The Feast of the Holy 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,



Saint John Chrysostom says that Christ did not show His whole divinity, but a small energy of it. And He did this, on the one hand, to give information about what the Divine Glory of the Kingdom is like, and on the other hand, out of love for mankind, lest they even lose their life on seeing the full glory of the Godhead. Therefore the mystery of the Transfiguration is both a revelation of the Kingdom and an expression of God's love and His philanthropy.

It is said in the liturgical texts that during the Transfiguration Christ deified the human nature which He assumed. But this is said with a definite meaning and does not mean that it was only then that human nature was deified. According to Saint John of Damascus, human nature was deified (theosis) by the hypostatic union and communion with God the Logos/Word which came about from the moment of His conception in the womb of the Theotokos on the day of the Annunciation (Evaggelismos). At that moment the Divinity deified (theosis) the human nature, while the human nature was deified (Saint Gregory the Theologian). During the Transfiguration of Christ this human nature, deified by its assumption by God the Logos/Word, was made manifest to the Disciples. Previously it was unknown, now it became manifest. It is in this sense that several troparia (hymns) speak about the deification (theosis) of human nature during the Transfiguration.

This very fact leads us to the view that on Mt. Tabor we do not have only a Transfiguration, a revelation of Christ, because He really showed some rays of His Divinity then, but we also have a transformation of the Disciples. The Disciples were granted to see the deification (theosis) of the human nature of Christ, precisely because they themselves were transfigured. The Holy Fathers speak of a change in the Disciples. "They were changed, and so they saw a change" (Saint Gregory Palamas). This means that there was a change, a Transfiguration of Christ, but this became known because there was also a change, a transfiguration of the Disciples.

The transfiguration of the Disciples took place in their whole psychosomatic (soul and body) being. The Disciples did not see the Divine Light only with their nous, which is the eye of the soul, but also with those bodily senses which had previously been empowered by the Uncreated Energy of God and transfigured in order to see it. The bodily eyes are blind to God's Light since man's eyes are created and cannot see the uncreated Light. This is why they were changed by God's action and granted to see the Glory of God (Saint Gregory Palamas).

Christ went up to Mt. Tabor in order to show the Glory of His Divinity. This could also have taken place on a plain in a remote place. But why did He prefer the mountain?

In early times all the great events usually took place on a higher place, on high and low mountains, just as the pagans also used to do, who performed their sacrifices on the mountains. Christ showed the magnitude of His Glory on Mt. Tabor, for the manifestation of the deification (theosis) of human nature is the greatest event in the history of mankind.

Then, as Christ said, He came to seek the sheep that had gone astray, which was lost on the mountain. So Christ went up on the mountain to show that He had found the sheep that had gone astray and freed it from sin and the devil, that he was the True Shepherd of men (Saint Gregory the Theologian).

Again, His going up on the mountain shows that all who want to see the glory of the Divinity in the human nature of the Logos/Word must come out of lowness, leave the low things and go up high, that is to say, they must be purified of all the earthly things that keep them bound to the earth.

Christ's Transfiguration took place during the day. The Disciples saw two suns, sensory and noetic. In one of his troparia (hymns), Saint John of Damascos writes: "The visible sun was eclipsed by the rays of Thy Divinity when it saw three transfigured on Mount Tabor, O my Jesus." That is to say, the sun of the senses was hidden and made to disappear by the rays of Christ's Divinity. Perhaps at first, they saw two lights, the created and the Uncreated, as the Saints say who have such experiences, but when they saw a greater energy of the Divinity, they lost the sensory sun completely. Saint Isaac the Syrian says that the Disciples on Mt. Tabor saw two suns "one is the sky as usual and one contrary to the usual!"

Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite says that on Mt, Tabor at the time of Christ's Transfiguration there was a great and frightful sight. First, because two suns rose, something which creation had never known. It is not a question of one sun, the so-called perihelion, the image of the sun appearing before sunrise, and then the real sun appearing, but of two suns, and indeed at midday. Secondly, it is a frightful sight because one is the sun known to our senses rising from the heavens and the other is intelligible, rising from the earth. This second sun was incomparably higher than the sensible sun, which rose from the heavens. And just as with the rising of the sensible sun all the stars in the sky disappear, so too the rays of the sensible sun disappeared with the rising of the Sun of Righteousness.

To be sure, not all men saw the Glory of the intelligible sun at that moment, but only the Disciples and the Prophets who appeared. Saint Gregory Palamas says that the sensible sun is seen by all who dwell on the earth, apart, of course, from anyone who is blind, while the intelligible sun of Righteousness is seen by those who are worthy and prepared. And analyzing this thought of his, he says that since the sensible sun has no soul or reason or will, all men see it, while the noetic sun has not only a nature and a natural brightness and glory, but also a prepared will and therefore it is manifested to anyone it wishes and as long as it wishes. Therefore, the intelligible and uncreated Light is seen by all to whom God grants this experience since God reveals Himself to those He wishes, and this revelation is according to the spiritual condition of the people who are granted it. (Source: The Feasts of the Lord. An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology by His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos HIEROTHEOS)

(To be continued)


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


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

+Father George