My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our OnlyTrue Lord, God, and Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 6th of August, Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates the
Holy TRANSFIGURATION of Our Lord, God, and Savior
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Grave Tone
THOU was transfigured on the mountain, O Christ our God, showing
to Thy disciples Thy glory as each one could endure. Shine forth
Thou on us, who are sinners all, Thy Light, Ever-unending, through
the prayers of the Theotokos. Light-bestower, glory to Thee.
Kontakion Hymn. Grave Tone
ON the mount Thou was transfigured, and Thy disciples, as much
as they could bear, beheld Thy glory, O Christ our God; that when
they should see Thee crucified, they would know Ty Passion to be
willing, and would preach to the world that Thou, in truth, art the
Effulgence of the Father.
The HOLY TRANSFIGURATION (METAMORPHOSIS) actually took place in February, forty days before the Passion. If we celebrate this feast at that time, it would be necessary to celebrate it during the Great Fast, when according to tradition such a feast should be celebrated for eight days. The feast was moved by the Church Holy Fathers to the month of August for the following reasons: since the Transfiguration took place forty days before the Passion and the Cross, by choosing the 6th of August it would be forty days before the Feast of the Elevation of the Honorable Cross, celebrated by the Church on the 14th of September.
The holy Evangelist Luke records that “eight days after these words,” Jesus took Peter and Iakovos (James) and John [Luke 9:28]. Saint Luke “does not contradict this writer,” comments Saint John Chrysostom (347-407 A.D.), “but most fully agrees with him. For the one expressed both the very day on which He spoke, and that on which He led them up; but the other, the days between them only. Now mark the goodness of Matthew, not concealing those who were preferred to himself… Why does Christ take with Him these three only? Because these were superior to the rest. Peter indeed showed his superiority by exceedingly loving Him, but John by being exceedingly loved by Him, and Iakovos (James) again by his answer which he gave with his brother, saying, ‘WE ARE ABLE TO DRINK THE CUP.” But it was not only by his answer but also by his works… For so earnest was Iakovos (James), and grievous to the Jews, that Herod himself supposed that he had bestowed a very great favor on the Jews when he slew him.”
Saint Ephraim the Syrian (306-383 A.D.) answers the question, “Why did He not bring all the disciples? Because Judas was among them, an alien to the Kingdom, and not worthy to be brought. Nor was it fitting to leave him on his own. Our Lord knew he was a traitor…Now if the Lord had left him on his own, they would have said accordingly that He was setting him apart from his companions. Why did Judas hate Jesus? Conversely, why then did Christ choose Judas, making him steward? TO SHOW PERFECT LOVE AND HIS MERCY.”
Saint Theophylact (11th century) observed that Christ “brings them up onto a high mountain, showing THAT UNLESS A MAN IS RAISED UP HIGH, HE DOES NOT BECOME WORTHY OF SUCH DIVINE VISIONS. A mountain set apart, because Christ would often perform the most wondrous of His miracles in secret, lest the multitude should see Him as God and think that He was human in appearance only.” Continuing Saint Theophylact says, “When you hear “He was transfigured,”do not think that He cast off the body at that moment; for His body remained in its own form, as you hear mention of His face and clothing. But it appeared more resplendent, the Divine exhibiting in small part its effulgence as much as they were able to see.” He further explains that when we read that “the Lord “went up into the mountain to pray” [Luke 9:28], IT IS TO SHOW THAT WHEN WE PRAY WE MUST BE ALONE, AND WE MUST ASCEND IN SPIRIT AND NOT INCLINE OURSELVES TO ANYTHING EARTHLY. “And it came to pass, as He was praying, the appearance of His countenance became different, and His garment became white, flashing as with lightning” [Luke 9:29]. He WAS NOT CHANGED IN NATURE, He remained what He was, except THAT THE APPEARANCE OF HIS FACE WAS BRIGHTER THAN BEFORE. And the same thing happened with His clothing. It was THE APPEARANCE OF HIS CLOTHING and not the surface appearance was different.”
Saint Ephraim says elsewhere, “The disciples on the mountain BEHELD TWO SUNS: ONE, TO WHICH THEY WERE ACCUSTOMED, SHINING IN THE SKY; AND THE ANOTHER, TO WHICH THEY WERE UNACCUSTOMED. There was the one which shone down on them, and from the firmament gave light to the whole world; and the One THAT SHONE FOR THEM ALONE, WHICH WAS THE FACE OF JESUS BEFORE THEM. And His garments appeared to them white as light. For THE GLORY OF HIS DIVINITY POURED FORTH FROM HIS WHOLE BODY, AND ALL HIS MEMBERS RADIATED LIGHT. His face shone, not as the face of Moses from without. For JESUS’ FACE, THE GLORY OF HIS DIVINITY POURED FORTH, YET REMAINED WITH HIM. From Himself came His OWN LIGHT, WHICH WAS CONTAINED WITHIN HIM. For it did not spread out from elsewhere, and fall on Him… Neither did He receive it to use for a while nor did He reveal to them the unfathomable depths of His glory, BUT ONLY AS MUCH AS THE PUPILS OF THEIR EYES COULD TAKE IN AND DISTINGUISH.”
The Light, seen by Jesus’ three disciples on Tabor, EXISTED WITHIN CHRIST BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER THE TRANSFIGURATION, AS THE NATURAL BRIGHTNESS OF HIS DIVINITY. The Hagioretic Tome of Saint Gregory Palamas says, “Jesus is transfigured, NOT BY ASSUMING WHAT HE DID NOT POSSESS, NOR BY CHANGING INTO WHAT HE WAS NOT, BUT BY REVEALING HIMSELF AS HE WAS TO HIS DISCIPLES, OPENING THEIR EYES AND HEALING THEIR BLINDNESS.” In chiefly apophatic terms, Saint Gregory calls the Light of the Transfiguration “INEFFABLE, UNCREATED, INCORPOREAL, INACCESSIBLE… WITHOUT END OF LIMITS.” In positive terms, he characterizes it as “THE CHANGELESS BEAUTY AND GLORY OF GOD, GLORY OF CHRIST, GLORY OF THE SPIRIT, RAY OF GOD.” The Light was neither an apparition nor a symbol. Saint Gregory asserts, “THE LIGHT OF THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD NEITHER COMES INTO BEING, NOR CEASES TO BE, NOR CAN BE DESCRIBED, NOR APPREHENDED BY BODILY POWERS; IT WAS INDEED SEEN BY THE EYES OF THE BODY… BUT THROUGH A TRANSFIGURATION OF THE SENSE… AT THAT MOMENT THEY PASSED FROM THE BODY TO THE SPIRIT.”
At the time of His Transfiguration, Saint Gregory Palamas says that Christ “BESTOWED A DIVINE POWER UPON THE EYES OF HIS APOSTLES AND ENABLED THEM TO LOOK UP AND SEE FOR THEMSELVES. THIS LIGHT WILL REMAIN FOR ALL ETERNITY, HAVING EXISTED FROM THE BEGINNING.” In fact, “CHRIST ALWAYS POSSESSED THIS LIGHT AND ALWAYS WILL HAVE IT WITH HIM.” Indeed, “THIS LIGHT IS NEITHER AN INDEPENDENT REALITY NOR SOMETHING ALIEN TO THE DIVINITY.” If it were an independent reality, Christ would be composed of three natures: human, divine, and this light. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
(To be continued)
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Divine and Glorious Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God