A Sonnet on the Transfiguration

Transfiguration by Rebecca Merry

I return to my series of sonnets ‘Sounding the Seasons’ of the Church’s year, to share a sonnet about the Transfiguration, when we remember how the disciples, even before they went to Jerusalem to face his trials with him, had a glimpse of Christ in his true glory. The Transfiguration is usually celebrated on August 6th, but is also sometimes remembered on this Sunday before 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.

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.

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 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.

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Filed under imagination

5 responses to “A Sonnet on the Transfiguration

  1. Rich Shipe

    Thank you for the late night reminder of how things really are. I’m about to go to sleep on Saturday night in Virginia and I am eager to gather with the saints tomorrow!

  2. Gregory Morris

    Thank you so much. I am waiting to see Him as He really is. The glass is indeed dark. For now “I ask no dreams, no prophet ecstasies / No sudden rendind of the veil of clay / No Angel visitants, no opening skies / But take the dimness of my soul away. “

  3. Chris Connor

    Many thanks for the meditation Malcolm. Excellent as usual. I gained enormous benefit from your Advent and Christmas poems and have just downloaded Word in the Wilderness. Have you ever come across a poem by G.K Chesterton called a “Little Litany”? In the poem Jesus is crawling up from His Mother’s lap and reaching her face looks into her eyes. As Mary is free from Original Sin her eyes are able to receive the direct gaze of God. Chesterton writes
    (Jesus) found his mirror there; the
    only glass
    that would not break with that
    unbearable light
    Till in a corner of the high dark
    God looked on God, as ghosts
    meet in the night.

    The Chestertonian critic Dale Ahlquist wrote
    “ Can we find in all of literature a more profound and provocative image than God looking at God in the reflection of His Mother’s eye?”.
    Wishing you a blessed Lent
    Chris Connor

    Sent from my iPad

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