The Transfiguration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Part II)

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

By His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos

"Christ said: "I am the Light of the world" (St. John 8:12)

The image of the sun shows another theological truth as well, as Saint Gregory Palamas presents it. He says that there is a difference between the Light and the sun. God, as we know from the Old Testament, made light on the first day of creation, and on the fourth day He made the sun and gave it light. Thus the light was created first, while the light in the sun's disk came on the fourth day. We see this by analogy in Christ as well. God's Light was and is without beginning, that is to say, there was no time when this light did not exist. But later, at the Incarnation, there was the added shining of the human nature which received the whole fullness of the Godhead. Thus while God was always Light, at His Incarnation the body which He assumed also became a source of Uncreated Light.

However, there is an enormous difference between the Light of Divinity and the light of the sun, as great as the difference between Uncreated and created. What is created has a beginning of creation and must have an end, but God wishes it not to have an end. The created also has change and alteration. But the Uncreated has neither beginning nor end and has no change, no alteration. Therefore we must always be moderate in our use of realities known to the senses. The holy Evangelist wrote: "His face shone like the sun" (St. Matthew 17:2). It did not become the face of the sun, but was like the sun.

Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite points out the difference between the shining of the sun of the senses and the illumination of the sun of righteousness. The light of the sensory sun, since it is temporal, comes to the eyes of man through time, that is to say, little by little and not all at once. Thus from dawn it changes to east, and from east to noon and from there to west. There is a change of illumination and it is given at corresponding times. But the same thing did not happen with the Disciples on Mt. Tabor. Since the Light of Righteousness is Uncreated and transcends time, it did not shine on the Apostles: "Little by little, advancing and shifting, but directly and all at once."

This Light of God works in two ways, illuminating and burning, according to the degree of the person's spiritual condition. According to Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, coal too has its earthly and material aspect, since it becomes ash, but also its illuminating and fiery aspect. This happens also with the Light of God in the human nature of the Logos/Word. Christ is like a burning coal, because He has human nature, the material, but also the Light of Deity. However, this is not what happens with coal, which does not give light to those who are far away but burns those who are near, but is otherwise something else. He becomes Light for those who are pure from sin, and fire for those who are impure.

We must take this opportunity to look at the very fine observation by Saint Basil the Great about the Incarnation of Christ. Taking red-hot iron as an example, he says that the fire comes into the iron not as from one place to another, but by imparting. This means that the fire does not invade the iron, but remaining where it is, imparts to it its own powers and energies, so that the fire is not diminished by the imparting, but wholly fills the iron. By analogy the same thing happened with the Incarnation of the Son and Logos/Word of God. God was not moved from Himself, that is to say, He did not change His position, but He condescended towards the human race and encamped among us without ceasing to be in Heaven. In the service of the Akathist to the Mother of God this wonder is expressed: "God descended to earth, yet underwent no change of place"...Therefore the shining of Christ on Mt. Tabor, the revelation of His glory to the deified of every epoch, is not a fact of the senses, but a mystery, a manifestation in an ineffable way of the glory of God.

Just as at the moment of Christ's Baptism there is also a manifestation (epiphany or theophany) of the Holy Trinity, so also at the moment of His Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor the Trinitarian God is revealed. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Who was made man, shone before the Holy Disciples and manifested the glory of His Divinity. The Father affirmed that this was His beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit was the bright cloud which overshadowed the Holy Disciples.

The Trinitarian God is light, for Light is the shining of the Divinity, the vision of the Grace of the Trinitarian God. The Church sings: "Today on Tabor in the manifestation of Thy Light, O Logos/Word...we have seen the Father as Light and the Spirit as Light..." The face of Christ shone like the sun, the voice of the Father was a very powerful vision of Light, and so, as Saint Gregory Palamas says, just then the Disciples were unable to beat it and they fell to the ground, and the cloud, which was the presence of the Holy Spirit, was bright. Everything expresses the glory of the Divinity...

The Old Testament Prophets Moses and Elijah stood near Christ devoutly and reverently. In the canon of the feast Saint Kosmas Melodos writes: "Standing in reverence on Mount Tabor, Moses and Elijah clearly beheld the express image of the Divine Person, even Christ, shining forth as lightning with the glory of the Father, and they sang..." The Prophets saw on recognized that He was the Only-begotten Son of God, Who had the characteristic feature of the hypostasis of the Father, the glory of God the Father. This is why they stood reverently and as servants.

According to Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, in the Old Testament Moses stood as high priest between Or and Aaron in order that the Israelite people should conquer, and Elijah as high priest of God put to death the priests of Baal and made the burnt offering. Now these two high priests of God stand on Mt. Tabor as priests and servants, having in their midst the Great High Priest Christ, Who is preparing Himself for the great sacrifice.

This "reverence" and "servility" is also reminiscent of the great difference there was and is between Christ and the Prophets.  Christ deifies (theosis) as Saint Maximos the Confessor says, because He is the Son of God by nature and He deifies men, while the Prophets, being men, are passively deified, that is to say they become gods by grace and participation. In other words, Christ is absolute Light, while their light comes from without.

We must also note one more detail which, however, points to something deeper and more essential. The Evangelist Luke mentions that "when the voice (of the Father, saying 'This is My beloved Son') had ceased, Jesus found Himself alone (St. Luke 9:36). When the voice was heard, the two Old Testament Prophets disappeared and Christ remained alone. According to Saint Theophylaktos, this happened in order that no one should think that this voice was about Moses and Elijah, for it was only about Christ. There was not to be any confusion between these persons. Christ is the center of the heavenly and the earthly.

(To be continued)


Dismissal Hymn. 4th Plag. Tone

(Τό Προσταχθέν...)

Now there came to the knowledge of the Angel the secret command, and he hastened to the dwelling of Joseph and spake unto her who knew not wedlock: Lo, He Who bowed the heavens and came down is contained wholly and unchanged in thee. When I behold Him in thy womb taking the form of a servant, marveling I cry aloud to thee: Hail, thou Bride unwedded.

Priest: An Angel, and the chiefest among them, was sent from Heaven to cry: Hail! to the Mother of God (thrice). And beholding Thee, O Lord, taking bodily form, he stood marveling, and with his bodiless voice cried aloud to her saying:

Hail, thou, through whom joy shall shine forth; hail, thou through whom the curse shall be blotted out.

Hail, thou, the Restoration of the fallen Adam; hail, thou, the Redemption of the tears of Eve.

Hail, Height, hard to climb, for human minds; hail, Depth, hard to explore, even for the eyes of Angels.

Hail, thou that art the Throne of a King; hail, thou that sustainest the Sustainer of all.

Hail, Star that causest the Sun to appear; hail, Womb of the Divine Incarnating.

Hail, thou through whom Creation is renewed; hail, thou through whom the Creator becomes a babe.

Hail, thou Bride unwedded...



The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"-Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George