Appearance of the Kingdom of God
Bishop Alexander (Mileant).
Translated by Dimitry Baranov/ Father German Ciuba
Contents: The Event of Transfiguration of Our Lord. Nature of the Light of Tabor. Divine Service of the Feast of Transfiguration. Canon of Transfiguration. Tradition of Consecration of Grapes. Conclusion.
Everybody instinctively longs for happiness. But often one does not know what happiness is, and searches in places where there is no happiness and where it cannot be. By His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated that real happiness lies in union with God. In such union the entire essence of a human changes, or transfigures: unspeakable peace, harmony and joy settle in the soul; the intellect receives enlightenment, and all abilities of a person reach their utmost extent; the soul fills with Divine light and becomes godlike. Now the Kingdom of God enters the human.
Transfiguration of Our Saviour was a revelation of the highest grace of the Kingdom of God "coming with power." Not physical but spiritual light of Christ's Divine nature, by then hidden under the veil of His human flesh, shone on Mount Tabor. The miracle was that the scales, concealing the spiritual world, fell from the Apostles' physical eyes, and with their spiritual eyes they saw Christ in His Divine Power. Then their hearts were filled with the beatitude they had never experienced before.
Since the Holy Ghost came upon the Apostles and until today, many Christians, especially saints, have joined the Miracle of Tabor, being honored with seeing the gleams of the Divine Light. Those were always unforgettable and most happy moments of their lives. However, the Divine light is not the realm of the few chosen. First coming at the time of the Holy Baptism, it mysteriously resides in every Christian since then. It strengthens up in line with a Christian's improvement and approach to God, specifically after the Holy Communion.
For humans not to fall to laziness and pride, it is not given to them to feel the entire joy of communion with God, which shall be the reward in the world to come. Still the Divine light rests in zealous Christians, and at times Lord out of His Grace gives us to feel this special joy of communion with Him. Such communion is perceived as shining of a mysterious light inside a person. This shining brings forward the particular unforgettable bliss, inexplicable to those who has never experienced it. Compared to it, all worldly joys seem scanty and miserable. We believe that the eternal life will start after this temporary world, and 'Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father' (Matt 13:43).
In this brochure we will discuss the event of Transfiguration of Our Saviour, read Saint Fathers' quotations on the nature of the light of Tabor and its meaning in a life of a Christian, and then tell in brief about the Divine Service on the Feast of Transfiguration, read the English language translation of the canon of mattins, and explain the meaning of consecration of grapes and apples on the Feast of transfiguration. In the conclusion we will speak on the strengthening of spiritual light in ourselves, that is, on the internal transfiguration.
The Event of Transfiguration
The Transfiguration of Lord Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor, where His appearance changed and became light-like, is described by Evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke. The Transfiguration took place six days after the Saviour had told about His forthcoming Sufferings on the Cross. The Crucifixion followed in about forty days after Transfiguration. The evangelist Matthew described Our Saviour's Transfiguration as follows:
"And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them" (Matt 17:1-12).
The place of Transfiguration is not named by any of the Evangelists, but the ancient tradition unanimously points at Tabor, a mountain in Galilee, six kilometers south-east of Nazareth. Jesus Christ spent His youth not far from this mountain and probably many times climbed it and prayed on its top. About one kilometer high, Mount Tabor stately rises above surrounding plains and attracts looks of wayfarers in every direction. From its top a view opens to the Sea of Galilee and the River Jordan lying in the east of it. The mountain is covered with magnificent oaks and pistachio trees from foot to middle.
The Saviour did not bring all His disciples up to the mountain, but only three of them (Peter, James and his brother John the Theologian), while the others stayed at the foot of the mountain. Going uphill was tiring, and the Apostles accompanying Christ lied down for rest and dozed off; the Saviour started praying. During the prayer, the looks of Our Saviour changed: His face shone as the sun, and His clothes became white as the light. The bright light woke up the Apostles and they saw Their Teacher in His heavenly glory of the Son of God. His Divinity shone through His flesh and clothing.
