SERMON FOR THE SUNDAY AFTER THE TRANSFIGURATION, AUGUST 8, 2021
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is Transfigured!
Welcome to the Sunday after the Great Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ! We had a nice Vigil Service on Thursday evening and grace-filled Divine Liturgy with blessing of grapes and First Fruits on Friday morning. We will continue to celebrate this wonderful feast until Friday which is the leave-taking.
Today I’d like to begin by reminding us of the words to the Kontakion of the Feast:
“On the Mountain Thou wast Transfigured, O Christ God, and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could see it; so that when they would behold Thee crucified, they would understand that Thy suffering was voluntary, and would proclaim to the world, that Thou art truly the Radiance of the Father!”
Brothers and Sisters, what is the Transfiguration? Let me answer by saying this: The image of the Transfiguration is the most important image of Jesus Christ on earth! No one saw Christ’s descent into Hades. No one saw Christ’s resurrection. But here, on Mount Tabor, we join Peter, James and John, and witness the blindingly luminous image of Christ in glory. It is the image of the eschaton, the final events of the Divine economy. It is an image of the end of this dark and fallen world and a window of Light into the next. It is the most accurate memory the church has of Christ. This is the memory and the image of Christ in His fullness, above life and above death, as the doorway to the kingdom of heaven, as the brilliance of the Father, revealed by the Holy Spirit, resting in His saints, and inviting us into the brightness of His glory. We embark on this journey of divine discovery by placing ourselves on Mount Tabor with the weak and all-too human disciples of Jesus. They saw their Master in His divinity so that they could understand something more about Who He truly IS, and thus be better prepared to face his forthcoming Passion and Resurrection. By showing them His power and His glory, Christ told them essentially this: “This is who I really am. You'll see me beaten, tortured, and crucified. You'll see me die on a cross. But nature and death cannot confine me. I'll rise from the dead. I'll be glorious, and luminous, as you see me now. When I come back at the end of time, I will again be as you see me now, bathed in the light of my divinity. Until I return, remember my life, yes; but in particular remember me as you see me now. At all times remember that time, space, and death have no power over me. At all times remember that what I give you is the union of the complete nature of humanity with the complete nature of God. Remember me as I appear to you now, surrounded by the prophets of old who were brought here to see me and talk with me, brighter than the sun, singled out and recognized by my Father for Who I am, and it’s all for your sake. St. Maximos the Confessor writes that at this very moment, the disciples crossed over from the flesh to the spirit, at which time the veil of the passions which covers the nous was removed and then the mysteries of God were revealed to them. This is the mystery of the Transfiguration. And Jesus says to us: If you want to follow me in your life, you'll die many times and you'll be raised with me many times, but what you see right now will be your guiding Light, the compass for your death, your consolation and your promise unto eternal life.”
I’ll finish now by quoting St. Leo the Great who said: “Let not any one fear to suffer for righteousness' sake, or doubt the fulfilment of the promises for this reason: that through prolonged and fatiguing labor we pass to rest and through death to life; since all the weakness of our humility was assumed by Him, in Whom, if we continue to confess Him and to love Him, we will conquer as He conquered, and receive what he promised, because, whether we are performing His commandments or enduring adversities, the Father's prophetic voice should always be sounding in our ears, saying, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear Him: Who lives and reigns, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages. Amen.”