Living Within the Unseen

Raphael’s “The Transfiguration”

A meditation for the Feast of the Transfiguration, 2020

Yesterday, I was in a discussion with some of my fellow UTC students about the last chapter of C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. In the last letter, “the patient” dies in the London blitz. At this man’s death, the veil between the seen and the unseen worlds was removed. He saw Wormwood, the demon who had been tempting, and he also saw the angels the Lord had sent to bring him home into his presence.

This lead us to talk a bit about the reality and presence of angels in our lives. One person mentioned Paul’s statements about our warring in the heavenly places. I noted that the heavenly places are not spatial, hierarchical areas that are geographically above us. Rather, we live and move and have our being in them. It is true that there must be locales in the unseen realms, for there are multitudes of finite beings who live there (angels, souls of saints, Jesus of Nazareth), and in order to interact with one another they must be somewhere. But the realm of the unseen itself is all about us.

We couldn’t help but think about the nature of Jesus’s current being. He has a human body that is able to move back and forth between the seen and unseen. After his resurrection, he practiced this quality of his new body for forty days, until he finally was able to reassume his glory – left off at the incarnation – and take his throne at the Ascension.

There is one occasion, however, in his life on earth in which he did show forth his glory. It was at his transfiguration, which event we celebrate today. “But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory….” (Luke 9).

The Transfiguration was a fascinating case of how the seen and unseen can interact. If Jesus was going to somehow interact with the unseen realm, it was only fitting that his glory should appear – he had never been without in that realm. It is also interesting to think about the way Moses and Elijah were able to appear in the seen, for after all, Jesus was himself still more in the seen than the unseen. If they were going to talk to him, they had to show up.

All this to say that I really appreciated Malcolm Guite’s sonnet for the Feast of the Transfiguration, and I want to share it with you.

For that one moment, ‘in and out of time’,
On that one mountain where all moments meet,
The daily veil that covers the sublime
In darkling glass fell dazzled at his feet.
There were no angels full of eyes and wings
Just living glory full of truth and grace.
The Love that dances at the heart of things
Shone out upon us from a human face
And to that light the light in us leaped up,
We felt it quicken somewhere deep within,
A sudden blaze of long-extinguished hope
Trembled and tingled through the tender skin.
Nor can this blackened sky, this darkened scar
Eclipse that glimpse of how things really are.

You may hear him read it here. This sonnet is drawn from Malcolm’s collection Sounding the Seasons, published by Canterbury Press.

The Lord be with you, gentle reader, on this Feast Day.

Please note that the content and viewpoints of Rev. Beckmann are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.

The Rev. David Beckmann has for many years been involved in both the Church and education. He helped to start a Christian school in South Carolina, tutored homeschoolers, and has been adjunct faculty for both Covenant College and the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. He founded the C.S. Lewis Society of Chattanooga in 2005. He has spoken extensively on C.S Lewis, and was the Director of the C.S Lewis Study Centre at The Kilns from 2014-2015. He is currently a Regional Representative for the C.S. Lewis Foundation in Chattanooga.