Transfiguration 2012

Don't know about you but my Lenten experience in the wilderness has left me feeling dry this week.

So this Sunday's Gospel of The Transfiguration carries the hope of a welcome experience of refreshment and transformation.  

Walking in the woodland and along a small part of the Cornish coastland this week I came back tired but feeling much better. 

Nature rarely fails to charge me with the vigorous energy and beauty of God. It's an opportunity to just get lost in the wonder and to experience that elusive stillness we often need so much in our lives.

Around this time of Lent I often get edgy, a bit despondent and tend to start feeling overwhelmed with everything.

Nature at this time of year in all its burgeoning potential allowed me to reflect on the frustration that Jesus might have felt at this time, as his human nature was constrained; so maybe he chose this time with his rag tag band of dim disciples to treat them to a dazzling display of His divinity.

Looking for images that depict the transfiguration I was graced to find a whole set from a gifted artist called Thomas Denny, who is a leading British stained glass artist. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art and now lives in Dorset. His work can be seen in around 30 British churches and cathedrals. 

Most recently he completed a window depicting The Transfiguration for Durham Cathedral in 2010.

His windows are noted for the distinctive way in which light and colour move across the surface. He achieves this remarkable effect by acid etching and silver staining each small piece of glass, which results in very subtle colour distinctions. 

Durham Cathedral image from here

An article on Tom Denny's work titled "Alive and Glowing" is here,
where part of his inspiration for the work was to pick up the reflections of light in the landscape as the transfigured Body of God.  

This idea strongly resonated with me from my walk earlier in the week. 

You can view the full set of wonderful photos of The Transfiguration windows at Durham Cathedral here. They were beautifully photographed by Robin Croft who has very kindly allowed me permission to include a selection here. All rights reserved by robin.croft

I have integrated the images into Edwin Muir's classic poem of The Transfiguration.


So from the ground we felt that virtue branch
Through all our veins till we were whole, our wrists

As fresh and pure as water from a well, 
Our hands made new to handle holy things,
The source of all our seeing rinsed and cleansed 
Till earth and light and water entering there
Gave back to us the clear unfallen world. 


We would have thrown our clothes away for lightness,
But that even they, though sour and travel stained, 
Seemed, like our flesh, made of immortal substance,

And the soiled flax and wool lay light upon us 
Like friendly wonders, flower and flock entwined
As in a morning field. 

Was it a vision? 


Or did we see that day the unseeable 
One glory of the everlasting world 
Perpetually at work, though never seen 
Since Eden locked the gate that’s everywhere
And nowhere? 

Was the change in us alone, 

And the enormous earth still left forlorn, 
An exile or a prisoner?

Yet the world we saw that day made this unreal,
for all was in its place. 

The painted animals 
Assembled there in gentle congregations,  

Or sought apart their leafy oratories, 

This image depicts Psalm 36, verses 5-10. 
The figure looks up to the brightness 'In Your light we see light."

Or walked in peace, the wild and tame together, 
As if, also for them, the day had come. 

The shepherds’ hovels shone, for underneath
The soot we saw the stone clean at the heart
As on the starting-day. 

The refuse heaps
Were grained with that fine dust that made the world;
For he had said, ‘To the pure all things are pure.’ 

And when we went into the town, he with us, 
The lurkers under doorways, murderers, 
With rags tied round their feet for silence, came 
Out of themselves to us and were with us, 

And those who hide within the labyrinth
Of their own loneliness and greatness came, 
And those entangled in their own devices,
The silent and the garrulous liars,
all stepped out of their dungeons and were free.

Reality or vision, this we have seen.
If it had lasted but another moment it might have held for ever! 

But the world
Rolled back into its place, and we are here, 
And all that radiant kingdom lies forlorn, 
As if it had never stirred; no human voice
Is heard among its meadows, but it speaks to itself alone,

 alone it flowers and shines
And blossoms for itself while time runs on. 


But he will come again, it’s said, 

though not unwanted and unsummoned;

for all things, 
beasts of the field, and woods, 

and rocks, and seas,

And all mankind from end to end of the earth
Will call him with one voice.
In our own time, 
Some say, 
or at a time when time is ripe. 

Then he will come, Christ the uncrucified,
Christ the discrucified, his death undone, 
His agony unmade, his cross dismantled—
glad to be so—and the tormented wood 
 will cure its hurt and grow into a tree
in a green springing corner of young Eden,

James Tissot Betrayal The kiss of Judas from here

And Judas damned take his long journey backward
From darkness into light and be a child
Beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal
Be quite undone and never more be done

Poem above by Edwin Muir

 Mount Tabor, one of the possible sites for the transfiguration from here


Grinding up the steep incline,
our calves throbbing,
we talked of problems
and slapped at flies. 

Then you touched my shoulder,
said, "turn around." 

Behind us floated
surprise mountains
blue on lavender,
water-colored ranges:
a glimpse from God's eyes. 

Descending, how could we chat
mundanely of the weather, like deejays?
We wondered if, returning,
James and John had squabbled:
whose turn to fetch the water,
after the waterfall of grace? 

After he imagined the shining tents,
did Peter's walls seem narrow,
smell of rancid fish? 

Did feet that poised on Tabor
cross the cluttered porch? 

After the bleached light,
could eyes adjust to ebbing
grey and shifting shade? 

Susan Tilt Transfiguration Dwellings from here 

Cradling the secret in their sleep
did they awaken cautiously,
wondering if the mountaintop
would gild again-bringing
that voice, that face?

 Kathy Coffy from here

Call to Prayer for Sunday

Let’s go up the mountain.
Let’s go up to the place where the land meets the sky
where the earth touches the heavens,
to the place of meeting,
to the place of mists,
to the place of voices and conversations,
to the place of listening.

O God,
We open our eyes and we see Jesus,
the months of ministry transfigured to a beam of light,
the light of the world,
your light.

May your light shine upon us.

We open our eyes and we see Moses and Elijah,
your word restoring us, showing us the way,
telling a story,
your story, his story, our story.

May your word speak to us.

We open our eyes and we see mist,
the cloud of your presence
which assures us of all we do not know
and that we do not need to fear that.

Teach us to trust.

We open our eyes and we see Peter’s constructions,
his best plans, our best plans,
our missing the point,
our missing the way.

Forgive our foolishness and sin.

We open our eyes and we see Jesus,
not casting us off,
but leading us down, leading us out -
to ministry, to people.

Your love endures forever.

We open our ears and we hear your voice,
‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him!’

And we give you thanks.

(William Loader; Source: Murdoch University, Australia website)

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