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August 7, 2021

Homily One on the Transfiguration of the Lord (St. Chrysostomos of Smyrna)

By the Holy Hieromartyr Chrysostomos, 
Metropolitan of Smyrna

(Delivered in 1911)

"And he was transfigured before them: his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elijah talking with him." (Matt. 17:2-3)

This feast is the preeminent feast of the glory of the Lord, in a way it is the Resurrection before the Resurrection, for on this unique day in His life it pleased Jesus to reveal to His three foremost disciples, Peter, James and John, although faintly, His extraordinary beauty and the brilliant rays of His supernatural radiance and the majesty of that glory, which was hidden throughout the thirty years of His earthly life under the humble enclosure of His human flesh, in which the Only-begotten Son and Word of God dwelt among men.

This feast, in which we celebrate the commemoration of the supernatural and wondrous Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor, clearly proclaims in a way, or sensibly and palpably proves, the Divinity of the Lord Jesus and testifies to His divine majesty, that He is greater than Moses as a Prophet, more glorious than David as a King, and higher than Aaron as a High Priest, and because of this His first Disciples and Apostles followed Him and went out to call the Nations as well, as the Apostle Peter testifies, saying: "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Pet. 1:16).

Although this day is the preeminent feast of the glory and brilliance of the Lord, this day was for Jesus the day He spoke about the grief and afflictions, the cross and the passion, the death and departure, for on this day there appeared from among the dead representatives of the Old Testament, the God-seeing Moses representing the Law, and the zealot Elijah representing the Prophets, conversing with Christ, which was testified by those standing with Him on earth by the first and foremost three Apostles, and in heaven by God the Father who spoke from the cloud, which was a type of the Holy Spirit.

The whole conversation did not turn to a more endearing and happy subject but "they spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem" (Lk. 9:31). This contains and displays the great and comforting lesson, that glory and blessedness, that a luminous halo and immortality, that undefiled radiance and majesty are the sweet fruit of the passion, the sorrows, and the Cross. Tabor and Golgotha, glory and the passion, the departure and the transfiguration, the Garden of Gethsemane - where the struggle with death began - and the peak of the Mount of Olives - where the glorious Ascension took place, the Cross and the Resurrection were not only for the Lord of Glory but for all, and especially for the nations and peoples, inseparable from each other.

And those who want the glory and the crowns, those who dream of the change for the better and the mysterious transformation of our debased and slavish state to that of a state of luminous glory and freedom, and thirst and desire for the Resurrection and life, it would benefit you to walk towards the dangers and the toils, towards the Cross and Golgotha, which bring with them the difficult and hard and rough path of duty and virtue, and through self-denial and martyrdom you will enter into the possession of the throne of your dreams.

With such a meaning do we study today's feast, and will explore its words deeper: because when, where and how Jesus transfigured before His Disciples, and "his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light", seems like a truth and lesson of utmost importance, from which we will try to derive benefit as well.

Source: Ἱερὸς Πολύκαρπος Ἔτος Α΄, Σμύρνη, ἀρ. 18, 6.8.1911, σσ. 274-275 and Λόγοι ευσέβειας: Γραπτά κηρύγματα εις δεσποτικάς εορτάς, 1η έκδ., Θεσσαλονίκη, Μυγδονία, 2000. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.