In the Syriac Orthodox, Indian Orthodox,
Revised Julian Calendars within Eastern
Orthodoxy, Roman Catholic, and Anglican
churches, today is celebrated as the Feast
of the Transfiguration.
It's a fairly complex event, so you may want to take notes.
The Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus is celebrated by various Christian denominations at various
times. The origins of the feast are less than certain and may have derived from the dedication of three
basilicas on Mount Tabor. It's celebrated on August 6, because, um, In 1456, the Kingdom of Hungary
repulsed an Ottoman invasion of the Balkans by breaking the Siege of Belgrade, and news of the victory
arrived in Rome on August 6. In celebration of the victory of a Christian over a Muslim nation, Pope
Callixtus III elevated the Transfiguration to a Feast day to be celebrated in the entire Roman rite.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Transfiguration falls during the Dormition Fast, but in recognition
of the feast the fast is relaxed somewhat and the consumption of fish, wine and oil is allowed on this day.
The Transfiguration is ranked as one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox liturgical calendar, and is
celebrated with an All-Night Vigil beginning on the eve of the Feast. Grapes are traditionally brought to
church to be blessed after the Divine Liturgy on the day of the Transfiguration. This begins the "Blessing
of First Fruits" for the year. The Transfiguration is the second of the "Three Feasts of the Saviour in August",
the other two being the Procession of the Cross on August 1 and the Icon of Christ Not Made by Hand on
August 16. The Transfiguration is preceded by a one-day Forefeast and is followed by an Afterfeast of
eight days, ending the day before the Forefeast of the Dormition.
In the Presbyterian Church, The Sunday of The Transfiguration marks the last day of the Epiphany season, on the
last Sunday before Ash Wednesday. The inceptive Calvinist tradition rejected all liturgical feasts, including the
Feast of the Transfiguration. This, however, does not mean that the Transfiguration itself was ignored by the
Calvinists. Calvin's own view on the Transfiguration were far from ambivalent:
"It might be asked whether it was really Moses and Elijah
who were present or whether only their spectres were set
before the disciples, just as often the prophets saw visions
of absent things. Although there is much to be said on both
sides, as they say, yet it seems more likely to me that they
really were brought to that place."
In 2002, Pope John Paul II selected the Transfiguration as one of the
five Luminous Mysteries of the rosary. Wow!
Here are a few historical examples of various forms of
transfiguration which took place on this date:
On this day in 1890, William Kemmler underwent transfiguration.
Kemmler (May 9, 1860 – August 6, 1890), of Buffalo, NY,
was a convicted murderer and the first person in the world to be
executed using an electric chair.
William Kemmler was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both of his parents
were immigrants from Germany and both of them were alcoholics. His father
died from an infection that he received after a drunken brawl and his mother
died from unknown causes. The young William used to work in his father's
butcher shop, after dropping out of school. After his parents died, he went
into the peddling business and earned enough money to buy a horse and a
cart, but at that point he was becoming a heavy drinker. He spent most of
his life in drunken stupors, often leading him into a bad situations that
were extremely difficult to work out later on. In one episode involving
him and his friends after a series of drunken binges, he said he could
jump his horse and cart over an 8-foot fence with the cart attached
to the horse. The attempt was a failure, which cost him his cart and
goods destroyed in the incident.
He was known to friends
as "Philadelphia Billy".
His reputation was due
to his legendary drinking
binges, which were very well
known around the saloons
in his Buffalo neighborhood.
William Kemmler was
reportedly slender, with
dark brown hair. He spoke
both English and German,
but was illiterate.
Kemmler murdered Tillie Ziegler,
his common-law wife, with a hatchet
on March 29, 1889, and was sentenced
to death by electrocution at New York's
Auburn Prison. His lawyers appealed,
arguing that electrocution was cruel
and unusual punishment. George
Westinghouse, one of the backers
of alternating current as the
standard for the distribution
of main power, supported his
appeal. The appeal failed,
partly due to the support of
Thomas Edison for the state's
position (Edison was a backer
of direct current power supplies,
and it is speculated he wanted
to use the publicity surrounding
the electric chair to convince
people that AC was dangerous).
The practical details of the chair were finalized by the first State Electrician,
Edwin Davis.On the morning of his execution, August 6, 1890, Kemmler was
awakened at 5:00 a.m. He dressed quickly and put on a suit, necktie, and
white shirt. After breakfast and some prayer, the top of his head was shaved.
At 6:38 a.m., Kemmler entered the execution room and Warden Charles Durston
presented Kemmler to the 17 witnesses in attendance. Kemmler looked at the
chair and said: "Gentlemen, I wish you luck. I'm sure I'll get a good place,
and I'm ready."
Witnesses remarked that Kemmler was composed at his execution; he did
not scream, cry, or resist in any way. He sat down on the chair, but was
ordered up by the warden so a hole could be cut in his suit through which
a second electrical lead could be attached. This was done and Kemmler
sat down again. He was strapped to the chair, his face was covered and
the metal restraint put on his bare head, saying "Take it easy and do it
properly, I'm in no hurry." Durston replied, "Goodbye, William" and
ordered the switch thrown.
The generator was charged with the 1,000 volts,
which was assumed to be adequate to induce quick
unconsciousness and cardiac arrest. The chair had
already been thoroughly tested; a horse had been
successfully electrocuted the day before.
Current was passed through Kemmler for 17 seconds.
The power was turned off and Kemmler was declared
dead by Dr. Edward Charles Spitzka.
However, witnesses noticed Kemmler was still breathing. The attending physicians, Dr. Spitzka and Dr.
Charles F. Macdonald, came forward to examine Kemmler. After confirming Kemmler was still alive,
Spitzka reportedly called out, "Have the current turned on again, quick — no delay."
In the second attempt, Kemmler was shocked with 2,000 volts. Blood vessels under the skin ruptured
and bled and some witnesses erroneously claimed his body caught fire. However, Kemmler's body did
not catch fire. The New York Times reported instead that "an awful odor began to permeate the death
chamber, and then, as though to cap the climax of this fearful sight, it was seen that the hair under
and around the electrode on the head and the flesh under and around the electrode at the base of the
spine was singeing. The stench was unbearable." Witnesses reported the smell of burning flesh and
several nauseated spectators unsuccessfully tried to leave the room.
In all, the entire execution took approximately eight minutes.
The competitive newspaper reporters covering the Kemmler
execution jumped on the abnormalities as each newspaper
source tried to outdo each other with sensational headlines
and reports. A reporter who witnessed it also said it was
"an awful spectacle, far worse than hanging." Westinghouse
later commented: "They would have done better using an axe."
On this day in 1945, the city of Hiroshima was transfigured when the atomic bomb "Little Boy" was
dropped on it by the United States B-29 Enola Gay. 70,000 people are killed instantly, and tens of
thousands more died in subsequent years from burns and radiation poisoning.
Born This Day:
1892: Hoot Gibson
1902: Dutch Shultz
1917: Robert Mitchum
1928: Andy Warhol
1969: Elliott Smith
Died This Day:
1931: Bix Beiderbecke
1973: Memphis Minnie
2004: Rick James