Transfiguration Sunday: When Glory

Image: Transfiguration II © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Transfiguration Sunday, Year A:
Matthew 17.1-9

And he was transfigured before them,
and his face shone like the sun,
and his clothes became dazzling white.
—Matthew 17.1-2

I am painting again. For the first time since Gary went into the hospital—more than three months ago now—I have picked up my brushes and palette knives and paints. It has been a huge threshold to cross; I had to pack up my art supplies and leave town in order to do it.

Gary has been such a part of my creative process that it’s hard to imagine how to create on my own again. Our studios were on opposite sides of the house, and we regularly traveled (or hollered) back and forth between them as we worked. My husband was a remarkable thinking partner, possessed of a keen ability to notice what was happening in a painting or a piece of writing and to help me find my way when I became stuck. He saw everything—every image, every word—before I released it into the world. He sometimes saw things even before I did, pointing toward possibilities that were stirring but I hadn’t yet perceived.

Whether on our individual projects or the ones we collaborated on, our process was deeply intertwined. Having experienced that for years, the prospect of beginning to paint again in my too-empty house felt daunting, so I spent the past week at my parents’ home, where I commandeered the kitchen table and set up a makeshift studio. I wept when I sat down before the blank surface. And then I picked up my paintbrush and began. I hardly knew how to begin, but I began.

The week has provided a powerful reminder of a curious tension that the creative process (and life) asks us to hold: to claim and live into a vision, while at the same time remaining open to the surprises that occur—those moments when, after weeks or months or sometimes years, our faithfulness in showing up and tending the vision suddenly draws us into a dramatic shift, a new way of seeing and working. Even as we lean in the direction of our vision, the process asks us to relax our hold on our fixed ideas and habitual patterns, so that we can recognize what waits to emerge.

I didn’t intentionally time my return to painting to occur in such close proximity to Transfiguration Sunday. Yet I have found myself noticing the resonance, and paying attention to what stirs for me in this story of the three who followed Jesus up the mountain and had to follow him back down again. Life has required me, in a painfully vivid fashion, to release what I have counted on most. As I navigate the new terrain of my life, I am continually faced with choices—in my painting, in my writing, in the agonizing sorting of Gary’s things, in every aspect of every unfolding day—about what to hold onto, and what to let go. In the midst of all this, our story this week asks me, In all the changing, what abides? In the leaving and letting go, what gift still goes with us? How will we allow ourselves to be transformed by the transfigured Christ who accompanies us in every place?

The story of the Transfiguration is not simply about learning to leave the mountaintop, or about releasing what we have grown attached to. It’s not just about resisting our desire to turn moments of transcendence into monuments. The story of the Transfiguration is about opening our eyes to glory, allowing that glory to alter us, and becoming willing to walk where it leads us. The story urges us to trust that what we have seen, what we have known, will go with us. It assures us that the gifts received on the mountaintop will continue to illuminate us not only on level ground but even when we walk in the valley of the shadow.

When Glory
A Blessing for Transfiguration Sunday

That when glory comes,
we will open our eyes
to see it.

That when glory shows up,
we will let ourselves
be overcome
not by fear
but by the love
it bears.

That when glory shines,
we will bring it
back with us
all the way,
all the way,
all the way down.

—Jan Richardson

2015 update: “When Glory” appears in my new book Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons. You can find the book here.

BELOVED: An Online Journey into Lent & Easter
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For previous reflections for Transfiguration Sunday, click the images or titles below:

Transfiguration Sunday: Dazzling

Transfiguration: Back to the Drawing Board

Transfiguration Sunday: Show and (Don’t) Tell

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Transfiguration II,” please visit this page at (This is also available as an art print—just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section when you click the link to the image on the JRI site.) Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.


14 Responses to “Transfiguration Sunday: When Glory”

  1. Maureen Says:

    May the painting and writing salve the tenderly exquisite pain of your loss.

  2. Carol Westphal Says:

    thank you and blessings on your ongoing journey and the painted gifts you share with us!

  3. Bonnie Klatt Says:

    So happy to hear you have stepped out in faith to being painting again. May it refresh you as it enriches and blesses us.

  4. Mary Says:

    What an amazing sense of timing, Jan. You, posting this beautiful painting and blessing while still so new to the grief you bear…me, seeing this on our beloved son’s birthday…..the fifth without him here since he took his life. That you did this at this particular time is a connection across time and space. We are never alone.
    Thank you…and may your dreams this night be filled with stars and comfort.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Mary, thank you so much. I send you many blessings as you remember your son and travel your own path of grief and healing. I wish you much comfort and deep peace, and anything else you need! Thank you again.

  5. Susan Says:

    This painting is glorious! Opening your email brought my first big smile of Monday morning. You brought texture and flesh, somehow, into the drab email world. Thank you!

  6. Bernadette Cronin-Geller Says:

    I’m very happy to see you are back, realizing you are still so much in the grieving process…like the wounded healer…may you be blesse

  7. Tony Duncan Says:

    Thank you for the light you shine in the darkness. I appreciate your openness and honest – twin lights that shine in the darkness of all of us who suffer loss.

  8. Carolyn Says:

    Amen and Amen and Amen and Amen.

  9. Jan Richardson Says:

    Friends, deep thanks to you for the gift of your words, your blessings, your support. I am so grateful. Bless you!

  10. Julie Peeples Says:

    I have so often found new openings for the Spirit when I read your poems and see your art, and have always been grateful for what your resources bring to my ministry. For you to be able to draw forth this beauty and depth now, from where you are, is so very moving. Thanks for your honesty, wisdom, and willingness to welcome us in.

  11. Victoria Says:

    I am overwhelmed by the beauty and integrity in these words Jan. You are a channel of Truth for so many people and I continue to be amazed at your commitment to the deeper layers – your constant walk through the rich soil – even when it is most painful. I love the transfiguration and I love this piece. Trust. ‘… trust what we have seen, what we have known, will go with us.’

    And this.

    ‘That when glory shines
    we will bring it
    back with us
    all the way
    all the way
    all the way down.’

    This was my perfect Friday morning reflection. Thank you precious woman.

  12. Bev Wilson Says:

    Jan – I keep coming back to this post. Both the poem and what you write are powerful & poignant. I do carry you with me and pray for you often.

    You are certainly bringing the Glory all the way all the way all the way down. And we are seeing Christ in you.

    Your courage inspires us. And your willingness to tell us of your pain and weakness in these days of grief. May you know the “both/and”. By that I mean in this your dark valley, may you know and see Christ in us as we offer him to you.

    Christ have mercy,

  13. Kathy Pannozzi Says:

    Jan-I have savored your blessings and shared them with friends and my own parish on many occasions. Thanks for so freely sharing who you are and where you are. I am often brought to tears by your words that capture a tender reality that so needs expression. Again- thank you.

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