The Feast Day of the Holy Transfiguration (Metamorphosis) of Christ (Part III)

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

by His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, HIEROTHEOS

It is a teaching of the Holy Fathers that Christ on Mt. Tabor showed men the archetypal beauty of their image. Christ is the model of the creation of man, because man was formed in the image of the Logos/Word. By this we see the glory of the image and what a great honor it is that we are in the image of God. Our lineage is not low, but high, because the glorified Christ is the prototype of our creation, but also because He is our artificer and creator.

It says repeatedly in Holy Scripture that Christ is the new Adam, who became man in order to correct the error of the ancestral Adam. The first Adam in Paradise, although he was still inexperienced, was in a state of illumination of his nous because that in him which was in the image was pure and received the rays of the Divine Light. But after his sin, he was darkened, he lost the likeness, but did not lose the image entirely. In the Patristic tradition it says that the image of Adam was obscured, darkened, without being entirely lost. Through the Incarnation of Christ and the deification (theosis) of human nature Adam came back to his former glory, and indeed rose still higher.

Thus on Mt. Tabor Christ showed what the prototype of the creation of man was like and what the first state of Adam was like in Paradise before the fall

To be sure, this is said with reservation, because, as Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite teaches, the illumination of the Transfigured Christ was brighter and more divine than the illumination which Adam had in Paradise. And this for two reasons: first, because the God Who created Adam was God in essence, whereas Adam was God by participation. God's Light is natural, while the light which Adam had was by participation and grace. Secondly, because Christ assumed human nature and deified (theosis) it hypostatically, whereas Adam had communion with the grace of God through energy. This means that whereas is Christ the Divine Nature united hypostatically with the human nature, in Adam and in everyone who is deified (theosis), his nature is united with God by Grace and not hypostatically. Therefore hypostatic union of the Divine and human natures happened only in Christ.

In order to make this understood we must say that according to Saint John of Damascus there are three ways of uniting: the first is in essence, which occurs in the Persons of the Holy Trinity. The second way of uniting occurred in Christ through the Incarnation and is the hypostatic one, because Christ is the only Godman. And the third way of union is by grace and occurs in deified (theosis) persons, who are not united with God in essence, for this happens only in the Persons of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), nor do they unite with God hypostatically, for the Godman is single, but they are united through the participation of grace. Therefore the Saints are not, even by grace, called godmen, but gods by grace, deified (Theosis).

At any rate, the Transfigured Christ showed the glory of the archetype of our creation. And just as with sculptors, the original has greater value than the copy of it, which anyone can make, so here too the prototype has greater value. The Transfiguration of Christ, also shows, by condescension, the origin of man, as well as the purpose, the end, towards which he must aim.

The light seen by the senses, although it is created, is the only reality on earth which can show the glory and shining of the Divinity. The Person of Christ shone like the sun, and His clothing became while as light, for this is how man can understand the glory of the deity. There is no other earthly reality to show it.

It is a fact that God is and is called Light, for, on the one hand, it is a revelation of Christ Himself, who said: "I am the light of the world" (Saint John 8:12), and on the other hand, because all who were granted to see Him saw Him as radiant light. Saint John Chrysostom points out that the Evangelist says that the Person of Christ shone like the sun, because there is no other image to present the radiance of Christ's person at that moment.

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...

"...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."

(To be continued)



"Fasting, or abstaining from food, was a discipline practiced by Our Lord Himself. It was after 40 days of prayer and fasting in the wilderness, that Jesus victoriously faced the temptations of the devil (St. Matthew 4:1-11). He asked His Disciples to use fasting, coupled with prayer, as a means to achieve spiritual victories (St. Matthew 17:21; St. Mark 9:29; St. Luke 2:37), and the example of the Lord was followed by the Disciples in their Apostolic Ministry and instruction to the early Christians (Acts 14: 23; 27:9; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 6:5, 11:27).

In its most basic sense, fasting is abstinence from food. But it is far more than that. It helps us to open our minds and souls to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to break away from our captivity to bodily appetites and selfish desires..." (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America).



"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