August 5, 2013

The Apostle Peter and the Transfiguration of Christ

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The prophetic and apostolic texts are not the fruit of philosophical theories and reflections, but the fruit of revealed theology. That is, both the Prophets of the Old Testament and the Apostles of the New Testament saw the glory of God. Whilst the Prophets saw the Word of God before His Incarnation, the Apostles saw Christ after His Incarnation. Hence, it is this experience they recorded in their writings and led Christians with the content of this theology.

We see this in the apostolic reading which we read today in the church, because of the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ. It is a section from the Second Catholic Epistle of the Apostle Peter in which he refers to the experience of the Transfiguration that he had. It is known that the Apostle Peter was one of the three disciples who was worthy to be found at Tabor when Christ was transfigured in front of His disciples, where His face shone like the sun and His clothes were white as light.

Among other things, the Apostle Peter says that he did not come to know the power and presence of Christ through "cleverly devised stories", that is, through the imagination and through thoughts, but "we were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Pet. 1:16). He then makes reference to the great event of the Transfiguration of Christ, when he heard the voice of the Father say: "This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased." He heard this voice, he says, "when we were with Him on the sacred mountain" (2 Pet. 1:17, 18). Thus, what he says is the fruit of revealed theology and not philosophy and moralism.

With this experience the Apostle Peter directed Christians and his advice was inspired by this great revealed truth. He did not teach Christians with human reasoning and did not give them human advice, nor were his words based on a social and moral teaching to become good people and good citizens. This is shown in the same apostolic text, which we read today in the Divine Liturgy.

Among other things he says to Christians: "Make every effort to confirm your calling and election" (2 Pet. 1:10). That is, there is a need for great hustle and struggle for Christians to know and live their calling and their election. Man, immediately after his creation, was called by God to reach His likeness, to be united with God. This is the great call and the great election. For this reason Basil the Great says that man is called to be a god, that is, he is called to become a god by grace. When man sees his calling and his election, and strives to fulfill it, in the way the Orthodox Church teaches, then he "will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:11).

From this it seems, my beloved brethren, that we have been formed for great and high things, for eternal and inalienable goods. We were not created by God to have good times in this life and live only a biological, social and family life. God must be the center of our lives. We must realize this, because only this can change our life and everything we now live will gain another perspective and another meaning.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasis, "Εορτή Μεταμορφώσεως", August 2000. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.