On the 6 August we celebrate the Feast of Transfiguration. In the story Jesus takes three disciples and goes up the mountain to pray. Suddenly his face and clothing are transfigured – transformed – and are dazzling white. As Peter, one of the disciples, asks if they can build tents and stay, a cloud overshadows them and God’s voice is heard, saying that Jesus is God’s son. In the midst of the ordinary activity of a walk up a mountain, heaven is torn open and the presence of God is revealed. The ordinary becomes extraordinary and suddenly the hidden is revealed.
The story of the transfiguration offers to us a paradox. God’s presence in the created order often feels hidden, just as when the cloud overshadows the group at the transfiguration. This mirrors our own experience – where is God’s dazzling presence in the killing of families celebrating Bastille day in France last month? However there are also the many and varied ways in which we can experience the transfiguring presence of God in and through the created order.
Poets put this into words when others fail. This is from Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
“Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes.”
We will be best able to experience God’s presence in the everyday if we can nurture the gift of wonder in ourselves. If we forget what this is, spending time with young children reminds us that the smallest creature can be the cause of much delight, and bring us closer to our Creator. We can pray for the grace and gift of wonder for ourselves, so that in our ordinary lives we too can be touched by the presence of God. A former Dean of Westminster, Michael Mayne, expresses this beautifully:
‘...the whole world is sacramental, and the whole creation marked with the signature of its Creator, ... the only way to find the holy is in the ordinary; and the ordinary is far more extraordinary than we think.’
Rev Claire McCLelland