A great light

Pax Christi Scotland executive committee member Dr Arianna Andreangeli reflects on the Transfiguration on Hiroshima Memorial Day

‘I saw a black dot in the sky. Suddenly, it “burst” into a ball of blinding light that filled my surroundings. A gust of hot wind hit my face; I instantly closed my eyes and knelt down to the ground. As I tried to gain footing, another gust of wind lifted me up and I hit something hard. I do not remember what happened after that.’ (Fujio Torikoshi, Hiroshima survivor)

‘As I peered up, I saw something long and thin fall from the sky. At that moment, the sky turned bright and my friends and I ducked into a nearby stairwell.’ (Kumiko Arakawa, Nagasaki survivor)

This year marks the 76th anniversary of the nuclear bomb raids conducted by the US against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The past year has seen great focus and the build up of momentum around the review of the Nuclear Weapons’ Non-Proliferation Treaty.  The world is watching, and the forthcoming review conference (tentatively scheduled to meet 2–27 August in New York) promises much in terms of debate, greater transparency and, hopefully, the taking of a step forward in the relinquishing of these deadly weapons.

Looking at the Church Calendar, it struck me that on August 6, the day on which the bomb fell on Hiroshima, the Catholic Church marks the Feast of the Transfiguration.

‘… Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.’ (Mt: 17, 1-2, NIV).

The disciples contemplated the face of our Lord as it was changed in dazzling light and in a ‘bright cloud’ (Mt: 17, 5) they heard the voice of the Father saying ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’

For the disciples, that light and that voice are wondrous but also scary—it is the Lord who speaks.  They are also life changing: in revealing Himself in all His greatness, for just a short time, Jesus is calling the three – and all of us – to new life, to conversion, to rebirth from darkness to light.

The survivors of the Hiroshima bombing also spoke of a dazzling light.  This light changed their lives dramatically, but in great contrast to the Transfiguration of Christ. This light devastated their health, their families and left a trail of pain and destruction that followed them forever.  The darkness that followed the fall of the bomb presaged a darkness that will affect us all until the world is rid of the last nuclear weapon.

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Fujio and Kumiko are just two of the Hibakhusha generation, those men and women who, having survived nuclear devastation, were overlooked and discriminated against throughout their lives.

As God’s children, we hold them in prayer and are mindful of our responsibility toward them.  We are also both bearers of and called by the light of the Transfiguration to be converted and to be reborn in the light of our Lord.  He is the Way and loves all His children – our brothers and sisters – and meets each of them, especially in their pain. As we remember the victims and the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bombed three days later – let us be guided by the light of the Transfigured Jesus. Let’s hold them in prayer and seek to serve the Lord by advocating once more for nuclear disarmament, so that the light that once brought destruction in Japan will no longer strike the world again.  As John’s Gospel says in its Prologue, ‘the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it’ (Jn: 1, 5 NIV).  That Light is Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

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