Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Pandemic opened our eyes to beauty

A FEW weeks ago, the Gospel reading for Sunday was the account of the Transfiguration, when Jesus was transfigured before his disciples and was with Moses and Elijah.

We are told that the disciples were terrified and that Peter, clearly not knowing what to do or say, offered to build shelters for them all.

It is an extraordinary moment of revelation, unsought and not very welcome to the disciples, and their first response is to attempt to tame it or normalise it.

I guess we can identify a little with that moment as we continue to respond to all the many changes and moments of revelation that this unsought and unwelcome pandemic has brought upon us.

As we begin to think about the ending of restrictions, holidays have been a hot topic of conversation. When can we go away? Where will we be able to go? We’re all keen to get back to normal and enjoy all that life has to offer once again.

But reading that gospel passage I can’t help but wonder if a return to normal is not unlike us trying to normalise what has been a far from normal experience and, despite its difficulties, one which has thrown up some surprising moments of revelation and joy.

What we have experienced in these last 12 months has been far from easy and some have endured more hardship and sadness than others, but mixed in with this has been an awareness that some aspects of life did change for the good. The fall in pollution levels across the world, for example, time and space spent at home, which has meant we have lived at a slower pace and noticed more of the natural world. Even missing friends and family and making sure that we kept in touch has reminded us of how we need one another.

I read a piece recently written by the poet priest Malcolm Guite, in which he recounted how day after day he has stood on a small bridge over a river near his home and looked at a large black stone that sits in the middle of the flowing water.

One day this familiar and ordinary sight became something different and he noticed for the first time that the stone was causing the water to alter its path and to flow in rivulets and waves around and over it.

It was a reminder, he said, as if the difficulties we have faced and which have forced us to live differently, may have even so given rise to new beauties if only we can notice them.

A poetic insight that perhaps help us to navigate new paths as we come down from the peak experience of living through a pandemic and we can take heart that, just as Jesus accompanied the disciples down the mountain, so he is with us; his glory hidden in the ordinary, teaching us the way of humility, service and love.

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