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blessed are the dead who die in the Lord

Church of the Transfiguration, Philadelphia | Abandoned America
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There is no way around it: what happened to the Church of the Transfiguration was wrong. Maybe not in the cost/benefit obsessed world we live in, but in the larger sense, this place was much more than bricks and mortar. It was the culmination of people's dreams, their tribute to God Himself.

Their love and worship were etched in the stones, and we could not even find the time to properly salvage their craftsmanship. We threw it in a landfill.

I loved this place.

I loved it in the way that aches, the love where you see something and know it was always a part of you, waiting for you to find it. I wish I had sooner. The idea of its demolition is hateful and unjust to me. To tear apart such a place, to shatter the windows and carvings and paintings and mosaics is an atrocity. This wasn't just a building, it was a legacy.

If you look, you'll see the marriages and masses, the funerals, the confessions and redemption, the parishioners raising their families for generations here - going to camp, joining choirs, and the two priests who cared so much for it that they were buried in front of it. It's gone now.

According to the catechism of the Catholic Church, the transfiguration of Christ occurred when He revealed to His followers that He was the Son of God, and that He would not be confined by the grave, but would rise from the dead and in doing so pave the way for our own resurrection. His body became radiant and filled with the holy light, and He told His apostles He would go 'the way of the cross' and in doing so show that 'it is only through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.'

We are all mortal. Like the Church of the Transfiguration, all our most cherished memories, our greatest victories and defeats will amount to nothing in the end - they will fade in time and our achievements will be bulldozed for the parking lots of the future.

When I saw this church, it was radiant. I can't really explain it, but it touched me. Only a month later the demolition process would be started, but on that afternoon it was serene. The church held its memories and secrets with pride. I am grateful that I had the chance to see it, and I hope to see it again one day, when we are both free of this world and its wrecking balls. I want to look at its delicate statues and decorations in the glow of the setting sun, to run my hands along the railing of its choir loft and gaze in awe and humility at the arches soaring above me. I want to feel its majesty again, as I truly believe when I was there, the Lord was too, and shall be again one day.

Church of the Transfiguration, Philadelphia PA.
Photographs/text by Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America. If you'd like to learn more about this location, it is a featured chapter in the book "Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences," which you can order signed copies of here. It's also available (unsigned) through Amazon/Barnes & Noble/Powells/Indiebound/Booksamillion. You may also be interested in my new book, Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online booksellers across the globe.