On Sunday we will be observing the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord since the August 6 feast falls on that day. By ancient tradition Feasts of Our Lord (those pertaining to events in the life of Jesus) take precedence over the regular Sunday observance (Pentecost 9 this year). Having been Rector of the Church of the Transfiguration (the Little Church Around the Corner) on East 29th Street for 11 years I am well up on the Transfiguration which we celebrated every year on the nearest Sunday as our Feast of Title. However, as some of you undoubtedly remember and others have heard about, one of the great ironies of the Twentieth Century was that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 1945. Not only that but the book on the development of the atomic bomb and its use by Robert Jungk, one of the scientists working on the Manhattan Project, was entitled “Brighter than a thousand suns.” The very title of the book itself is heavy with irony since the vision given to Peter, James and John, of Jesus in his glory is described by Matthew, Mark and Luke, in similar terms: “And Jesus was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them.”
Quite apart from the theological implications of the Transfiguration (the anticipation of the “glorification” of Jesus in his Death, Resurrection and Exaltation and in his coming on the Last Day), the feast day has become an opportunity to pray for the Peace of the World. The terrible destruction wrought on Hiroshima and several days later on Nagasaki (the historic center of Christianity in Japan) shocked the world at the time. Of course these terrible events have to be viewed in the context of the time when the war against Japan was dragging on at great cost of life on both sides. But growing up post war Hiroshima still loomed over our generation (as also did the bombing of Dresden) as one of the frightful outcomes of war with its indiscriminate bombing of innocent civilians. For those of us who grew up in the Fifties and early Sixties the possible of a nuclear holocaust was still a real possibility. I still remember the fear engendered by the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. God forbid that anything of the sort may happen again. But the reality is that at present the tensions around North Korea and how to respond to the threats that that nation poses have the potential to set off a frightening conflict.
So, we pray for peace with a new sense of fervency. But peacemaking is not simply praying for absence of conflict but doing all in our power to support diplomatic contact and negotiation and everything that defuses the possibilities of conflict and the terrible consequences and loss that it produces. Hiroshima is a stark reminder of those consequences as are all the wars of recent times.
Our prayer is that the Glory of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, may shine and illumine our hearts and minds and of those of our world leaders.