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August 6, 2020

The Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ (Prof. John Fountoulis)

By Professor John Fountoulis

Our Church celebrates the great despotic feast of the Transfiguration of the Savior on the 6th of August, and in the days that follow it, she still celebrates this feast and lives in the glittering glory of the transfigured Lord. The celebration will continue until the 13th of August, for eight days, when, on the 13th, the entire service of the feast will be repeated - the "apodosis of the feast" will take place. All the great despotic and theological feasts are celebrated in the same way. This is because they refer to events, the memory of which the Church wants to engrave deeply in the minds of the faithful. In other words, not only does she prepare her faithful with the pre-festal troparia, but also after the feast, for eight days, she incubates, in some way, the subjects and daily projects them for constant study and spiritual nourishment. Especially the faithful, who for various reasons could not attend the gathering of the people of God on the great day of the feast and relive the sacred event, they have the opportunity on Sunday, which will definitely fall into this eight-day period, to hear the hymns of the feast and to smell its aroma. In this way, along with the glory of the resurrection, the uncreated light of the transfigured Christ will be praised. At our entrance into the temple we will see and venerate in His icon the Lord of Glory, with His face shining like the sun, with white robes like the light, in the radiant glory of the Godhead, with the two representatives of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, and the three witnesses of the New Testament, Peter, James and John.

The charm of this feast is so great and so worthy of the supernatural event of the Transfiguration through the liturgical garment that our Church wears, that studying and immersing oneself in its mystery, one feels exactly the same feeling experienced by the three eye-witness apostles, the dazzle and the fear, but at the same time the greatness of the glory and the sweetness of the bright presence of Christ. The second feeling is so fascinating, that when one hears Peter's voice, "It is good for us to be here", one thinks that one hears both his own voice and the expression of his own desire. The hymns are theologically, musically and poetically sound, works of the most tried and tested hymn writers. The whole brilliant ritual creates an atmosphere similar to that of Tabor. That divine incident is now lived not only by the three disciples, but by the whole Church. All the people of God see the glory of Christ and are transformed with Him "from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord", according to the Apostle Paul. Because it is in this eschatological element that the theological justification in the event and the feast of the Transfiguration is found. It is not merely an affirmation of the divinity, power and glory of Christ, given to the chosen disciples to support them, so that in a little while they may witness His "sicknesses", his arrest, mockery, passion and death, wanting to assure them of the fact of the resurrection. It is at the same time and above all the enjoyment of glory, of the uncreated light of the Deity of Christ, of His dominion in the world of the living and the dead. It is in addition the image of the position of men, of God in the midst of gods, as it will appear at the end of the ages and as the Church foretastes it pre-transfigured from this earth into its wonderful and divine alternation and alteration.

For this very reason this feast connects the earthly and the heavenly worlds - as represented at Tabor by representatives of the dead and the living - of God and man, who coexist and manifest in the person of the transfigured Christ - today and tomorrow, the cross and glory, end and beginning. For this feast was placed last of the despotic feasts of the year, which then ended in August, to be concluded with the Exaltation of the Cross as the first feast of the year, which began in September. Exactly forty days before it, to mark the pre-feast of the Cross, since before the passion, the transfiguration took place, to show to the disciples and to all of us His Deity who in the future would be crucified. It is also the last of the despotic feasts of the year to close the annual events of the Lord's life with an opening to the eschaton, to the future presence of Christ, to the glory and divinity of the transfigured man in Christ, which is the finality and the purpose of the Savior's redemptive work.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.