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.

This sonnet is drawn from my collection Sounding the Seasons, published by Canterbury Press here in England. The book is now back in stock on both Amazon UK and USA and physical copies also available in Canada via Steve Bell. The book is now also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of these sonnets in church services and to copy and share them. If you can mention the book from which they are taken that would be great.


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 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

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

  1. Those last two lines are in themselves a transfiguration as I am sure you intended them to be. I hope I remember them or at least what they say on the days of the blackened sky.

  2. This sonnet is so dense, and creates that link between the holy and us who are the unholy, in such a deft and skilful way. It lifts my heart and makes my spirit sing!

    On a less sublime note, there are two ‘this’ in the penultimate line.

  3. Wonderful poem, wonderful painting as always. Elizabeth ewnimages@gmail.com

  4. “The love that dances at the heart of things.”
    This line will be staying with me today.

  5. “Just living glory…” Love the “just” here.

  6. Love your poem, my brother in Christ,
    Your meditation, I feel deeply, is a great, wonderful and enlightened assembly of thoughts, consciousness etc that are a companion to my thoughts about the Ascension:

    Ascension !
    God passes through, to infinite of dimensions
    Reaching through our mundane , with magnanimous intention
    Author of every invention, returns Her fullest self-extension
    Where love engulfs everything within gravitas of creation

    When the spirit passes into the light
    Night manifests the day, and day adores calm night
    Not lumens, but souls essence seeing, calibrating
    Journeys to living, atoning blessed heart of being

    Carrying all living creation with energy, by ascending
    Integrates “dark matter”, with light, soul’s new assessing
    Christus Resurrexit, walks He, one bridge of timeless causality,
    Truth and faith reveal origin, yet attest of eventuality!

    As is confessed: God is good, for all time?
    Spirit is truth, yes, for it proves us divine!
    Join we His finishing, raising, defeating this our death,
    Inheriting surely, eternal, synchronous, sacred breath!

    Artistic copyright Michael Bruce McKee 4-20-2012 may be used freely for worship and artistic purposes with full credit given the author.

  7. Joyce Hollingsworth

    Interesting that when you read the penultimate line – emphasizing the repeated word “this” – the contrast is even more dramatic. The darkness is for THIS moment alone, but the sublimity of “how things really are” is forever.

  8. Pingback: Ben Myers’ videos on the Apostle’s Creed | Kerry's loft

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