A Sonnet for the feast of the Transfiguration

Transfiguration by Rebecca Merry

Continuing my series of sonnets ‘Sounding the Seasons’ of the Church’s year, here is a sonnet for the feast of the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration is usually celebrated on August 6th, but sometimes on the Sunday nearest, and sometimes in mid-Lent, which is a good time for it too, as I believe the glimpse of glory in Christ they saw on the mount of the Transfiguration was given in order to sustain the disciples through darkness of Good Friday. Indeed it is for a disciple, looking back at the transfiguration from Good Friday, that I have voiced the poem.

I am honoured to have had my work interpreted by two other Cambridge artists. The painting above is artist Rebecca Merry‘s response to the poem. Rebecca is well known for her paintings in egg tempora and in responding to this ‘iconic’ moment in the life of Christ she has drawn on her training in icon painting. She writes:

I wanted to stay with the idea of the circle for an important event in the life of Christ, and the theme of cycle and circle that is a theme of your book – the changing of the seasons, the unchanging nature of God.  Underneath is the circle and the cross, a symbol also in Egyptian hieroglyphs of the city but of course the cross (or crucifix) is the meeting point of two worlds, heaven and earth, and the division of the upper circle as light and the lower as dark also symbolises this.  The red is a recurrent themes of all the illustrations but here it implies Christ’s blood (and sacrifice) but also the life blood and life giver that God/Christ is to us all, giving light to the world.

The photograph which appears after the poem is by the Photographer Margot Krebs Neale. Margot has responded to the idea in the poem that the light of transfiguration is also kindled in us a response to Christ’s light. She writes:

As a person and as a photographer I so wish I could catch “the Love that dances at the heart of things”, and to have seen it not its reflection but the very Love in a human face…Imagine.

Well it was immediately clear I could not count on my work. But then, the light in us that leaps to that light, that trembles and tingles through the tender skin, I believe I witness that.

I am not sure what brought this smile on my friend’s face but I believe it had to do with her being seen, valued, loved. A camera is a light-box, and if I concentrate on them some people feel that it is their light and the light which I try to crystallise and they let them shine together.


I am very grateful to both of them. As always please feel free to copy or use the poem in prayer or liturgy; you can hear me read the poem by pressing the ‘play’ button or clicking on its title.

The whole series, of seventy sonnets is now finished and will be published this December, under the title ‘Sounding the Seasons’ by the Canterbury Press, so if you have been enjoying, and perhaps making liturgical use of these sonnets on my blog, do look out for the book itself. I will post full details here about where and how to buy it as soon as I have them!


For that one moment, ‘in and out of time’,
On that one mountain where all moments meet,
The daily veil that covers the sublime
In darkling glass fell dazzled at his feet.
There were no angels full of eyes and wings
Just living glory full of truth and grace.
The Love that dances at the heart of things
Shone out upon us from a human face
And to that light the light in us leaped up,
We felt it quicken somewhere deep within,
A sudden blaze of long-extinguished hope
Trembled and tingled through the tender skin.
Nor can this this blackened sky, this darkened scar
Eclipse that glimpse of how things really are.

Photograph by Margot Krebs Neale


Filed under christianity, imagination, literature, paintings, Poems

41 responses to “A Sonnet for the feast of the Transfiguration

  1. Tears of joy sprang to my eyes as I read ..”and darkling glass fell dazzled at his feet.” and continued up till now

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Nancy im so glad that is just the response i was hoping the poem might evoke, the only possible response to the event itself. thanks for your encouragement.

  2. Christiane

    thank you, Malcolm Guite, for your beautiful poetry . . .

  3. These have been wonderful contemplative spots in my year, Malcolm. Thank you. Do you know if we will be able to get your book of sonnets over here in the States?

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  5. Diane Arnson Svarlien

    Excellent final couplet.

  6. Anders

    As with any good sonnet, it is better heard than read, but only as an added benefit, since the language is fit to meter and rhyme, blended to a song made all the more meaningful by the subject.
    A beautiful poem, Mr. Guite.

  7. Rev Dr Graham Vawser

    Just read and heard your sonnet. I find the last two lines to be quite encouraging, even inspiring. I would appreciate permission to use the sonnet and your reading of it during worship on Sunday at Brighton Uniting Church (South Australia).

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  9. Rev Krista Anderson

    This is so lovely and I hope to use it in our worship service here in Ste Croix, Nova Scotia, Canada this week. Thanks for offering such a tender response to this reading.

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  13. Rev Phyllis Wilson

    Thank you Malcolm. Love the poem. Can I use it on Sunday at Church of Scotland in Milton of Campsie?
    PS I’m Gareth Wilson’s Mum.

    • malcolmguite

      Dear Phyllis yes by all means use the poem! It’s good to have Gareth in our midst – he’s certainly getting a great sound from the choir! M

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  15. I am not sure if you have been to the Basilica in the Holy Lands, wherein our Lord is transfigured. I think it is one of …if not the ….. loveliest shrines of joy
    ( a joyful mystery)..the images are rich, and the place is powerful for us,
    as it was for the Lord and his mates…who went up there for a hike!


  16. We love the place, O God, wherein your honour dwells

  17. kenneth willis

    A splendid sonnet! Thank you!!

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  19. Bernard Battley

    Dear Malcolm

    Warmest thanks for your inspiring poem.

    I will keep close to my heart these lines for the rest of my life.

    “The love that dances at the heart of things
    shone out upon us from a human face”

    and my birthday is 6 August!

    Bernard (Battley)

  20. Carolyn Baker

    A beautiful, inspiring sonnet – I would like to share it with the congregation at my church this Sunday, acknowledging you as the poet – hope this is OK

  21. Absolutely brilliant sonnet. I was delighted to include it in my sermon this morning, the Feast of the Transfiguration, and said I would provide a link to your blog on our church website. Hopefully you won’t mind!

  22. Mr Guite:
    I was searching for a meditation on the Transfiguration to use as part of the S. John’s Anglican Cathedral (Brisbane) Labyrinth Circle’s walk this coming Sunday, August 5. Thankfully after several good prose meditations and wonderful inspiring sermons and works of art, which didn’t quite fit the format I was after,I refined my search to “poetry/poem” and was lead to your deeply intriguing and entrancing work. Thank you for sharing the poem here and, in advance, I hope that you do not mind it being used as part of our walk this Sunday morning.

    Blair Martin
    S. John’s Anglican Cathedral (Brisbane, Australia)

  23. Susan Rebecca Michelfelder

    Dear Malcom, Our Liturgical Reading selector discovered your Transfiguration poem and we would love to use it in our worship service at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio USA, with full attribution, of course. What a wonderful piece! We were so happy to find it on the internet.
    The Rev. Rebecca Michelfelder, Rector

    • malcolmguite

      Dear Susan yes do feel free to use it. Just say somewhere it is from Sounding The Seasons Canterbury Press 2012 thanks M

  24. Jason

    Thank you for sharing your gift with words, Malcolm. Your poem is a blessing to me.

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