My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 6th of August, the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates
the Holy TRANSFIGURATION (METAMORPHOSIS) OF OUR LORD,
GOD, AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Grave Tone
THOU wast 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 wast 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 Thy 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 celebrated 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 Fathers to the month of August for the following reasons: since the Transfiguration took place 40 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 and Holy Cross, celebrated by the Holy Church on the 14th of September.
Now Mount Tabor was prophesied to be the mountain chosen by the Lord: "David the ancestor of God, foreseeing in spirit from after the sojourn with men of the Only-begotten Son in the flesh, called the creation together to rejoice with him, and prophetically lifted up his voice to cry, ‘Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in Thy name" (Psalm 88:12).
The Evangelist Luke records that "BOUT EIGHT DAYS AFTER THESE WORDS," Jesus took PETER and JAMES (IAKOVOS) and JOHN (Luke 9:28). Sint Matthew says, "after six days" (Matthew 17:11). Why does Christ take with Him these three disciples 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) that he had bestowed a very great favor on the Jews, that Herod the king himself supposed that he had bestowed a very great favor on the Jews when he slew him."
Blessed 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 Blessed Theophylactos 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 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 garments 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 ONLY THE APPEARANCE OF HIS CLOTHING AND ONLY THE SURFACE APPEARANCE WAS DIFFERENT."
According to Saint Ephraim the Light seen by Jesus’ Disciples on Tabor, EXISTED WITHIN CHRIST BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER THE TRANSFIGURATION, AS THE NATURAL BRIGHTNESS 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 OR 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 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…AND 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, then, WAS NOT A HALLUCINATION. 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 ALLIEN IN THE DIVINITY." If it were an independent reality, Christ would b composed of three natures: HUMAN, DIVINE, AND THIS LIGHT.
" It is Good for Us to be Here" (Matthew 17:4)
Saint Leo affirms that to "Peter’s suggestion to make three tabernacles the Lord makes no answer–nor implying that it was unworthy, but that it was at variance with the Divine purpose."
Saint John Chrysostom exclaims, "Look a the ardent lover of Christ…for what does the ardent Peter says? "IT IS GOOD FOR US TO BE HERE" (Matthew 17:4). Now because Peter heard that Christ was to go to Jerusalem and TO SUFFER, BEING IN FEAR STILL AND TRAMBLING FOR Him..For Peter would have Him be there continually. For this cause, he speaks of ‘tabernacles.’
Saint John Chrysostom observes: "To further show that Peter was held with great fear, both "Peter and those with him were weighed down with sleep; but after they fully awoke, they saw His glory" (Luke 9:32). By deep sleep here, he means the deep stupor engendered in them by THAT VISION. For as eyes are darkened by an excessive splendor, so at that time also did they experience." Saint Ambrose adds: "The incomprehensible magnificence of the Godhead overwhelms the perception of our body."
The Voice and the Cloud
Saint Leo says, "The Father was proclaimed to their ears by the voice from out of the cloud: Ang hearing His voice the Disciples fell on their faces in great fear. And they feared, not only because of the Divine Majesty of the Father but also because of the Majesty of the Son; for with their heightened perception they perceived the Divinity common to both of Them."
"And after the disciples heard it, they fell on their face and were exceedingly afraid. And having come to them, Jesus touched them and said, ‘Arise, and cease being afraid.’ And after they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one, except Jesus alone" (Matthew 17:6-8).
Now "how was it," poses Saint John Chrysostom, "that, when they heard these words, they were dismayed? And yet, before this also, a like voice was uttered at Jodan, and a multitude was present, and no one felt anything of the kind. And indeed, again afterward, when the crowd remarked that ‘thunder had occurred" (John 12:29), they did not experience anything like what took place here. How come they fell down in the mount? Because there was solitude, and height, and great quietness, and a transfiguration full of awe, and pure light, and a cloud stretched out. All of which things put them in great alarm. And the amazement came thick on every side, and they fell down both in fear at once and in adoration. But that the fear abiding so long might drive out their recollection, presently, He puts an end to their alarm and is seen Himself alone.
Saint Gregory Palamas speaks OF THE UNCREATED GLORY. He made a defense in reply to the Calabrian Barlaam, who commented that the Tiboric "light was a sensible light, visible through the medium of the air, appearing to the amazement of all and then at once disappearing. One calls it ‘divinity’ because it is a symbol of divinity." Saint Gregory Palamas exclaims, "What a novel opinion! How can one speak of a sensible and created divinity which lasts only a day, appearing only to disappear (actually in a single hour) on the same day?" Saint Gregory Palamas refutes this by saying that "the Light on Tabor shone more brilliantly than the sun, yet the people of the area did not even see it. In fact, we will no longer need air in the age to come, and certainly the Light, natural to Divinity, does not require it."
Saint Gregory Palamas, quoting several holy Fathers, concludes: "According to the promise of the Savior, they saw the Kingdom of God, that Divine and Ineffable Light. The Great Gregory the Theologian called it DIVINITY, saying, ‘Light is the Divinity MANIFESTED TO THE DISCIPLES ON THE MOUNT,’ and Saint Basil the Great called it DIVINITY, saying, ‘ A BEAUTY OF THE TRULY MIGHT ONE IS HIS INTELLIGIBLE AND CONTEMPLATED DIVINITY. ‘ Saint Basil the Great also says that LIGHT IS THE BEAUTY OF GOD CONEMPLATED BY THE SAINTS ALONE IN THE POWER OF THE DIVINE SPIRIT. And so he says in turn, ‘Peter and the sons of thunder saw His beauty on the mountain, surpassing the brightness of the sun in its radiance. And they were deemed worthy to receive with their eyes A FORETASTE OF HIS ADVENT. Saint John of Damascus called THE LIGHT A NATURAL RAY OF THE DIVINITY…and wrote: ‘THE SON WITHOUT BEGINNING, BEGOTTEN FROM THE FATHER, POSSESSED FROM THE DIVNITY THE NATURAL RAY WITHOUT BEGINNING. AND THE GLORY OF THE DIVINITY BECAME ALSO THE GLORY OF THE BODY."
The Eighth Day
The TRANSFIGURATION IS ALSO A TYPE OF ETERNITY, the Eternal Age to come, THE EIGHTH DAY, in which all shall be transfigured. Saint Ambrose tells us that "IN ORDER THAT YOU MAY KNOW THAT PETER, IAKOVOS (JAMES) AND JOHN DID NOT TASTE DEATH, THEY WERE WORTHY TO SEE THE GLORY OF THE RESURRECTION, FOR, ABOUT EIGHT DAYS AFTER THESE WORDS, HE TOOK THOSE THREE ALONE… FOR THE RESURRECTION COMETH TO PASS ON THE EIGHT DAY.
Saint Gregory Palamas writes: "The Light which illuminated the Disciples… WILL CONTINUALLY AND ENDLESSLY DAZZLE US WITH ITS MOST BRILLIANT RAY IN THE AGE TO COME, WHEN "WE SHALL ALWAY BE WITH THE LORD (1 Thessalonians 4:17), according to His promise. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George