The transfiguration / metamorphosis of Christ
Posted 06 August 2007 - 01:07 PM
"By His Transfiguration Christ showed the deification of human nature, but also the glory of those who will be united with Him. Therefore the event of the Transfiguration is a central point in the soteriological teaching of the Church, since it shows what is the purpose of man's existence." p.171
"The Transfiguration of Christ shows us just what Orthodox theology is. From the teaching of the Church we know that theology is not conjectural and cerebral knowledge, but man's sharing in the deifying energy, vision of uncreated Light and indeed, deification. When we speak of theology we mean experience and vision of God.
In conclusion we must say that the Transfiguration of Christ is the central event in Christ's life, but also a fundamental point in the life of man. Therefore it must be analyzed not with beautiful, moral thoughts and sentimental effusions, but in the framework of Orthodox theology. Moreover, we live in the Church and are trying not simply to become good people, but to be gods by grace. The life of the Church and Orthodox theology summons us to this height." pp. 172-173
Posted 06 August 2007 - 08:59 PM
A glimpse of the Whole Mystery of the Law and Prophets enfolded in Christ!
An awesome a glimpse into Divine Light that impetuous Peter, speaking for the three witnesses of this "sight" desired to be there enshrined with Christ, Moses and Elijah.
A glimpse of the Shadow of the Cloud that covered them and threw them to the ground when the Voice of the Father was heard!
A glimpse of the Message: " this is my Beloved Son, my favor is on Him! Listen to Him!"
A glimpse of the Divine Trinity! overcome by fear at this awesome moment in time, they fall on their faces, trembling!
One cannot see the Face of God and live! Oh great Mercy of God that touches them, returning them to reality. "Stand up! do not be afraid!" Mt. 17:8
And, they saw only Jesus!
On this Feast Day, those of us who were blessed to attend Matins/Orthros and the Divine Liturgy in our parish Church, have heard this glimpse into the Divinity over and over again in word and song, as if gentle rain waterred our souls.
How the Church teaches by repitition, so that we can truly eventually "hear and see", be delivered of our personal demons, healed of our infirmities both physical and spiritual; and little by little to become Child-like, filled with wonder, compassion and trust! even when filled with little faith, in our ministries, like the disciples in Mt. 17:14-20; or, when hearing of the coming passion, death and ressurection that of Christ or our own,we become "overcome with a great sadness" Mt. 17:33
As I read between the lines of these texts of both Scripture and of the Festal Menaion, I am filled with awe and trembling; and, continue to enter more deeply into the meaning of KENOSIS (self-emptying) in my daily life with its cross, always struggling to hear the WORD, and with under-standing, give outpouring praise and glory to God!
To these simple words above, I add Phil. 2:6-11 as a HYMN that I desire to deepen in my personal understanding of the Mystery of Christ! "In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus." Phil 2:5
As I have recently read in notes from the Jerusalem Bible, that, this HYMN, having four stanzas, shows Christ Jesus as pre-eternal; as emptying Himself in the Incarnation; in His further Kenosis in death; His glorification and adoration by the Cosmos, with the new title of "LORD", to the glory of God the Father.
Personally, I find this HYMN closely related to the Transfiguration which is celebrated today by the Church.
Posted 07 August 2007 - 07:50 PM
Thank you for your post and words which you express so beautifully and also for emphasizing the kenosis because it is a very crucial point in the Transfiguration of Christ.
I saw another beautiful text about the Transfiguration of Christ, today in my email from a friend, which for the lack of time I had not noticed yesterday. It is "Discourse on the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ of Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica [FONT="]". [/FONT]Although we already celebrated this Great Feast yesterday, today is the Afterfeast of the Transfiguration so I thought I still have time to share this deeply spiritual and didactic discourse.
Discourse on the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ of Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica
"For an explanation of the present Feast and understanding of its truth, it is necessary for us to turn to the very start of today's reading from the Gospel: "Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up onto a high mountain by themselves" (Mt.17:1).
First of all we must ask, from whence does the Evangelist Matthew begin to reckon with six days? From what sort of day is it? What does the preceding turn of speech indicate, where the Savior, in teaching His disciples, said to them: "For the Son of Man shall come with his angels in the glory of His Father," and further: "Amen I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death, until they have seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom" (Mt.16:27-28)? That is to say, it is the Light of His own forthcoming Transfiguration which He terms the Glory of His Father and of His Kingdom.
