Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Today is the feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. In the Byzantine rite, this feast is very important--the revelation of Jesus as fully human and fully divine. It is the last feast of Christ celebrated in the liturgical year. It is also celebrated precisely 40 days before the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The gospel account tells us how Jesus conversed with Moses and Elijah (Mt 17:3). Here is a brief meditation from that struck me on this topic:
"What were they discussing, what were they speaking about? Scripture is silent, but we may wonder. Perhaps were they speaking about the coming passion of Christ, the suffering, the trial, the cross, and the tomb? The Church celebrates the transfiguration 40 days before the feast of the Cross, as if to show the inherent link between the feasts of the glory and the cross. If Jesus, Moses, and Elias were speaking about the coming passion, perhaps Christ is also showing something of his human nature, even as he reveals his divine nature? For a man lives in relation with others, and he has a need to put into words the events and mysteries of the past, the present, and the future. Before any important moment, do not we turn to our spouse, our family, and our friends and together seek to understand the presence of God and his will? In this way, perhaps Moses and Elias ministered unto Christ? Each had spoken to God intimately and with boldness before. Is it surprising that Christ would call upon them now as 'friends of God', friends of His, to speak of the coming Passover? The Lord acts naturally as a man, and humbly converses with his friends about the coming trial, even as his divinity is wondrously revealed to the disciples."
Christ revealed Himself, in His transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, as truly God and truly Man. Until then, His disciples had seen mostly the Man, but here they see both natures, fully present and fully Christ. In a way (to me), following the narrative of the (synoptic) gospels (in John, there seems to be no question of Jesus' divinity), the transfiguration marks a turning point in the mission of Christ. Or, rather, it is the peak of the journey to the cross. If Tabor is the peak, climbing up the mountain was most of Jesus' public ministry, healings, teachings, and miracles. After the transfiguration--the most clear sign to His three closest friends that He is truly God--Jesus' journey toward the cross quickens, as one descending a steep hill. In this sense, too, it makes sense that Jesus may have been discussing His passion with Moses and Elijah--the rest of His journey to the cross.
Three of His disciples did see Jesus "ascending to where He was before." And they were in awe. One of my favorite bible verses is from Matthew's story of the transfiguration. Peter (good old Peter) says to Jesus: "Lord, it is good that we should be here." And really, it is.
Troparion for the Feast You were transfigured on the mount
O Christ God,
revealing your glory to your disciples
as far as they could bear it.
Let your everlasting light
shine upon us sinners!
Through the prayers of the Theotokos
O Giver of Life,
glory to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment