You were transfigured upon the mountain, O Christ our God, showing to Your disciples Your glory as much as they could bear. Do also in us, sinners though we may be, shine Your everlasting light, by the intercessions of the Theotokos, O Giver of light. Glory to You.Hymn of the Transfiguration of Christ
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In every Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church, we address our prayers and thanksgiving to God who is described as “ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever-existing and always the same.” This kind of language – which tries to describe God by saying what he is not – is called apophatic or “negative” language. Apophatic language is the language of prayer; it points to God’s majesty and transcendence while, at the same time, it conveys His presence. God is absolutely transcendent – beyond anything that we can know and experience – yet He is also present (immanent) and acts on behalf of us for our salvation. We will never fully understand Who God is. But we are pretty sure of what His is not.
The Feasts of the Church celebrate those acts of salvation. They not only remember certain special events but make Christ present to us in those events through the power of the Holy Spirit. In the feast of the Nativity of Christ, we see revealed to us the mystery of God’s incarnation in the flesh. God manifests Himself to us, reveals Himself to us as man while yet remaining God. The feast of the Nativity of Christ is the celebration of that act of God revealing Himself to us, in His Coming to earth as a man. In the feast of Theophany, we see Christ revealed as the “Beloved Son” of God the Father.
At Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, God makes it clear that this man Jesus is truly the “Son of God.” And now, as we prepare to celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ tomorrow morning, we see Christ being revealed in all His divine glory. In each feast Christ comes to us now, manifests or makes Himself present to us so that we can come to truly know Him.
The feast of Christ’s transfiguration – metamorphosis – celebrated on August 6 was introduced as a separate feast with all its major characteristics sometime between the sixth and eighth centuries. It was more widely known in the East than in the West and takes on a greater significance for Eastern Christians.
The Fathers of the Church stress in their sermons that Jesus, when He was transfigured before His disciples, did not add anything to His nature that He did not possess before, but revealed what He already was. Jesus’ humanity was not changed into divinity at the Transfiguration; He was divine, but in this event, His divine glory was revealed.
Several details appear in the event which express also the unity of the Old and New Testaments. The appearance of Jesus with Moses and Elijah indicates that Jesus is not a violator of the law, nor a blasphemer, but the one whom the law and the prophets had looked toward. The past (Moses and Elijah), the present (the kingdom of God already here) and the future (crucifixion, resurrection and the world to come) make up the content of the event.
The early Fathers regarded the Transfiguration, like Epiphany, as a sign of the transformation of human nature and of the reality of salvation. For salvation, they stressed, cannot be accomplished without the transfiguration of human nature by the power of God. Therefore, the feast of the Transfiguration is also the day of the celebration of the deification (theosis) of human nature. On this day all human nature was illuminated by the divine transfiguration. In this event, humanity reveals divinity. Finally, the Trinity is revealed in the Transfiguration, as it was in the Epiphany.
The Transfiguration of Christ is a major Feast of Christ. Let us enjoy it together.
With Much Love in our Transfigured Lord,
Fr. Anthony Savas