The Evangelist Luke points this out and reveals this more clearly saying: "Now it came to pass about eight days after these words, that He took Peter and John and James, and went up the mountain to pray. And as He prayed, His countenance was altered, and His raiment became a radiant white" (Luke 9:28-29). But how can the two be reconciled, when one of them speaks definitively about the interval of time as being eight days between the sayings and the manifestation, whereas the other (says): "after six days?"
There were eight on the mountain, but only six were visible. Three, Peter, James and John, had come up with Jesus, and they saw Moses and Elias standing there and conversing with Him, so altogether there were six of them. However, the Father and the Holy Spirit were invisibly with the Lord: the Father, with His Voice testifying that this was His Beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit shining forth with Him in the radiant cloud. Thus, the six are actually eight, and there is no contradiction regarding the eight. Similarly, there is no contradiction with the Evangelists when one says "after six days," and the other says "eight days after these words."
But these twofold sayings as it were present us a certain format set in mystery, and together with it that of those actually present upon the Mount. It stands to reason, and everyone rationally studying in accordance with Scripture knows that the Evangelists are in agreement one with another. Luke spoke of eight days without contradicting Matthew, who declared "after six days." There is not another day added on to represent the day on which these sayings were uttered, nor is the day on which the Lord was transfigured added on (which a rational person might reasonably imagine to be added to the days of Matthew).
The Evangelist Luke does not say "after eight days" (like the Evangelist Matthew says "after six days"), but rather "it came to pass eight days after these words." But where the Evangelists seem to contradict one another, they actually point out to us something great and mysterious. In actual fact, why did the one say "after six days," but the other, in ignoring the seventh day, have in mind the eighth day? It is because the great vision of the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is the mystery of the Eighth Day, i.e., of the future age, coming to be revealed after the passing away of the world created in six days.
About the power of the Divine Spirit, through Whom the Kingdom of God is to be revealed, the Lord predicted: "There are some standing here who shall not taste death, until they have seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom" (Mt.16:28). Everywhere and in every way the King will be present, and everywhere will be His Kingdom, since the advent of His Kingdom does not signify the passing over from one place to another, but rather the revelation of its power of the Divine Spirit. That is why it is said: "come in power." And this power is not manifest to simply ordinary people, but to those standing with the Lord, that is to say, those who have affirmed their faith in Him like Peter, James and John, and especially those who are free of our natural abasement. Therefore, and precisely because of this, God manifests Himself upon the Mount, on the one hand coming down from His heights, and on the other, raising us up from the depths of abasement, since the Transcendent One takes on mortal nature. Certainly, such a manifest appearance by far transcends the utmost limits of the mind's grasp, as effectualized by the power of the Divine Spirit.
Thus, the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is not something that comes to be and then vanishes, nor is it subject to the sensory faculties, although it was contemplated by corporeal eyes for a short while upon an inconsequential mountaintop. But the initiates of the Mystery, (the disciples) of the Lord at this time passed beyond mere flesh into spirit through a transformation of their senses, effectualized within them by the Spirit, and in such a way that they beheld what, and to what extent, the Divine Spirit had wrought blessedness in them to behold the Ineffable Light.
Those not grasping this point have conjectured that the chosen from among the Apostles beheld the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord by a sensual and creaturely faculty, and through this they attempt to reduce to a creaturely level (i.e., as something "created") not only this Light, the Kingdom and the Glory of God, but also the Power of the Divine Spirit, through Whom it is meet for Divine Mysteries to be revealed. In all likelihood, such persons have not heeded the words of the Apostle Paul: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love Him. But to us God has revealed them through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God" (1 Cor.2:9-10).
So, with the onset of the Eighth Day, the Lord, taking Peter, James and John, went up on the Mount to pray. He always prayed alone, withdrawing from everyone, even from the Apostles themselves, as for example when with five loaves and two fish He fed the five thousand men, besides women and children (Mt.14:19-23). Or, taking with Him those who excelled others, as at the approach of His Saving Passion, when He said to the other disciples: "Sit here while I go over there and pray" (Mt.26:36). Then He took with Him Peter, James and John. But in our instance right here and now, having taken only these same three, the Lord led them up onto a high mountain by themselves and was transfigured before them, that is to say, before their very eyes.
