*** DEBUG END ***

The prayer and the perfect choice

05 August 2016

TOMORROW is the feast of the Transfiguration, which can seem to be sidelined during the holiday season when church activities are at a low ebb. But that timing may not be altogether bad. Activity is not always beneficial. A holiday may provide exactly the opportunity needed to get to the heart of this mystery, even if there is no opportunity to celebrate it at the eucharist. It is, after all, a feast of the Lord, and essential to understanding that, for all who seek to follow him, the Christian life is, first of all, not one of action, but of deepening prayerful union with God. From this, action may and usually, indeed, must flow. But for some this takes an unusual form: where a contemplative vocation is recognised, the decisive move may, in fact, be withdrawal from a secular lifestyle so as to be more open to God in the depths of one’s personality, and to be a wellspring and refuge for others who lead hard or chaotic lives.

On the other hand, contemplation may be the preparation for public work and, perhaps, profound suffering in the world. So it was with our Lord. A 20th-century Anglican religious, Fr Andrew SDC, wrote of the beauty of Christ’s shining face after “one of a succession of God knows how many nights of profound and perfect prayer. . . He sees completely what the Father’s will is: that out of the human nature He has taken shall shine forth over the ages and over the whole universe the revelation of Love; and that that Love can only be shown by sacrifice, by going to the last length to which Love can go.” The beauty derived from the perfect choice; and the perfect choice, of “the bitterest path a man can know”, was possible because of the prayer (Meditations for Every Day, 1934).

In the troubled early 21st century, something of this experience may come to Christians in Western Europe as it came to those of Eastern Europe in the Soviet era, and as it has come recently to many Christians in the Middle East. An event such as the murder of the priest in Rouen last week would not have been expected by him or the congregation, even though the French people in general can hardly be said to be unaware of the current dangers. There could be no preparation in the sense in which Christ deliberately prepared for his confrontation with the authorities. But the Church’s faith is that a life that has been lived close to God after the example of Jesus on the mountain, however sudden or distressing its end, does not share in the futility that is seen in lives that lack mercy and love. If it has embodied faith, hope, and charity, it continues to speak. The transfiguration leads on to the Cross, but it has, as Fr Andrew sees, a beauty of its own: the prayer and the choice that it models have a meaning that nothing can take away.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available


Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)