by Sister Fidelis
The Alleluia for the Feast of Transfiguration dates back to the XIth century, the first written record coming from Einsiedeln, Switzerland. The text of this Alleluia is so full of imagery, and helps us catch a glimpse of what must have been an incredible moment of awe and mystery: “For she [wisdom] is the brightness of eternal light, and the unspotted mirror of God’s majesty, and the image of his goodness.” Wisdom 7:26
The music in this piece also paints a picture, full of melismas and sweeping phrases. The range is extremely full – an octave plus a fourth – and the musical lines follow a pattern: moving steadily upwards, then suddenly peaking and flowing quickly downwards. The outline of the melody traces a mountainous shape. In the middle of the piece we see one spot where the notes hover in the upper range highlighting the words unspotted mirror, or perfect mirror.
The sense of energy and exuberance in this piece is tangible and makes me think for a moment about how the disciples must have felt witnessing the Transfiguration of Jesus that day. The scriptures really just tell us about their shock and fear and then Jesus’ reassurance to them. We can only imagine how their emotions played out in the days following, but the feeling I experience with this piece seems to have gone beyond their terror to a sense of awe and excitement of the reality of Christ.