"What does it mean to say: He was transfigured?" asks the Golden-Mouthed Theologian (Chrysostom). He answers this by saying: "It revealed something of His Divinity to them, as much and insofar as they were able to apprehend it, and it showed the indwelling of God within Him." The Evangelist Luke says: "And as He prayed, His countenance was altered" (Luke 9:29); and from the Evangelist Matthew we read: "And His face shone as the sun" (Mt.17:2). But the Evangelist said this, not in the context that this Light be thought of as subsistent for the senses (let us put aside the blindness of mind of those who can conceive of nothing higher than what is known through the senses). Rather, it is to show that Christ God, for those living and contemplating by the Spirit, is the same as the sun is for those living in the flesh and contemplating by the senses. Therefore, some other Light for the knowing the Divinity is not necessary for those who are enriched by Divine gifts.
That same Inscrutable Light shone and was mysteriously manifest to the Apostles and the foremost of the Prophets at that moment, when (the Lord) was praying. This shows that what brought forth this blessed sight was prayer, and that the radiance occured and was manifest by uniting the mind with God, and that it is granted to all who, with constant exercise in efforts of virtue and prayer, strive with their mind towards God. True beauty, essentially, can be contemplated only with a purified mind. To gaze upon its luminance assumes a sort of participation in it, as though some bright ray etches itself upon the face.
Even the face of Moses was illumined by his association with God. Do you not know that Moses was transfigured when he went up the mountain, and there beheld the Glory of God? But he (Moses) did not effect this, but rather he underwent a transfiguration. However, our Lord Jesus Christ possessed that Light Himself. In this regard, actually, He did not need prayer for His flesh to radiate with the Divine Light; it was but to show from whence that Light descends upon the saints of God, and how to contemplate it. For it is written that even the saints "will shine forth like the sun" (Mt.13:43), which is to say, entirely permeated by Divine Light as they gaze upon Christ, divinely and inexpressibly shining forth His Radiance, issuing from His Divine Nature. On Mount Tabor it was manifest also in His Flesh, by reason of the Hypostatic Union (i.e., the union of the two perfect natures, divine and human, within the divine Person [Hypostasis] of Christ, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity). The Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon defined this Hypostatic union of Christ's two natures, divine and human, as "without mingling, without change, without division, without separation."
We believe that at the Transfiguration He manifested not some other sort of light, but only that which was concealed beneath His fleshly exterior. This Light was the Light of the Divine Nature, and as such, it was Uncreated and Divine. So also, in the teachings of the Fathers, Jesus Christ was transfigured on the Mount, not taking upon Himself something new nor being changed into something new, nor something which formerly He did not possess. Rather, it was to show His disciples that which He already was, opening their eyes and bringing them from blindness to sight. For do you not see that eyes that can perceive natural things would be blind to this Light?
Thus, this Light is not a light of the senses, and those contemplating it do not simply see with sensual eyes, but rather they are changed by the power of the Divine Spirit. They were transformed, and only in this way did they see the transformation taking place amidst the very assumption of our perishability, with the deification through union with the Word of God in place of this.
So also she who miraculously conceived and gave birth recognized that the One born of her is God Incarnate. So it was also for Simeon, who only received this Infant into his arms, and the aged Anna, coming out [from the Jerusalem Temple] for the Meeting, since the Divine Power illumined, as through a glass windowpane, giving light for those having pure eyes of heart.
And why did the Lord, before the beginning of the Transfiguration, choose the foremost of the Apostles and lead them up onto the Mount with Him? Certainly, it was to show them something great and mysterious. What is particularly great or mysterious in showing a sensory light, which not only the foremost, but all the other Apostles already abundantly possessed? Why would they need a transforming of their eyes by the power of the Holy Spirit for a contemplation of this Light, if it were merely sensory and created? How could the Glory and the Kingdom of the Father and the Holy Spirit project forth in some sort of sensory light? Indeed, in what sort of Glory and Kingdom would Christ the Lord come at the end of the ages, when there would not be necessary anything in the air, nor in expanse, nor anything similar, but when, in the words of the Apostle, "God will be all in all" (1 Cor.15: 28)? That is to say, will He alter everything for all? If so, then it follows that light is included.
