A Glimpse from God’s Eyes

Albert Bierstadt, "Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains"

Transfiguration Sunday

Today is Transfiguration Sunday in the Episcopal Church. On this day we commemorate the moment when Jesus, having climbed a mountain with disciples Peter, James and John, was suddenly seen transfigured and conversing with Moses and Elijah. A cloud then covered him, from which the disciples heard a voice saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” It is one of those moments in the New Testament when the earthly and spiritual realms intersect.

Poet Kathy Coffey describes a moment during a hike that reminds her of the transfiguration. Suddenly the mountain ranges open up like a transcendent vision from God. Before that moment there are throbbing calves. Afterwards, there are questions about returning to mundane reality.  “Did Peter’s walls seem narrow, smell of rancid fish?” the poet asks. “After the bleached light,/could eyes adjust to ebbing/grey and shifting shade?”

After having seen Jesus clothed in dazzling white—“whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them” as the Gospel of Mark puts it—Peter wanted to build shelters to mark the spot. We want to hang on to the vision. Instead, we carry it in our hearts, an intangible guide that must contend with daily life for our attention.

After the Transfiguration

By Kathy Coffey

Grinding up the steep incline,
our calves throbbing,
we talked of problems
and slapped at flies.
Then you touched my shoulder,
said, “turn around.”

Behind us floated
surprise mountains
blue on lavender,
water-colored ranges:
a glimpse from God’s eyes.

Descending, how could we chat
mundanely of the weather, like deejays?
We wondered if, returning,
James and John had squabbled:
whose turn to fetch the water,
after the waterfall of grace?

After he imagined the shining tents,
did Peter’s walls seem narrow,
smell of rancid fish?
Did feet that poised on Tabor
cross the cluttered porch?
After the bleached light,
could eyes adjust to ebbing
grey and shifting shade?

Cradling the secret in their sleep
did they awaken cautiously,
wondering if the mountaintop
would gild again—bringing
that voice, that face?

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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