The Transfiguration of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Part III)

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE HOLY TRANSFIGURATION OF CHRIST OUR LORD, GOD AND SAVIOR (Part III)
By His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos

The Transfiguration of Christ shows just what the Church is and what it is like, it also shows what its purpose is. Membership of the Church includes the Prophets and Apostles and those who accept their enlightening theology and are struggling to have the same perspective. Of course there are many degrees of participation but one must at least be in the stage of purification.

It is also clear what is the nature of the deepest and most essential purpose of the Church. It is to guide man to deification (theosis), which is the vision of the Uncreated Light. The whole work of pastors is aimed at this lofty target. Deification (theosis), then, does not constitute a luxury for the Christian life, but is its mystical entelechy and deepest purpose. Both the Mysteries (Sacraments) and asceticism aim at this state. When they are cut off from this, they become idols.

The Uncreated Light is a living of the Kingdom of God. It is the food of heaven. But in parallel there is the foretaste of the good things to come. The Transfiguration shows what the kingdom of God is and what the future state will be. The Godman will be in the midst of the deified, who will rejoice at the presence and the glory of God to different degrees and with varying participation in Uncreated grace. "God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods" (Psalm 82:1). Christ, and the Holy Trinity in general, will be God by nature, and the Saints will be gods by participation and by grace. Therefore the coming Kingdom, just like our presence in the Church is not a gathering of pious people, but a congregation, a church-going of gods by grace, in fact "deified by Him Who is God by nature" (Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki).

"...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 (salvific)I teaching of the Church, since it shows what is the purpose of man's existence.

But in order for anyone to attain the experience of the glory of his deification, he must go through the purification of his heart. And this is why Christ illumines man in accordance with the purity of his heart. Saint Gregory the Theologian says characteristically: "Therefore one must first be purified oneself, and then associate oneself with the pure." The same thing happens with the noetic light as with the sensory light. Just as the created light gives light to the healthy eyes of the body, so also the Uncreated Light gives light to the pure nous and the illumined heart" (Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite).

The Holy Fathers, speaking of the Transfiguration of Christ and the partaking of Divine glory, speak of the personal ascent on the mount of the vision of God. It is the constant cry of the Church: "make Thine Everlasting Light shine forth also upon us sinners". And in a related prayer in the first hour we feel the need to ask Christ: "O Christ, the True Light, which illumineth and sanctifieth every man who cometh into the world! Let the Light of the Thy Countenance be shown upon us, that in it we may behold the Light ineffable". Continual ascent and development are needed. In the Church we speak of man's development, not from the ape to man, but from man to God. And this "ecclesiastical theory" of development which the Church has, gives an understanding of life and satisfies all of man's inner problems and existential anxieties.

Saint Maximos the Confessor teaches that Christ is not shown to all in the same way, but to the beginners He is shown in the form of a servant, while to those who are ascending the mountain of the vision of God He is shown "in the form of God".

As soon as the three Holy Disciples on Mt. Tabor saw the glory of the person of Christ, they confessed: "Lord, it is good for us to be here, if you wish, let us make here three booths: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" (St. Matthew 17:4). Interpreting this desire of the Holy Disciples, Saint Maximus says that the three booths are of action, vision and theology. Elijah, as courageous and prudent, was a model of the first booth (action), Moses, as a lawgiver and a righteous man was a model of the second (vision), and Christ the Lord was a model of the third booth (Theology), since He was perfect in everything...

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 and of Uncreated Light and, indeed, deification (theosis). 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 summon us to this height.

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An Extemporaneous Prayer to the Transfigured Lord

Lord Jesus, as I behold You today in the abundant, dazzling and Uncreated Light of Your Transfiguration, I become much more aware and sensitive to the meaning of Your words: "I Am the Light of the world" (St. John 8:12).

My Savior and Redeemer, as I behold today Your glory on Mt. Tabor, which is but a prelude to the future transfiguration of our own human nature in Your Kingdom and of the whole world, I  can better understand the meaning of Your promise: "The righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father" (St. Matthew 13:43).

O Sun of Righteousness, as I behold the beauty of Your Countenance in glory, my lips are drawn to repeat the words of Peter the Apostle on Mt. Tabor: "Lord, it is good that we are here" (St. Matthew 17:4). O my Lord Jesus, how can anyone ever want to leave You, once they have come to know You and to behold Your glory and beauty?

Inseparably joined to Your Name, Lord Jesus Christ, is the Light, the clarity, the dazzling purity and everything that is beautiful, True and Divine that might be desired by the human soul. Lord, we are indeed attracted by Your Divine Countenance. Our soul does not consider Your Commandment unbearable nor difficult to observe. We especially desire, at times, Lord, to keep a vigil and to extend our prayer into the night, as did the three Disciples who were with You on the Mount of Your Transfiguration and who beheld Your glory.

And if at times Your word, Lord Jesus, appears harsh to us, or Your law heavy to bear, it is because we have not yet discovered You. Let Your Countenance, Lord, shine upon Your servants. Let the pure light of Your knowledge of God shine in our hearts, O Loving Lord, and may our eyes be opened to see Your more clearly, to think of You always, and to be active in accordance with Your Commandments. You are our illumination, and we offer up glory and honor and thanksgiving to You Who are seated upon the Throne of Glory and are the Living God unto the ages. Amen.

[Source: A Prayer Book - An Anthology of Orthodox Prayers by Fr. Peter A. Chamberas]

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

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.

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

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

+Father George