Hence it is clear that the Light of Tabor was a Divine Light. And the Evangelist John, inspired by Divine Revelation, says clearly that the future eternal and enduring city "has no need of the sun or moon to shine upon it. For the Glory of God lights it up, and the Lamb will be its lamp" (Rev 21:23). Is it not clear, that he points out here that this [Lamb] is Jesus, Who is divinely transfigured now upon Tabor, and the flesh of Whom shines, is the lamp manifesting the Glory of divinity for those ascending the mountain with Him?
John the Theologian also says about the inhabitants of this city: "they will not need light from lamps, nor the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shed light upon them, and night shall be no more" (Rev 22:5). But how, we might ask, is there this other light, in which "there is no change, nor shadow of alteration" (Jas 1:17)? What light is there that is constant and unsetting, unless it be the Light of God? Moreover, could Moses and Elias (and particularly the former, who clearly was present only in spirit, and not in flesh [Elias having ascended bodily to Heaven on the fiery chariot]) be shining with any sort of sensory light, and be seen and known? Especially since it was written of them: "they appeared in glory, and spoke of his death, which he was about to fulfill at Jerusalem" (Luke 9:30-31). And how otherwise could the Apostles recognize those whom they had never seen before, unless through the mysterious power of the Divine Light, opening their mental eyes?
But let us not tire our attention with the furthermost interpretations of the words of the Gospel. We shall believe thus, as those same ones have taught us, who themselves were enlightened by the Lord Himself, insofar as they alone know this well: the Mysteries of God, in the words of a prophet, are known to God alone and His perpetual proximity. Let us, considering the Mystery of the Transfiguration of the Lord in accord with their teaching, strive to be illumined by this Light ourselves and encourage in ourselves love and striving towards the Unfading Glory and Beauty, purifying our spiritual eyes of worldly thoughts and refraining from perishable and quickly passing delights and beauty which darken the garb of the soul and lead to the fire of Gehenna and everlasting darkness. Let us be freed from these by the illumination and knowledge of the incorporeal and ever-existing Light of our Savior transfigured on Tabor, in His Glory, and of His Father from all eternity, and His Life-Creating Spirit, Whom are One Radiance, One Godhead, and Glory, and Kingdom, and Power now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen."
Posted 07 August 2007 - 11:28 PM
As we are still in the after-Freast, this great Mystery of the Transfiguration must be contemplated further, from the Words of Scripture themselves, and also from these illuminating interpretive words of St. Gregory Palamas.
I do love his writings! and, have copied this discourse to add to my little library.
Posted 14 August 2007 - 03:17 PM
As the Troparion of the feast says:
"O Christ Our God, at the time of your Transfiguration on the Mount, You showed your disciples as much of your glory as they culd bear it. ... "
It is the same with us, today. Could the whole populace bear to see the face of the Transfigured Christ? So, in His great Mercy and Loving- Compassion for our poor human condition, God shows us the "cloud" , that we may truly heed His Voice, "This is my beloved Son, listen to Him!"
Perhaps, today, all need to ask, "Am I truly listening to the Message of the Gospel, the Message brought by the Father's beloved Son Jesus Christ? Do I truly listen to the Word made flesh?
As humans we get amazed by anything unusual that exteriorly happens, like a "cloud" descending upon Mount Thabor on the Feast of the Transfiguration; but are we willing to follow Jesus all the way to the Cross, on Golgotha? and are we filled with "wonder" when Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily, and follow Him?
It is a great mystery that happens on the day of the Transfiguration, if we allow ourselves to enter the "cloud" there can be a great change that happens in our life. An inspiring change that will move one to a deeper and more serious praxis on our life's path towards theosis
" ... Through the prayers of the Theotokos, let your eternal light shine also upon us sinners. O Giver of Light, glory to You!"
Please pray for me a sinner!
Posted 16 August 2007 - 12:52 AM
"O Christ our God, at the time of your Transfiguration on the Mount, You showed your disciples as much of your glory as they could hold. through the prayers of the Theotokos, let your eternal light shine also upon us sinners. O Giver of Light, glory to You!"
So, let us continue to prepare our hearts and minds that they be receptive to the 'Grace and Glory' that is waiting to be given to us according to our capacity, or inner space, made spacious by our praxis, or practice of prayer and the virtues, especially Faith, Hope and Love!
Posted 17 August 2007 - 06:06 AM
From the Monachos library:
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