Looking at the Saviour in astonishment, the Apostles saw two unfamiliar figures who, as it turned up later, were ancient prophets Moses and Elias coming to Christ from the world invisible. The Evangelists do not explain why these two prophets came. Supposedly, the coming of the two most authoritative Old Testament righteous people was the evidence of Christ's Divinity for the Apostles and for all Jews. First of all, until that time the rumor had been widespread among common people that Jesus Christ was either Elias, or another ancient prophet risen. The appearance of Elias and Moses witnessed the absurdity of this opinion. The prophets were actually talking to Christ as Messiah and Son of God. Moreover, many of the Jews accused Christ of disregarding the Law and even blasphemously and wrongfully assuming the honor of the Son of God (John 9:16; 10:33), and the appearance of these two most ardent champions of the glory of Jehovah had to convince everyone that Christ really was the promised Messiah and that all His statements were true. It was obvious that Moses who had written the Book of the Law, would not have tolerated any infringement of this Law and would not have stood before the infringer in reverence. And Elias, who had once burnt Jehovah's enemies with fire from heaven, would not have stood humbly before the One Who said He was equal to God Father if He had not been such (Jesus said, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). The reading on Elias can be found in 2 Kings 1:10).
The appearance of the ancient prophets who had gone to the better world must convince us the Christians that the life of a human does not end with the death, and that the souls of those who died are not sleeping, as some sectarians erroneously teach, but are awaken, living a full-scale spiritual life. Jesus Christ has power over life and death, as He says, "I have the keys of hell and of death" (Rev. 1:18).
The conversation of Moses and Elias with Christ was to encourage the Apostles and strengthen their faith in Christ when the Suffering on the Cross was close ahead. The Apostles indeed thought about their Teacher's suffering as humiliation and dishonor, but the prophets called it "glory" that He intended to manifest in Jerusalem. And right before the Crucifixion the Saviour viewed the impending suffering and dishonorable death as the beginning of glorification of His Father and Himself as the Saviour of the mankind; He said, "Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify Thee" (John 17:1).
The special graceful state of the Apostles during the Saviour's Transfiguration was expressed by Saint Peter who said, "Lord, it is good for us to be here!" Delighted by the glorious vision, Peter wished that it would last, and last forever, if possible. So Peter suggested to the Saviour to make three tabernacles, or pavilions, on the top of the mountain (Jews and other oriental people made 'tabernacles' by digging a pole in the ground, stretching ropes from its top to pegs driven at a certain distance around it, and covering up with fabric; sometimes skins or leaves and bark were used instead). The Apostle Peter did not want to come back to the insidious and malicious world where his Teacher was threatened by suffering and death.
As the Evangelists say, at that moment everyone on the mountain was overshadowed by a bright cloud, which indicated the presence of God the Father (a dark cloud is symbol and sign of God the Just Judge (Ex. 24:18; 19:18), while a bright cloud is the symbol and sign of the presence of God Merciful. A similar bright cloud, called shekina in the Bible, was at times seen above the Sanctuary, the main part of the Judean temple (1 Kings 8:10-11; Ezek 1:4; 10:4), and a mysterious voice was heard from the cloud like it was during Theophany, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," and also, "Hear Him." These last words were to remind to the Apostles Moses' ancient prophesy of the Forthcoming Great Prophet Who would herald God's will to the Jews. "Whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him," says God in Deuteronomy 18:19. So here on Tabor fifteen hundred years later God Father gave the evidence of Moses' prophesy about the Messiah as the Greatest of prophets.
Hearing the voice from the cloud, the disciples fell on the ground in fear. Everything was unusual for them here on the mountain: the seclusion and height of the place, the deep silence of nature, the appearance of the prophets of the past, the light of extreme brightness and finally the voice of God Father Himself.
When they were coming down, Jesus forbade the Apostles to tell anyone what had happened on the mountain until His rising from the dead. The Lord transfigured in order to affirm to His trusted disciples that He indeed was the Messiah. Still it was too early to tell about the Transfiguration to the Jewish public at large whose senses would anticipate the Messiah as a powerful king and conqueror. One of the eye witnesses of this event, Apostle Peter, later recalled it as unquestionably trustworthy and brought it forth as proof of Christ's divine nature (2 Peter 1:16-18).
