Transfiguration 2020

When the Cluniacs gave the Church the beautiful feast of the Transfiguration, they can have had no idea how it would come to be associated with both some of the blackest and potentially most luminous events in history. The dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima seventy-five years ago today has seared the memory of us all with its strange and terrible glare that brought darkness upon the world, a darkness we can never deny or undo. But go on a little. In 1981 Sir Tim Berners-Lee published the first page of what would become the world wide web, the potential of which is still unfolding. It is a light in the darkness, an example of human skill and visionary impulse which can be used for good not ill. Then we think of Lebanon and the misery brought about (apparently) by human greed and corruption and there are no words, only silence and tears and an inarticulate appeal to the mercy of God.

When Jesus climbed Mount Tabor and was transfigured in the presence of his disciples, he allowed them to glimpse his glory as God in his human flesh. Some scholars think the Transfiguration occurred at night. For me, that makes the disciples’ experience not only mysterious but compelling: an event so unexpected that it has to be remembered. The disciples were forced to remember it in every detail, made to recall their inadequate response (poor Peter, getting it wrong again!), puzzle over it, pray over it. I think that is why the Cluniacs developed a liturgy to celebrate the Transfiguration and why the Universal Church adopted it as a feast. The Transfiguration helps us take those things we don’t really understand and hand them over to God to deal with because he knows what he is doing even when we don’t. It allows us to see beyond our human limitations. It lets God into the human situation with an intensity and freedom we might otherwise try to prevent. In short, it means God is God here and now, no matter how much we try to thwart him.

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7 thoughts on “Transfiguration 2020”

  1. It is the tiny moments which sear themselves into the memory. Those few minutes or even seconds when the disciples saw Christ in His glory will have brought them the greatest comfort and strength to cope with the horror of the Crucifixion. They can never have felt utterly abandoned again with that undeniable experience in their memories. It simply could not be expunged from their memories…even Peter‘s faux pas, which likely made him squirm in later life as he recalled it in the light of greater understanding, would have been a peg to hang his memory on! I know that the last few seconds of my husband‘s life are deeply embedded in my heart and constantly give me comfort, the more so as I was supported by 3 others who saw what I saw and were profoundly moved. I am deeply grateful for this transforming moment.

  2. Always, always, yours is the last, comforting word. Thank you Sister. You cannot know how much today’s blog has meant to me. Most illuminating of all – God knows what He is about.

  3. Thinking about this I was reminded of Emily Dickinson’s poem, There’s a certain slant of light.
    There’s a certain Slant of light,
    Winter Afternoons –
    That oppresses, like the Heft
    Of Cathedral Tunes –

    Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
    We can find no scar,
    But internal difference –
    Where the Meanings, are –

    None may teach it – Any –
    ‘Tis the seal Despair –
    An imperial affliction
    Sent us of the Air –

    When it comes, the Landscape listens –
    Shadows – hold their breath –
    When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
    On the look of Death –

    It can be interpreted as despairing but I read it much more hopefully. It chimes with what Diana has said, which resonates with me because I have also recently lost my husband.

  4. I love the Feast of the Transfiguration. I especially love that Peter reacts in a way all too familiar to those of us who have had a lifetime of experience with Church volunteer work. Peter seems to be the consummate vestry-person: let’s form a building committee! This Gospel always brings a smile on so many levels. I know that the Transfiguration had to be a transformative experience for Peter, but I relate to his very human and pedantic response.

  5. O magnum mysterium! There are things and events that are inexplicable. We just have to have faith in God’s works and trust in His wisdom and love for us all.
    God bless and keep you, dear Sister Catherine and your Sisters, safe from C19 and all of the tribulations of this world, particularly as you enter into your annual retreat. Peace and love be with you.

  6. Thank you dear Sister for this concise, lucid, and intuitive blog on what has always been one of my favourite Feast Days. Now I can identify even more closely with St Peter, who so often ‘puts his foot right in it!’ You have made us aware of the ‘Voice of God’ and of His Love embracing us even in the darkest moments.Great idea that the Transfiguration happened at nigh! It adds to the sense of Mystery.

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