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


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


By His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Greece, HIEROTHEOS

Just as all the feasts of the Lord are not only altogether Christological, but anthropological and soteriological, so it is also with the Transfiguration of Christ. By His Transfiguration Christ showed the deification (theosis) 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.

But in order for anyone to attain the experience of the glory of his deification (theosis), 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 in 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 ('The eye of the soul') and the illuminated heart (Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite).

The Holy Fathers of the Church, 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 that cometh into the world! Let the light of 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 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 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 third booth (theology), since He was perfect in everything.

In this interpretive analysis are shown the three stages of the spiritual life, purification, illumination, and deification (theosis), which constitute man's spiritual ascent on Mt. Tabor. Thus it is not a question of a geographical ascent, but of a figurative development. If we look carefully at the whole life of the Church, and the holy Fathers' teaching about salvation, we shall discover that they constantly speak of these three stages of the spiritual life, which constitute man's varied sharing in the grace of God. If the spiritual life does not have this reference and development, then it is being made an idol or moralized.

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 (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 thought and sentimental effusion, 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. (Source: The Feasts of the Lord)


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


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

+Father George