9th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST — Tone 8. The Holy Transfiguration of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ
Tone 7 Troparion
You were transfigured on the mountain, O Christ God, revealing Your glory to Your Disciples as far as they could bear it. Let Your everlasting Light also shine upon us sinners, through the prayers of the Theotokos!// O Giver of Light, glory to You!
Tone 7 Kontakion
On the mountain You were transfigured, O Christ God, and Your Disciples beheld Your glory as far as they could see it; so that when they would behold You crucified, they would understand that Your suffering was voluntary, and would proclaim to the world// that You are truly the Radiance of the Father.
Tone 4 Prokeimenon
O Lord, how manifold are Your works; / in wisdom have You made them all. (Ps. 103:26)
V. Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord, my God, You are very great! (Ps. 103:1)
2 Peter 1:10-19 (Epistle, Transfiguration)
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
V. The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours! (Ps. 88:11a)
V. Blessed are the people who know the festal shout! (Ps. 88:14b)
Matthew 17:1-9 (Gospel, Transfiguration)
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
The transfiguration of Christ is one of the central events recorded in the gospels. Immediately after the Lord was recognized by His apostles as “the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the Living God,” He told them that “He must go up to Jerusalem and suffer many things . . . and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16). The announcement of Christ’s approaching passion and death was met with indignation by the disciples. And then, after rebuking them, the Lord took Peter, James, and John “up to a high mountain”—by tradition Mount Tabor—and was “transfigured before them.”
The Jewish Festival of Booths was a feast of the dwelling of God with men, and the transfiguration of Christ reveals how this dwelling takes place in and through the Messiah, the Son of God in human flesh. There is little doubt that Christ’s transfiguration took place at the time of the Festival of Booths, and that the celebration of the event in the Christian Church became the New Testamental fulfillment of the Old Testamental feast in a way similar to the feasts of Passover and Pentecost.
In the Transfiguration, the apostles see the glory of the Kingdom of God present in majesty in the person of Christ they see that “in Him, indeed, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” that “in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 1.19, 2.9). They see this before the crucifixion so that in the resurrection they might know Who it is Who has suffered for them, and what it is that this one, Who is God, has prepared for those who love Him. This is what the Church celebrates in the feast of the Transfiguration.
Thou wast transfigured on the mount. O Christ God, revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as they could bear it. Let Thine everlasting light shine upon us sinners. Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Giver of Light, glory to Thee (Troparion).
Besides the fundamental meaning which the event of the Transfiguration has in the context of the life and mission of Christ, and in addition to the theme of the glory of God which is revealed in all of its divine splendor in the face of the Saviour, the presence of Moses and Elijah is also of great significance for the understanding and celebration of the feast. Many of the hymns refer to these two leading figures of the Old Covenant as do the three scripture readings of Vespers which tell of the manifestation of the glory of God to these holy men of old (Ex 24.12–18; 33.11–34.8; 1 Kg 19.3–16).
Moses and Elijah, according to the liturgical verses, are not only the greatest figures of the Old Testament who now come to worship the Son of God in glory, they also are not merely two of the holy men to whom God has revealed himself in the prefigurative theophanies of the Old Covenant of Israel. These two figures actually stand for the Old Testament itself: Moses for the Law and Elijah for the Prophets. And Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (Mt 5.17).
They also stand for the living and dead, for Moses died and his burial place is known, while Elijah was taken alive into heaven in order to appear again to announce the time of God’s salvation in Christ the Messiah.
Thus, in appearing with Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah show that the Messiah Saviour is here, and that He is the Son of God to Whom the Father Himself bears witness, the Lord of all creation, of the Old and New Testaments, of the living and the dead. The Transfiguration of Christ in itself is the fulfillment of all of the theophanies and manifestations of God, a fulfillment made perfect and complete in the person of Christ. The Transfiguration of Christ reveals to us our ultimate destiny as Christians, the ultimate destiny of all men and all creation to be transformed and glorified by the majestic splendor of God Himself.
There is little doubt that the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ belonged first to the pre-Easter season of the Church. It was perhaps celebrated on one of the Sundays of Lent, for besides certain historical evidence and the fact that today St Gregory Palamas, the great teacher of the Transfiguration of Christ, is commemorated during Lent, the event itself is one which is definitely connected with the approaching death and resurrection of the Saviour.
The feast of the Transfiguration is presently celebrated on the sixth of August, probably for some historical reason. The summer celebration of the feast, however, has lent itself very well to the theme of transfiguration. The blessing of grapes, as well as other fruits and vegetables on this day is the most beautiful and adequate sign of the final transfiguration of all things in Christ. It signifies the ultimate flowering and fruitfulness of all creation in the paradise of God’s unending Kingdom of Life where all will he transformed by the glory of the Lord.
Protopresbyter Georgios Dorbarakis
Faith in Christ is principally a matter of the heart, and then of reason. The Lord didn’t say, ‘If you understand me’, but ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’. This means that we can understand him to the degree that we try to love him. Our love for him, expressed as observance of his commandments, opens the door for him to come and dwell in our soul and body, so that understanding him becomes a matter of experience- the believer is literally taught by God. And, in any case, this is what he promised: the moment we keep his commandments, he appears within us; the whole of the Holy Trinity finds a ‘site’ to build a monastery. And his fundamental commandment is to have faith in him: ‘Believe in God and believe in me’. Everything to do with faith is bound up with love for his person. Loving Christ means believing in him, and believing in him means loving him. Of course, this love isn’t an autonomous move on our part. We don’t love Christ all by ourselves. Our love’s a response to his love- ‘we love because he first loved us’. This is why its characteristic is humility. Without him we can do nothing. Saint Paul expresses this experiential truth in a unique way: ‘That which I experience in my body now is my faith in Christ, the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me’. If we don’t believe in Christ, and therefore don’t love him, then this is because we haven’t felt how much he loved and loves us….