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August 8, 2015

The Afterfeast of the Transfiguration

1. A few days ago, my Christian brethren, we celebrated the great Despotic Feast of the Transfiguration of our Savior Jesus Christ. This feast, great as it is, does not end on the same day it is celebrated, but it has a forefeast and an afterfeast. Now we are in its afterfeast.

We welcome every Despotic feast with fasting. And the fast of the first five days of August, as Balsamon says, is in expectation of the coming feast of the Transfiguration. Then, a day after the feast, begins the fast of the Mother of God for the feast on August 15th, although these two fasts have become consolidated and are regarded as one for the feast of our Panagia.

2. On the feast of the Transfiguration, my beloved, Jesus Christ made it known that He is God. This is what we believe about Christ. We believe that the Son of God became incarnate in the sanctified womb of our Panagia and truly took on a human nature. He is God and man, or in one word we can call Him the "God-man". In His one Person, or as we say in His one Hypostasis, the two natures, the divine and the human, became united. But the people didn't understand that Jesus Christ was God, not even His disciples, because His divine nature was covered by His human nature. On Mount Tabor, however, where the Transfiguration took place, He revealed His divinity, His divine glory. The Transfiguration of Christ proclaimed that He was truly God. This is why this feast is so great.

3. The Transfiguration of Christ, Christian brethren, took place before His crucifixion on the Cross. This shows us the purpose as to why Christ was transfigured. He was transfigured, that is He revealed His divinity, in order for His disciples, when they saw Him suffering on the Cross, to understand that He did so willingly and for our salvation. I repeat, the Transfiguration of Christ took place before His Passion, therefore, in order to reveal that He was God, and that He was suffering not out of weakness, but He did so willingly for our salvation. This is what we chant in the Kontakion for the feast:

You were transfigured upon the mount, O Christ our God, and Your disciples, in so far as they could bear, beheld Your glory. Thus, when they see You crucified, they may understand Your voluntary passion, and proclaim to the world that You are truly the effulgence of the Father.

4. But if the Transfiguration of Christ took place before His Passion, why do we celebrate it now in August and not in the Spring prior to the Passion of Christ? My Christians, even now in August we are celebrating the Transfiguration of Christ truly before His Passion. From the Transfiguration of Christ on August 6th, we begin a Forty Day preparation for the great feast of the Cross on September 14th. This is why during Matins on the feast of the Transfiguration we begin the chant the Katavasies in honor of the Cross that begin:

Inscribing the invincible weapon of the Cross upon the waters, Moses marked a straight line before him with his staff and divided the Red Sea, opening a path for Israel who went over dry land. Then he marked a second line across the waters and united them in one, overwhelming the chariots of Pharaoh. Therefore let us sing to Christ our God, for He has been glorified.

If you calculate from August 6th to September 14th, you will find that it comes to forty days. We have thus entered the Forty Day preparation period that will end on September 14th, when we will honor and celebrate the crucifixion of our Christ. For this feast of the Cross on September 14th is considered equal to Great and Holy Friday, and we fast strictly on this day, not even consuming oil. Thus our Church celebrates the Transfiguration before the Passion of Christ, as it really happened.

5. But let us go to Tabor, the mountain on which Christ was transfigured. When we say, my Christians, that Christ was transfigured, do not understand it to mean that He changed, that He became something else. No! Rather, He revealed who He truly is! He revealed His divinity, because He is truly God. The glory of His divinity shined.

My brethren, it is for this divine glory that we were created. God created humanity out of love, making us "in His image" and "according to His likeness", that we may share in His divine glory. Yes! We were not made to simply live a biological life - to get married, to bear offspring and then to die. Rather, along with this, and above all this, there is a deeper purpose to our lives, which is to discover God and be united with Him. "Theosis" is what we call this union with our God. We were born in order to enter into this Taboric Light. The saints, whose icons are before us, achieved this, which is why their heads are crowned with halos. The depiction of halos in icons is the depiction of this Taboric Light. It is the glory of the Transfigured Christ. Our saints are said to be "glorified". This is why the priest says "Our Holy Glorious Father..." when he commemorates a certain saint. And our saints are called "glorified" because they have partaken in the glory of God. This glory of God is called the "memory" of God. When we chant at a memorial or funeral "Eternal Memory", we are praying for the reposed, and not simply hoping that they will be remembered for eternity by those on earth who loved them, for we also who love them will also die. Rather, when we say "Eternal Memory" for the dead, it is our prayer that they may enter into God's memory (we say "remembering all the saints"), to enter His divine glory, and be glorified.

6. Please, my Christians, look at the icon of the Transfiguration of Christ. Christ is shining, His face is radiating, even His clothes are shining. Look also at the disciples who strangely aren't looking at Christ, but they are bent over while covering their faces with their hands. Why? Because they cannot bear the Light, the Taboric Light. Pentecost had not yet come. For this reason, the disciples received the Light of the Transfiguration "as they could bear", or as much as they were able and was possible for them, for they had not yet received the Grace of the Holy Spirit. And this is why the Gospel says the disciples were afraid when they saw the glory of Christ (c.f. Matt. 17:6).

But we, my beloved, have received this Light, we have received the Grace of the Holy Spirit. We received it at our Baptism. Then we took the Light, divine Light! As the grandmother said to her newly-baptized grandchild, "You are illumined, my child." This is why we carry lanterns at Baptisms, to depict this fact, that the baptized receive the Taboric Light, the Grace of the Holy Spirit. The bad thing that happens, my Christians, is that we lose this Grace of Baptism, because our works are impure. As the Holy Fathers say, and we have repeated many times, the pure and the impure cannot unite.

These things are impossible for God. Naturally! With our evil ways, and filthy thoughts and desires in our hearts, the Holy Spirit cannot abide there. Therefore, with our wicked ways after our Baptism, we lose the divine Light and become darkened. Now our purpose, as Christians, is to purify and cleanse our hearts of our sinful passions, that the divine Light may once again shine within us. "Purification" comes before "illumination". Our hearts must be purified in order for Christ, who said "I am the Light of the world" (Jn. 8:12), to come and dwell in our hearts to bring its brightening. "Illumination!"

7. My brethren, our spiritual life must be entirely an afterfeast of the Transfiguration of Christ: to hold this feast and struggle to achieve our purpose, namely to partake of the glory of Christ, the divine Light. All the divine events that took place for our salvation, we live and experience, brethren, in the Divine Liturgy. We also live and enjoy the Transfiguration of Christ, depending on the level of the purification of each of our hearts, in the Divine Liturgy. Yes! If someone who does not attend the Divine Liturgy asks you what you saw and took from the Divine Liturgy you attended, tell them: "We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit!" We witnessed the Transfiguration of Christ!

I pray, my Christians, that in this evil world that has been disfigured, we too will live transfigured, shining with the Grace of the Light of Christ. Amen.

With many blessings,

† The Metropolitan of Gortynos and Megalopolis, Jeremiah

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.