Transfiguring Our Lives
By Dr. Spiros Lazarou
Christ did not come simply to teach man, but to transfigure him, to re-adorn human nature in light, divine light, the glory of the Father. This final purpose for man is revealed in Christ’s transfiguration on the mount, this foretaste of the glorious future visible Theophany. Indeed, ultimately the Church’s work is to prepare us all for the vision of God that we are all going to have. For some this will be an experience of joy, life and paradise. But for others it will be an experience of hell, fire and brimstone as it was for the Sodomites and the Gomorites.
The ascent on the Mt of Transfiguration occurred during Christ’s journey to Jerusalem after His final decision to endure death by crucifixion. The subject of His discussion with Moses and Elijah according to Luke was exactly the subject of His exodus or Passover, His martyric death. The final liberation of man from death would be accomplished through the defeat of death on the cross and His glorious resurrection.
This transfiguration of man is accomplished through the Cross. The means by which man can make the uncreated divine light of transfiguration his own is by wholly embracing the Cross of Christ. It is in this way that the glory of God mystically permeates all of life and transfigures the whole world.
Additionally, Luke points out that the context of this ascent was prayer, for Jesus ascended to the Mt to pray and while doing so He was transfigured. It was exactly at the moment of communing in the love of the Holy Trinity that all things brightened.
In the atmosphere of prayer in the Church whose head is Christ the mystical light of transfiguration is revealed. Here the faithful gaze upon the light of His face, they sense the radiance of the uncreated energies of the Holy Spirit fill their being, they commune the mystery of love of the Holy Trinity, they sense their lives elevated to another plane.
Peter was so moved by this vision that he wanted to permanently secure this event and as a practical man suggested the quick construction of dwellings there. But He is cut off by the voice of the Father who tells them to listen to His son. Wonderful spiritual experiences seal our lives but their effects do not seem to last long. The hours of deep spiritual experience in worship are not given as an escape from the hardship of ministry and service, and our personal ascent to our own Cross on Golgotha. Their purpose is to strengthen our resolve and stabilize our steps and ascent there. They strengthen us against temptations by giving us a foretaste of the victory that awaits us so as to encourage our hearts for the battles in the continuous spiritual war that we are in that is not fought with carnal weapons and is primarily the result of the wickedness that lies in ourselves.
So we are given a foretaste of His glorious presence but not so that we can stay in the good feelings of ecstacy but so that when we are alone with Christ before the caiaphas’ and pilates’ of this world we will stand firm in our resolve to follow Him through the difficult battles of this ongoing war. Christ, in taking upon Himself human nature became what He was not that we might become what we are not; He became human that we might become divine. This is the nature of love.
Our whole life is an ascent. The passions as passive are the road without struggle, they are the down hill road of ease. But the life of love which is the only truly creative life is a life of struggle. He who does not wish to suffer pain does not wish to love. Love is suffering in the heart, a constant crucifixion of our own desires for the other, first the ultimate Other and through Him my neighbor. This crucifixion of self is not exhausted simply in doing but first in being. Being a witness of Truth we bare witness to the way of life of Christ as constant self offering, as constantly denying self and making the life of others our own – becoming who we are not so that they too can become who they are not.
Learn that the 6 days after our Lord just revealed to His disciples the mystery of the Cross His ascent to the mountain occurs. These 6 days are the 6 days of creation. The created world is not made as an end in itself but is the means through which we ascend to our vision of God. Any other purpose of the created reduces them to idols. This prevents us from seeing the face of Christ and, hence, our lack of assurance of salvation as Peter tells us. Only then are the Law and the Prophets seen as all pointing to Christ, otherwise like the Pharisees and the Saducees in the name of God we crucify Him in our brothers and our neighbors. Learn also that when you meet someone who has properly interpreted the Scriptures he has seen the face of God. Because when he explains he illumines the meaning of words and sees clearly the bright and white clothes of Christ. Words are the garments of meanings. But we must not do as Peter did and be satiated because there is no end to glory and to our progress in it. We cannot stay in the same place but must press on to the goal set before us.
In the liturgy we have a foretaste of the beauty of the world and its destiny, the incomparable glory of the world to come where every breath shall eternally give glory and praise to the triune God. In the liturgy we are inducted into how we are to live the rest of the week; offering all things up to God, especially ourselves, in thanksgiving and receiving all back full of His life. In the Resurrection all things have been restored. It remains now for each human to appropriate this work of Christ for himself. This is a free, an uncoerced decision that is initiated with repentance. A profound change in the depths our being from an orientation to self to an orientation to The triune God and neighbor, through whom we meet and see God. May Panagia bless your efforts this period the Church offers us for renewal that you may say like her, not my will but yours. Amen!
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Our Orthodox Faith
Reflections To Comfort Us During these Uncertain Days