Month: August 2021

Transfiguring Love

This Icon of the Transfiguration was ‘written’ by Sister Irène-Marie of the Community at the Monasterie of Sainte-Françoise Romaine, Le Bec-Hellouin, Normandy. Sister wrote two Icons. One is in the Transfiguration Chapel in the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, Epping. The other is a personal Icon blessing the home of Mr. G. Sister Irène-Marie used traditional methods to write the Icon undergirded by prayer.

Transfiguring Love 

Thoughts on the feast of the TRANSFIGURATION, August 6th

In the Transfiguration God gives us a snapshot of human glory – Christ transformed and it is as if God is telling us that this is what we can become if we follow his way of doing things. 

What follows the Transfiguration is the journey to Jerusalem and to our Lord’s death on the Cross.  There, Jesus absorbed all human pain, conflict and hurt and he became the instrument of our transfiguration.  He absorbed human sin and nailed it to the Cross and he did so out of sheer love for humanity and for the world. What transforms the Cross is love because the Crucifixion is God’s ultimate statement of His love for us.  “You can do this to me,” his actions say, “and yet I will go on loving and you cannot stop me for it is only love that transforms humanity.”

A young Russian priest was arrested when communism took over his country. For years he was held in a prison camp and there he was beaten and tortured. When he was eventually released his friends asked him what was left of him. ‘Nothing’ he said, “they have taken everything away. Only Love remains.”  

That priest had discovered the one thing that changes every human situation and disarms every human conflict – sacrificial self-giving love. It is through The Cross which Jesus took upon himself on our behalf that we can all be changed– and when we are changed, the world is changed.  Only Love remains – only love will conquer the human heart. Only love will Transfigure the world.  Perhaps we are unable to see that as a possibility in conflicts throughout our world and amidst the effects of Covid but there is one area where we can see this possibility and that is in our own lives and in our own dealings with others. Wars do not begin on foreign  battlefields far from home. They begin in our hearts – when we refuse to allow others dignity or understanding. When we refuse to accept and celebrate them for who they are. When we want what we want come what may and when we believe our own views to be the only right views – a sure way to begin oppression of others.

 That is not God’s Way.  As Mother Mary Clare of the Sisters of the Love of God put it so clearly, God’s way is to call us to stand at the place of the Cross – at that intersection where human pain, hurt and conflict meet and are held by the transforming love of God.

It is only when we stand in this place where God in Jesus Christ always stands – the place of transforming love – that we will begin to see the glory in each other. That is a lesson from the Transfiguration. If we do not grasp it then not only will we mistreat others, we will also diminish ourselves – and, more importantly, we will deny God and His saving love.


Father in heaven,
whose Son Jesus Christ was wonderfully transfigured
before chosen witnesses upon the holy mountain,
and spoke of the exodus he would accomplish at Jerusalem:
give us strength so to hear his voice and bear our cross
that in the world to come we may see him as he is;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Looking afresh at the world

newly fledged wrens at a small reserve in Scarborough! Photographed by Joyce Smith

My friend Joyce has sent me her latest Tweet.

These baby Wrens are signs to us of the joy of Creation.

They demonstrate to us that God is constantly renewing the earth despite all that we are doing to destroy it. As we continue to exploit the planet and refuse to heed all the warnings, which may well include mysterious diseases like Covid, one dominant and deeply self-centred species which has, supposedly, intelligence, fails to use the gifts and exercise stewardship responsibly. Ironically our actions demonstrate how extremely stupid we are!

So to be remind that there is an alternative, more innocent vision of creation is also to be given an invitation to see our world with new and more responsible eyes.

We are invited to see things with joy, exuberance, and vision.  We are being invited to be re-born as little children (or in a way, as new born fledgling birds). We are being encouraged to fill our lives with hope, wonder and awe.

 Jesus had a view that this requires humility and simplicity and thanksgiving. So, for example in Matthew 18 2-4 he said this:

Jesus called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven

Why we need to re-think this is caught up in a saying from the book, The Little Prince:
All grown-ups were once children … but only a few remember it!

We need the kind of vision which believes that, with determination, we can see bigger and better and more amazing things in a world which belongs equally to all, because if we don’t then Jesus’ words will show us that we are going about things the wrong way.

A boy was once drawing a picture. He was transfixed with concentration as he worked carefully and with determination.

His father asked him what he was drawing.

“A picture of God”, the boy replied.

“But nobody knows what God looks like” said his father.

“They will soon” replied the boy, “I’ve nearly finished.”

The little wrens are a picture of God’s making. They reflect God so we can see a little bit more what God is like. They are drawing us a picture!
Maybe we can be encouraged to  find a way of showing a bit more of God in us, so that we reflect his glory and beauty a little better.

Farmer’s son reaps a great harvest

Statue of the Curé d’Ars photographed in Falaise by Mr G.

A Faithful Priest

The  Curé d’Ars feast day 4th August

One of my most treasured possessions is a plain plaster statue of a French parish priest known universally as the Curé d’Ars —so named because for over 40 years he served the parish of Ars-en-Dombes in France. 
John-Marie Baptiste Vianney (whose feast day is today) was brought up in a peasant farming family near Lyons. He was born in 1786 and as a child of farmers he was given very little formal education.  Yet, by the time he was 20 he had heard God’s call to ordination and had begun to study for the priesthood. He found study very hard and on more than one occasion his superiors thought to end his time in the seminary. However, they noted his devotion to God and a quality of holiness which far outweighed academic ability. They saw a young man whose heart God had touched.

He was ordained and after a curacy he was appointed the Parish Priest of a backwater village—Ars. He went there in 1818 and remained until his death in 1859 on August 4th.  Very quickly he gained a reputation for being a preacher and people began to flock to hear him. At the same time he became known as a priest who could give wise and gentle counsel to souls in distress. Very soon people began to consult him and to bare their souls to him. The trickle of people became a stream and then a torrent. Countless numbers of people would come to see him.  Each day, after his own time of personal prayer and devotion, he would preach a sermon daily at 11am and then spend many hours  hearing confessions and giving spiritual direction. He was often moved to tears by the things people told him and he brought to them the comfort born out of someone who understood human weakness and the power of God’s love.

As time went on he was offered more important jobs in the Church and he also struggled with a call to the monastic life but he stayed put and in so doing put the little village of Ars on the map—not only in his own day but for all time.

Not surprisingly, after his death, he was declared a Saint and he became known as the Patron Saint of parish priests. As an example of the devotion and service priests are called to emulate, this is hardly surprising. The simple statue I have, unadorned by paint, reminds me that at the heart of all service in God’s Name there must be humility.
Here’s one of my favourite sayings of his:
Speaking of the difference between private and public prayer, he said:

“Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there : if you set it on fire it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky. Public prayer is like that.”