatever in all these Forty years in and through the CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATIQN has been accomplished for the glory of God and for the good of our fellows is of God; and to ascribe to Him all praise and thanksgiving for the same, and to ask that, in that day when the Son of Man shall come in His glory, it all may be remembered, for the everlasting good of all who, from first to last, have been worshippers and workers therein? And on the other hand, to confess that whatever has been amiss therein during these Forty years, done that should not have been done, left undone that should have been done, is of man and his ever-abounding frailty; and to ask that it all be forgiven and forgotten for the sake of Jesus Christ--Whom may God give to us all, and to all others who have ever found in the CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION, however transiently, their earthly spiritual home, to behold in the Heavenly Country forever and forever world without end, as Peter and John and James for a brief while beheld Him on the Mount of the TRANSFIGURATION, and, beholding, to be changed ever more and more, in our measure, into His likeness?
O GOD, who on the mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine only-begotten Son wonderfully Transfigured, in raiment white and glistering; Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in His beauty, Who with Thee, O Father, and Thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth one God, world without end. Amen.