Nature of the Light of Tabor
The Saviour's Transfiguration on Tabor was perceived by His disciples as light. It was not a flux of luminous physical particles, but something else similar to light. This light shone brighter than sun, it warmed but burned not. Its shining was accompanied with sensation of extraordinary peace and joy. It was the vision of the future bliss of heaven.
The word light in the Holy Scripture is often applied to God and things caused by God: truth, moral commandments and good deeds. In this case the word light might be understood as allegory for something kind and life-giving. Indeed, what sunlight is for the physical world, that God is for the world of spirit. Light enables us to see and cognize the world, to move, to develop, to create. Light gives warmth and life to all nature. Without the sun, our planet would turn into a lifeless, gloomy ice block.
In a like way God is the light for spiritual creatures: angels and humans. He enlightens our mind with His truth; He gives us the highest spiritual knowledge; He pours energy and inspiration into us; He warms our hearts with love; He guides our lives to the good goal. We receive all spiritual comforts from God. Moving away from God, our soul sinks in the darkness and perishes.
That is how people of spiritual life perceived their communion with God: "With thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light" (Ps. 36:9); "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105). Very often the coming of the Messiah was apprehended as spiritual light: "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" (Is. 9:2). "I am the light of the world," said Jesus to the Jews, "he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life... Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light" (John 8:12; 12:35-36). In a similar way, St. John the Theologian says that love and good works are "walking in light" and "having light."
In some places of the Holy Scripture the word light applies to God not allegorically but in expressions, which apparently describe His very nature, as in the following quotations. "Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment" (Ps 104:2). The Apostle James calls God "the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). The Apostle John writes, "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5-7). The Apostle Paul says that God is "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Tim 6:16). The Book of Revelation reads, "And the city (New Jerusalem) had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it... And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light" (Rev. 21:23-24; 22:4-5).
The nature of the light on Mount Tabor was in great detail discussed by Saint Gregory Palama (1296-1356) who had to advocate the Orthodox teaching of spiritual light against learned monks Barlaam, Akindine and their followers. It was in the epoch of Renaissance when paganism was revitalized in arts, thinking and morals. Philosophers were returning to the heathen understanding of God as transcendent out-of-the-world incomprehensible and inaccessible Absolute. Based on this non-Christian concept of God, Barlaam and Akindine insisted that on Mount Tabor Apostles could not have seen God, but had seen normal physical light.
Gregory Palama opposed that the light on Tabor was only similar to physical light but was totally different by nature. That light shone brighter than sunlight and was whiter than snow, but still it did not cause blindness; it warmed without burning. Its shining was accompanied by the sensation of great felicity. Unlike regular light, the light of Tabor was called by St. Gregory Palama 'unmade divine energy.' The substance of this light was inseparable from the eternal substance of God because God is indivisible. God is not comprehensible in His substance, but still His actions and energy, being inseparable from His divine essence, are comprehensible for us created in His image, after His likeness. And the Son of God became a man in order to associate us into His Divine nature, to deify us. We sense God's presence with our soul, not our fleshly eyes. St. Gregory Palama explains that the ability to see the Divine light is delivered to a human by the Holy Ghost who translates one from the state of flesh to the state of spirit (Homily 34 On Transfiguration). It is like a curtain falling down from the eyes of the seer at the moment of the vision, making him able to see the divine shining. Action of the spiritual light in this life touches the soul. But in the future life it will also extend to the renewed bodies of the righteous, as it is said, "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."
The nature of the graceful light ("divine energy") is mysterious and inexplicable as well as the substance of the Creator. However it can be distinctly tangible when the Merciful God permits a human to see the divine light. Then the human feels the heavenly bliss, and all worldly joys compared to it are null.
