The Feast of Transfiguration of Our Lord

Written By: on Jun 21st, 2009 and filed under Articles, We Believe.

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 Savior, 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. (Ex 24:12-18; 33:11-34:8; 1 Kings 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 pre-figurative 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 both 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 Savior 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.

The feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated in most of the Orthodox Churches on the sixth of August. In the Gospel, the event of Transfiguration happens before the Death and Resurrection of our Lord. Then why we celebrate the feast after Pentecost at this period, and why particular on 6th August? There are both theological and historical reasons. The theological reason is that, transfiguration is possible only through the sacramental life and witness of the Church in Christ. The Church after Pentecost specially represents the sacramental body of Christ as well as it witnesses Him from generations to generations. The transfiguration and transformation of the Church, as a community of believers, is happening through this processes of witnessing Him in sacramental life. Virgin Mary the Mother of God, the most effective symbol of the Church, been transfigured and transformed to Divine Kingdom as the first and true model for all the Church. This is been celebrated on fifteenth of August.

The historical reason should be that the Romans as well as the Byzantines were having their great summer fest at this time. The summer celebration of the feast, however, has lent itself very well to the theme of transfiguration. Their tradition of 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.

However, the importance of the Feast of Transfiguration should be acknowledged in the Church. Our parishes, Monasteries and other spiritual institutions must celebrate this feast of our Lord in its full meaning and application in the life of our believers. Because, according to the Fathers, it is, undoubtedly, even the for-taste of the kingdom of God.

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