I remember this day in 1986, staying on a campsite in Finistere, the westernmost of the departments of Brittany.
It was in the times when there was an Anglican agency called Intercon provided chaplains to areas where there were concentrations of English-speaking holiday makers. The chaplains were mostly Church of England clergy, glad to have the opportunity of a break for themselves and their families in the tent or caravan provided by Intercon. In return for their holiday accommodation, they would take Sunday services and, should an emergency arise, provide pastoral care.
6th August was not a Sunday, which was a cause of disappointment to me, because it was one of those days in the church calendar that seemed filled with meaning and symbolism. The Feast of the Transfiguration is the day when the church recalls the story of Jesus going up a mountain, with Peter and James and John, and Jesus being “transfigured.” There is dazzling light and Jesus is seen talking with Moses and Elijah and there is a voice from heaven.
I had hoped the chaplain might have announced that there would be a service to mark the Transfiguration, but having left behind the ties of parochial ministry for couple of weeks, the last thing he would have wanted to do was to announce a service on a weekday at which there might have been no-one but himself. There would have been more important priorities, like spending time with his family and simply resting.
Since that day, the story of the Transfiguration has evoked memories of a French campsite, perhaps both are about transforming contexts.
In the Gospel story, Jesus is seen in the context of the great biblical figures. Jesus is seen as a continuity of the revelation that has begun with Moses. Jesus is seen as a continuity of the prophets from Elijah. Jesus is seen as the presence of the divine among them. Peter is so impressed he wants to build shelters for the Jesus, Moses and Elijah, he wants to hold on to the moment. The three disciples go from the mountain seeing Jesus and themselves in a different context. It is not Jesus who is transfigured, it is their way of thinking and their way of living.
Spending three decades travelling to France each year, (in 2015, I visited France four times), there was a sense of those visits bringing a transfiguration of their own. The time away was a time that was approached with a keen sense of anticipation. It allowed time for reflection, a time to renew energy, a time to see things differently.