St. Gregory Palama also writes that on Mount Tabor Christ half-opened His divinity before the Apostles and showed God dwelling in Him, because He is Light from eternity. The skin of Moses' face once shone when God was speaking with him on Mount Sinai. But what happened to him was the effect of God's power on him and thus this shining was, so say, passive, not being caused by internal power inherent to him (i.e. Moses was only reflecting God's light). But the Lord Jesus Christ's shining was inside Himself. On Mount Tabor He manifested to the Apostles the glory of His Divinity. He shone while during prayer, and thus taught us what would be for saints the prerequisite for receiving and the manner of seeing God's light (Discussions from Homilies 34 and 35).
Many righteous people were honored with seeing the light like that on Mount Tabor. In the Holy Scripture and writings of the Holy Fathers the graceful light is described mostly as an internal condition received through prayer, contemplation about God, and particularly Holy Communion. Experienced internally, it is at the same time as real as the visible physical light. External shining of this light is a rarer phenomenon. However, writings of saints contain descriptions of external manifestations of this immaterial Divine light when the zealot's very body and clothes become shining. Visible light was many times described in the Lives of Saints of 4th-6th centuries, Lavsaik and Spiritual Meadow. Here we will cite several cases described by eye witnesses. "Abba Pamvo's face was shining as lightning and he was as king sitting on his throne." Before death of Abba Sisoi, monks came to say good-bye to him and suddenly saw his face shining as the sun. Someone met Abba Siluan and prostrated himself because Abba's face and body were bright as an angel. A brother came to Abba Arsenius' cell in a secluded monastery, looked through the doorway and saw that the elder was all like fiery. Wonderful light that shone in Sergius of Radonezh attracted everyone who had seen him even once. At the time of singing prayer 'Here we sing to Thee' all the present saw fire, "as if it fell from heaven and moved over the Altar Table, shining all around the altar," and surrounded Sergius while he was doing the rite. During Eucharist, divine fire entered the chalice and reverend Sergius received it in Communion. St. Seraphim's admirer Motovilov saw him in heavenly light and said, "I cannot look at you, father, because lightning is pouring from your eyes. Your face has become brighter than sun and my eyes ache."
Visitors of Elder Ambrosius in Optina also sometimes saw him shining. Bishop Theophan the Anchorite and St. Righteous Father John of Kronschtadt were seen with their faces shining. Father John stood before God like before the sun; feeling the inexpressible brilliance of divine light, he closed his eyes and clearly experienced sojourning in the beams of this light, sensed their warmth, joy, and proximity to Christ the Saviour. Out of God's grace, his face had splendor like angel's face, and people wanted to look at him (Note: Attention must be paid to stories of people who had died and then returned to life; after their death they arrived in a world of light and there experienced remarkable peace and joy. Many descriptions of this were collected by Raymond A. Moody, Jr., MD, in his book "Life after Life." Also see Iskul's brochure "Event Incredible for Many, but Still True." It might be that God permitted them to see His shining light in order that they stir up faith in the modern rationalistic society.).
The sensation of felicity from divine light can be so powerful that humans feel sad and abandoned after it had ended. St. Gregory the Theologian describes this state as follows, "I wish to stay all by myself and setting aside flesh and the world, not touching anything corporal without extreme need, talking to myself and God, live above all things visible, and always carry in myself clear divine images unmixed with earthly delusive impressions, be and permanently become an unshadowed mirror of God and divinity, acquire light to light, adding the brightest to the paler; and all this until we rise to the Source of illuminations and reach the blessed end. Beloved God pierces the mind with a beam of light and immediately escapes from fast-moving thought. The more we know Him, the greater grows the distance, because He slips from hands, calls and entails the soul."
St Simeon the New Theologian (949-1022) often received divine illuminations. After one of them he felt that "all feelings of my soul and mind were stuck to the only one inexplicable joy and gladness that had arose out of that solemn light. But when the unmeasurable light that had been shown to me slowly lessened and finally became absolutely invisible, then I came to sense and recognized the marvelous things, which the power of that light performed in me. This light brings joy when it is seen, and leaves sores and aches in heart after it vanishes" (Word 86).
Divine light is mysteriously given to every truly believing Orthodox Christian. However, the Holy Fathers warn against attempting to artificially invoke and see the spiritual shining because such attempts conceal the tremendous danger of falling to the devil's enchantment. A Christian must go the narrow way of repentance, meekness and self-correction. This life is the time of labor; the future life shall be the time of reward.
