Welcome to the first day of March. As I pen this reflection during the last days of the shortest month, several thoughts flitter across my mind.
The lectionary readings for this Sunday — the last Sunday before Lent begins on Wednesday, March 6 — I am thrown back to a memory from my days in seminary. Although I can’t recall the precise date or day, I remember the movie: “Glory.”
I remember sitting in the theater and crying as the soldiers of the first all African-American army unit, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, led by Col. Robert Shaw, made their suicidal assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina. Marching across the only access way, an open beach with sea grass waving and the sun just rising, the strains of the “Battle Hymn of The Republic” attending their path, I cried.
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored …” the opening words of the first verse ring out.
In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the seas, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me; As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free! While God is marching on …”
A bare handful of the men in the unit survived that suicidal assault. Fort Wagner did eventually fall to the union after a naval bombardment.
Even though African Americans have fought in every military engagement by this country, it would be many “Glory Roads” after that 1863 action before Preident Truman ordered full integration of African-American troops into the military.
As we prepare to take our annual spiritual journey through Lent to Easter, I am called back to the power of that movie and the essence of transfiguration. Moses was transfigured from his encounters on Mt. Sinai. But his life was spent on the hard road through the desert to a place he never entered.
Jesus was transfigured and then he came down from that brief moment to begin his final journey to Jerusalem.
For one fleeting Sunday, we can reflect on what it might mean to be transfigured by God. The Glory of such a transformative moment might feel attractive.
But what about the Glory Road we would then be called to walk, with no promise of arriving at the target destination?
As we prepare our hearts to enter the Lenten journey, may God grant us the grace to recognize and walk our Glory Road, and the courage to not cease the walk.
There are so many times when the real goal of our Glory Road walk, is the journey itself, creating a path for others to follow and build upon. And I pray to be a part of “trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored” and I hope to live and act toward full and equal freedom for men, women and children regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Because, I truly believe our Lord God made us all.
Rev. Elaine M. Silverstrim is a retired Episcopal priest and a Wilmington resident.