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This is the last Sunday before Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday, 2nd March
An Icon of the Transfiguration
From the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
The Gospel passage for this last Sunday before Lent is Luke’s account of the Transfiguration story with its simple and yet significant lessons. The story reminds us how, like Jesus’ first companions, we can be tempted to want to stay put with our ‘mountaintop experience’ while, sooner or later, we have to come down to earth and face up to whether with our experience we can make a difference to our ‘ordinary’ life.
When we stand, literally, on the top of any hill or mountain we might pause for a moment to appreciate the view and, perhaps, reflect on the journey we’ve travelled to get there. We might also think about the journey ahead and hope that we can bring to it some of the exhilaration and energy of our new vision. Of course, any so-called ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual journey’ is not so different. In the Transfiguration story we see that Peter, James and John grasped that they had had a privileged ‘mountaintop moment’ and that something significant had happened in their lives. Peter spoke for James and John - and perhaps for us all - when he said, ‘Master, it’s good for us to be here; let’s make three tents/dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ In other words, how wonderful it would be to stay put in our beautiful mountaintop moment. But Jesus and his disciples had work to do and that brief mountaintop encounter had renewed them for the mission ahead.
Our own ‘mountaintop experiences’ may, of course, look and feel very different from that ‘Transfiguration’ moment, but, nonetheless, they can have profound significance for our own lives and communities. Our ‘mountain peak experiences’ don’t have to be profound moments of prayer. They don’t have to be confined to religious experiences. Perhaps they are just simply moments when the proverbial penny drops and we grasp that, ultimately, ‘all shall be well,’ and that goodness or God has not and will not abandon us. Perhaps those moments don’t seem to come along every day and don’t seem to last long. But, the grace of those ‘visionary moments’ can be transformative when we carry the memory of them, and all the exhilaration, energy and strength they unleash, into those times and situations when we need them most.
A man called Ignatius of Loyola advised people to prepare for troubles ahead by, ‘Storing up a supply of strength as defence against that day.’ We may emerge from our brief moments of peace to face all the same issues as before; our physical situations may not have changed; we may still have to struggle with problematic people; we may not have overcome our own short-sightedness; we may not have conquered our own sinfulness. And yet, when, even for just for a moment, we have found some peace - even ‘the peace which passes our understanding’ - surely we can find ways of bringing some of the blessings of that peace back into our ‘ordinary’ mixed up world.
This next Wednesday 2nd March is Ash Wednesday, which, of course, marks the beginning of Lent 2022. As we prepare for our Lent 2022 journey let’s, like Peter, James and John in the Transfiguration story, seek to be open to the grace and truth which new vision, new understanding and new energy can bring and be ready to appreciate and build on those transformative moments throughout our lives and throughout the life of the world around us.
God bless, Paul
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