Divine Service of the
Feast of Transfiguration
Comparison of Evangelical narratives us permits to conclude that the Transfiguration took place in February or March, but the Church found it necessary to move the Feast of Transfiguration from February to August, so that the joyful commemoration of the Saviour's glory would not coincide with Lent when the Christians must grieve and repent. The reason for having the Church celebration of Transfiguration on August 19 (Old Style Calendar August 6) is that this date by forty days precedes the Feast of Exaltation of the Cross, dedicated to the Saviour's Suffering on the Cross (September 14/27). The Feast of Transfiguration is commonly called "The Second Saviour's Day," "Saviour on the Mount Day" or "Saviour's Day of Apples."
The hymns of the Feast of the Lord's Transfiguration reproduce the circumstances of the event: the Saviour's prayer, the disciples' sleep, the light on the top of the mountain and the shining Saviour, the appearance of prophets Moses and Elias, the Lord's conversation with them, the Apostles' fear, and the voice of God Father. In line with this, the hymns reveal the inner side of the event and point out the purpose of Lord's Transfiguration. Jesus Christ transfigured in order to convince the Apostles in His Divinity and by this strengthen up their faith before His Suffering; demonstrate the brightness of His resurrection; teach that the virtuous people would be honored with Divine glory; and also to "shine over the blackened Adam's nature." The hymns and troparia of the canon contain a comparison of appearance of God to Moses on Mount Horeb to Moses' conversation with Lord Jesus Christ, and a statement of fulfillment of King David's prophesy that "Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in Thy (God's) name." The hymns of the Feast invite believers to a prayer asking the Lord to "illuminate all with the light of His inaccessible glory."
Stychira on "Lord, I have cried,"
Tone 4 by Cosmas the Monk
Before Thy crucifixion, O Lord, the mountain became as heaven, a tabernacle was formed by the cloud. When Thou wast transfigured, the Father testified unto Thee. Peter and James and John were there, who were to be present with Thee also at the time of Thy betrayal: that, having beheld Thy wonders, they should not be afraid before Thy suffering. In Thy great mercy grant that we too may be counted worthy to venerate Thy sufferings in peace!
Before Thy crucifixion, O Lord, taking the disciples up into a high mountain, Thou wast transfigured before them, shining upon them with the bright beams of Thy power: from love of man and in Thy sovereign might, Thy desire was to show them the splendor of the Resurrection. Grant that we too may be counted worthy of this splendor, O God, for Thou art merciful and lovest mankind!
When Thou wast transfigured, O Savior, on a high mountain, having the chief disciples with Thee, Thou hast shone forth in glorious majesty, proving that those who excel in the height of their virtues shall be counted worthy of the divine glory. Talking with Christ, Moses and Elijah showed that He is Lord of both the living and the dead, the God Who spake of old through the law and the prophets. And from the cloud of light the voice of the Father testified to Him: Hear Him, Who through His cross harrows hell and gives the dead eternal life!
The mountain that once was gloomy and veiled in smoke now has become venerable and holy. For Thy feet, O Lord, have stood upon it. Thy dread transfiguration, the mystery hidden before the ages, has been made manifest in the last times to Peter, John, and James. They could not endure Thy shining countenance and bright garments. They fell to the ground upon their faces. Seized with astonishment and wonder, they saw Moses and Elijah talking with Thee of the things that should befall Thee. A voice in testimony came from the Father: This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well-pleased: hear Him! He it is Who grants the world great mercy!
Theotokion: Prefiguring Thy resurrection, O Christ our God, Thou hast taken with Thee in Thy ascent upon Mount Tabor Thy three disciples, Peter, James, and John. When Thou wast transfigured, O Savior, Mount Tabor was covered with light. Thy disciples, O Word, cast themselves down upon the ground. They were unable to gaze upon the form that none may see. The angels ministered in fear and trembling. The earth quaked and the heavens shook, as they beheld upon earth the Lord of glory.
