August is known as the month of compassion but it’s an essential way of life and being for each day of our lives as we follow Jesus the Christ, who responded with loving compassion to all whom he met. This month also marks particular anniversaries – the first atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, and South African National Women’s Day to commemorate the march in 1956 of 20,000 women, to protest the pass laws. The Southern African Anglican church’s decision in 1992 to ordain women as priests also took place in August.
Yesterday, 6 August, marked the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing by the USA. Over 140 000 people died instantly or afterwards painfully over time. The flash of light as the bomb fell was a deathly disfiguring light. Back in 2007 I was in Japan and able to visit Hiroshima for a day. I walked the stations of the profound Peace Park dedicated to that day, now etched in my memory. I wept as I saw and watched. I gazed with hope at the thousands of multi coloured peace cranes that transformed the area. I prayed along with thousands that there would never be another use of nuclear weapons. On that day my heart was pierced, enlarged, with tears, awareness and compassion.
By ironic coincidence this date is also the feast of the transfiguration, in which Jesus was transformed before the eyes of his disciples (Matthew 17:1-8) shining with bright transfigured light. The transfiguring light of Jesus gives life! Jesus’ literally life-giving love and compassion transfigures suffering. It overcomes the deathly disfiguring of the suffering we read and hear about each day. We see transfiguration in the stories of hope, in the frontline medical workers caring tirelessly for their patients, in the video of the Cuban doctor playing the guitar and singing together with his patient.
In these times it feels like everything in our world is desperately in need of transfiguration. We ponder the destruction of Hiroshima and the ongoing destruction of so much in our world, our environment, our country, our communities. Responding with compassion is a choice – we can choose the transfiguring light and love of Jesus, rather than the disfiguring light of death.
- This week, who or what situations need my prayers for transfiguration?
- How will I choose to act and respond with Jesus’ transfiguring light and love?
- What will it mean for me to choose compassion this week, in my prayers, in my actions?
Living God, whose very being is energy and light and love,
too often our lives may seem paralysed into inertia,
overwhelmed by darkness, bedevilled by hardness of heart.
And we are complicit in the corporate sins of society,
the failures of governments and political leaders
to eradicate injustice and violence,
and bring about the international harmony,
the freedom from fear and want,
that is your purpose for each and every one of us.
So we seek forgiveness and we pray for grace –
that your transfiguring power may touch our lives,
may strengthen all those who strive for justice and seek to make peace,
that weapons of war may be transformed into instruments of creativity.
We ask this in Jesus’ name.
Iona Abbey, Liturgy for the Feast of the Transfiguration
This blog was also published by the Centre for Christian Spirituality.