Transfigured by Philippa Linton
|Sunset over a field of barley|
I am watching the summer sun set over a field of barley.
As the sun sinks towards the horizon, surely and steadily, I wonder how long it will take to set. In the end, it takes four minutes for the glowing, coral-red orb to graze the top of the horizon and then sink beneath the curvature of the earth, leaving a chink of golden light before disappearing. (Of course what I am actually seeing is not the sun setting, but the planet turning. The sun hasn’t gone anywhere - it’s the earth that’s moved, the earth is always moving, and its axial rotation is fast: 1,000 miles every hour.)
I love the sun: our beautiful yellow star, an average size compared to other stars, but the source and giver of life on this beautiful blue world on which we all live.
Today is 6th August, the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, when man harnessed the power of the sun to terrible effect. The sun, our supreme source of light, is a life-giver: Mother Earth is at exactly the right point from the sun for life to flourish on our blue planet. The appalling power of nuclear weapons are like a demonic counterfeit of all that gives life: the mass destruction of thousands and millions of other human beings, the threat to life on the planet itself.
Today is also the Feast of the Transfiguration, when we remember another, oh so different source of light, when four Jewish men climbed a hot, dusty mountain and three of them saw their world change before their very eyes as the fourth man, their teacher, their rabbi, entered a bright cloud of shimmering light and transformed into an angelic figure beyond their understanding … his face shining like the sunlight, his clothes shot through with flickering white flames of light as he conversed with Moshe the Law-Giver and Eliyahu the Prophet, far beyond the confines of space and time.
This glorious, life-changing vision scared his three disciples half to death, but later they came to understand:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1: 14
So today I reflect on two sources of light: one divine, the other demonic.
The first source of light is holy, dazzling, brighter even than the sun, and comes from another dimension entirely – outside time itself, from eternity. A light of tremendous power, a light that shines throughout every corner of the dark past, every aspect of chaotic human history, a light that illuminates and gives wisdom and pulsates constantly with love.
The other light is demonic, destructive, nihilistic, a ghastly and terrifying parody of the sun’s beauty.
Divine light: demonic light. It gives me pause for thought that one of the scriptural names for Satan is Lucifer – mentioned only once, in Isaiah 14: 12, meaning ‘bringer of light’ or ‘shining one’ or ‘morning star’. How could an enemy of God be described in such a beautiful way? And then I think of the hideous counterfeit light of a nuclear weapon. This so-called light is evil: it brings only death and terrible suffering, and unnerving fear that it could be used again.
I will look to the holy mountain instead – to the God-Man who came to bring peace to this world, peace to us all, and commands us to follow his way of light, love and peace, shalom.