The contents of paremias (selections from the Old Testament read at vespers) is as follows: the first paremia is the story of Moses's stay on mount Sinai (Ex 24:12-18); the second paremia is about appearance of the Glory of the LORD to Moses (Ex 33:11-23; 34:4-8); the final third paremia tells about appearance of the Glory of the Lord to Elijah (1 Kings 19:3-16). The following troparion is sung at the close of the vespers and in other services:
Troparion, Tone 7
Thou wast transfigured on the Mount, O Christ God, revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as far as they could bear it. Let Thine everlasting light shine upon us sinners! Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Giver of Light, glory to Thee.
A table is prepared for the purpose of the blessing of the five breads thus: 5 breads are placed on the upper side of a dish, on the lower side, wheat; on the left, a small vessel with wine; on the right, a small vessel with oil. The deacon censes round about the table and the celebrant and the priests only three times.
The canon depicts the majesty of Transfiguration of the Lord, of which Christ's chosen Apostles could see a portion, tolerable for their senses, and hear Father's words. The Transfiguration of the Lord lit the Apostles' souls with spiritual light, enlightened their mind with recognition of the Saviour's divine dignity, and assured their trust in fulfilment of all Lord promises. This state of glorification of the Saviour on Mount Tabor is a clear proof of His two natures, or substances, combined in the one Person of God-Man. Here the light of His Godhead shone from under the cover of human flesh, which, being sinless, was perfect within itself.
Note: The stychiras and canon was kindly provided by Michael Bishop, who can be reached at ReaderMB@Michael-Bishop.com. Other services in English can be obtained from his web page at http://www.Michael-Bishop.com.
First Canon Tone 4
Irmos: The choirs of Israel passed with foot unwet through the Red Sea and the watery deep; and beholding the riders and the captains of the enemy swallowed by the waters, they cried out for joy: Let us sing to our God, for gloriously has He been glorified!
Delivering to His friends words of life concerning the Kingdom of God, Christ said to them: When I shall shine forth with unapproachable light, you shall know that the Father is in Me, and shall cry out for joy: Let us sing unto our God, for He has been glorified.
O my disciples and friends, you shall eat the strength of the Gentiles and their riches shall be your boast: for when I shall appear shining brighter than the sun, you shall be filled with glory and cry out for joy: Let us sing unto our God, for He has been glorified.
Today as He has promised Christ, shining on Mount Tabor, dimly disclosed to His disciples the image and reflection of the divine brightness; and filled with godlike and light-bearing splendor, they cried out for joy: Let us sing unto our God for He has been glorified.
Second Canon Tone 8
Irmos: Having crossed the water as though it were dry land, and escaped from the wickedness of Egypt, the children of Israel shouted aloud: Let us sing unto our Deliverer and our God.
In time past, Moses saw prophetically the glory of the Lord by the Red Sea in the cloud and the pillar of fire, and he shouted aloud: Let us sing unto our Deliverer and our God.
Protected by a godlike body as by a rock and seeing Him Who is invisible, Moses who beheld God shouted aloud: Let us sing unto our Deliverer and our God.
Thou hast appeared to Moses both on the Mountain of the Law and on Tabor: of old in darkness, but now in the unapproachable light of the Godhead.
Tone 8 Katavasia: Moses struck the Red Sea with his staff dividing it so that Israel could cross on foot. When he brought the staff down the water covered Pharaoh with his chariots! Thus did Moses prefigure the power of this invincible weapon! Let us sing to Christ our God, for He has been glorified!
Irmos: The bow of the mighty has grown feeble. The weak have girded themselves with strength. Therefore my heart is established in the Lord.
Thou hast put Adam on entire, O Christ, and changing the nature grown dark in past times, Thou hast filled it with glory and made it godlike by the alteration of Thy form.
In the past Christ led Israel in the wilderness with the pillar of fire and the cloud; and today ineffably He has shone forth in light upon Mount Tabor.
Irmos: O Lord, Thou Builder of the vault of heaven and Founder of the Church, confirm me in Thy love: for Thou art our supreme desire and the support of the faithful, O Thou Who alone lovest mankind.
