By Clive Rainey, Habitat for Humanity’s first volunteer
Antigua, Guatemala, claims to have the largest Easter celebrations in the world. Thousands have gathered each weekend to watch the beautiful, old religious images paraded through the street accompanied by bands, fireworks and clouds of incense.
When the streets are most crowded, I seek refuge at the San Francisco church. Both outside and inside this church are crosses, upon which are fixed the symbols of Christ’s torture and death. As I contemplate this cross with its dreadful tools attached, I am reminded of a quote from the philosopher and art critic Arthur C. Danto. In his book The Transfiguration of the Commonplace he refers to art items created during the Arts and Crafts Movement — tables, forks or chairs crafted with fine woods, precious metals and stones. He says they are “commonplace items transfigured into objects of such beauty that only jewels of the richest sort could serve as a metaphor for their existence.”
I believe that our love likewise transfigures commonplace building materials into objects of great beauty. I have spent recent days visiting Habitat sites for alternative housing and water-filtration projects that would allow us to build more affordable houses and to address a critical need here in Guatemala for clean, safe drinking water. Decent shelter and clean water are indeed beautiful to the many people who lack access to both.
And it isn’t just commonplace building materials that are transfigured by our love into homes for those in need; the very lives of Habitat’s participants are also transfigured. One of my favorite homeowner quotes is one that Habitat founder Millard Fuller often told of a lady who at the dedication of her new home said, very simply and very powerfully, “I feel like I’ve been dead and buried and dug up!”
Transfigured, redeemed, resurrected! As we help to transfigure and redeem individual lives, we also redeem the times.