How do you feel about the word 'awesome'? I'm thinking of its frequent use as an adjective, attached to almost anything someone likes, enjoys or admires.

I dislike the way that 'awesome' has become downgraded, because I think that, for most people, truly 'awesome' experiences are rare. I mean those experiences which  leave us awestruck, brought to our knees in silent wonder or paralysing fear, or prostrate on the ground, completely overwhelmed.

Such moments may be absolutely dreadful, such as for the citizens of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. They may be deeply emotional such as when a marathon winner collapses on the ground at the finish and hears the roar of the crowd. They may be of huge excitement and relief such as for the NASA scientist when the robot Curiosity landed on Mars earlier today. They may be moments of spiritual illumination, such as can happen as we gaze at a beautiful landscape or painting or are moved by great music. All that is awesome.

For Peter, James and John, on Mount Tabor, or whatever other high hill they climbed up with Jesus, their experience of seeing Jesus in a new light was truly awesome. Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. You can read Luke's account here. But trying to describe an overwhelming experience in prose is hard. You can't explain the transfiguration. To glimpse something of what it means needs art, prayer, poetry.

For art: I love the Transfiguration Window in Durham Cathedral which so far I have only seen in photos.

For prayer, read Digitalnun's post today. It's not a prayer, but arises from a life of prayer.

For poetry: Malcolm Guite has written Transfiguration, one of his inspiring sonnets. I especially like these words from that sonnet:
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.

My previous posts on Transfiguration

Photo credit: Sunset over Mount Tabor, vad_levin. Flickr, CC Licence 


  1. Yes, I agree that 'awesome,' has become downgraded.

    I talk about 'How Great Thou Art,' experiences.

    I've visited Durham Cathedral; how on earth did I manage to overlook that window?!

    1. I think the Transfiguration Window in Durham is new - only dedicated in 2010, so perhaps your visit was before then? I've seen a lot of photos of details from it on Flickr. I'm hoping to see it for real next month.


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