When it comes to the most wonderful time of the year, the first weeks of August are up there with Christmas. For most of us, it is finally time for a break and that long-awaited holiday (if you already had one, hopefully you can reminisce). Many will be drawn to the sea where, as an internet wisdom goes, “your only worry should be if the tide is going to reach the chair.”

Beach pathway

If you like walking on the beach, you might be tempted, like me, to collect shells and stones. When I return home, however, I am always disappointed: outside the water, the stones have lost much of their beauty and play of colour. I end up taking bags of them with me on my next visit to return them to the wild.

I am reminded of my teacher and sister, Mary O’Driscoll OP, who used the example of the beach walk to open up the spirituality of Catherine of Siena. Catherine speaks of God as the deep sea into which we are invited to dive. Under and in the water, we see everything differently. Just as the beauty of the stone is revealed in the water, so we recognise ourselves when we see ourselves in God: as created, as sustained, as loved. Only then do we see ourselves and our neighbours properly.

A similar experience underlies the account of the Transfiguration. Peter, James and John whom Jesus took up the mountain suddenly see him in a new light, as Moses and Elijah appear beside him and God acknowledges him as his Son, “the Beloved.” The disciples had heard Jesus’s teaching, listened to his parables, and witnessed his healing power. Now they see him in a new context, realising who he really is and the promise he carries: God’s chosen one, the fulfilment of Israel’s hope and the hope of us all. No wonder they were frozen with awe.

The holiday season is not a time to “freeze,” except for lazing on deck chairs and beach towels. But it is an opportunity to get to know ourselves and the people we care about in a new way, by spending time together away from the daily grind. The beach can truly become a place of revelation.

Sabine Schratz OP