The Glory that once overshadowed the tabernacle and spake with Thy servant Moses, O Master, was a figure of Thy Transfiguration that ineffably shone forth as lightning upon Tabor.
The leaders of the apostles went up with Thee into Mount Tabor, O Only-begotten Word most high, and Moses and Elijah were both present with Thee as attendants of God, O Thou Who alone lovest mankind.
Being complete God, Thou hast become complete man, bringing together manhood and the complete Godhead in Thy Person which Moses and Elijah saw on Mount Tabor in the two natures.
Katavasia: The rod of Aaron is the image of the mystery! Its budding pre-announced the priest! Now the cross has blossomed in majesty and confirmation to the formerly barren church!
Sessional Hymn Tone 4
Thou wast transfigured upon Mount Tabor, O God, between Moses and Elijah the wise, in the presence of James, Peter, and John; and Peter, as he stood there, spake thus to Thee: It would be good to make three tabernacles here: one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Thee, O Christ our Master. Do Thou Who then hast shone upon them with Thy light, give light now to our souls.
Irmos: I have heard of Thy glorious dispensation, O Christ our God: How Thou wast born of the Virgin to deliver from error those who cry aloud to Thee: Glory to Thy power, O mighty Lord!
Thou, O Christ our God, hast delivered the written Law upon Mount Sinai, and hast appeared there riding upon the cloud, in the midst of fire and darkness and tempest. Glory to Thy power, O Lord.
As a pledge of Thy glorious dispensation, Thou hast ineffably shone forth on Tabor, O Christ our God, Who wast before the ages and Whose chariot is the clouds.
Those with whom Thou hast conversed of old in fiery vapor, in darkness and the lightest of winds, stood before Thee in the manner of servants, O Christ our Master, and talked with Thee. Glory to Thy power, O Lord.
Moses who in past times foresaw Thee in the fire of the burning bush, and Elijah who was taken up in a chariot of fire, were present on Tabor and made known there Thy death upon the Cross.
Irmos: Lightning flashes of divinity proceeded forth from Thy flesh: therefore the chosen prophets and apostles sang and cried aloud: Glory to Thy power, O Lord.
Thou hast preserved the bush unharmed, O Master, though it was united with fire, and Thou hast shown to Moses Thy flesh shining with divine brightness, while he sang: Glory to Thy power, O Lord.
The visible sun was eclipsed by the rays of Thy divinity, when it saw Thee transfigured on Mount Tabor, O my Jesus. Glory to Thy power, O Lord.
Thou wast revealed as an immaterial fire that burns not the material substance of the body, when Thou hast appeared to Moses and the apostles and Elijah, O Master Who art one in two natures and both of them perfect.
Katavasia: The mystery of Thy dispensation, I have heard, O Lord! I have understood Thy works! So I glorified Thy Godhead!
Irmos: Thou hast parted the light from the primeval chaos, that Thy works might sing to Thee in light, O Christ, their Maker and Redeemer: Do Thou direct our paths in Thy light!
The seasons bowed down before Thy face: for at Thy feet the sun laid its light and its bright rays which fill the heavens, when Thou, O Christ, vouchsafed to change Thy mortal form.
Behold the Savior, cried Moses and Elijah on Tabor the Holy Mountain, and their words rang in the ears of the disciples. Lo, here is Christ Whom we in ancient times proclaimed as God.
The nature that knows no change, being mingled with the mortal nature, shone forth ineffably, unveiling in some small measure to the apostles the light of the immaterial Godhead.
When they saw Thee, O Christ the eternal Light, shining forth in the glory of the Father, the disciples cried aloud to Thee: Direct our paths in Thy light.
Irmos: O Light that never sets, why hast Thou cast me from Thy face? And why has the alien darkness covered me in my wretchedness? But I entreat Thee, cause me to return and direct my paths towards the light of Thy commandments.
No tongue, however eloquent, can declare Thy mighty works. For Thou Who art Lord of life and Master of death hast called Moses and Elijah before Thee on Mount Tabor, to bear witness to Thy divinity.
Thou, O Christ, with invisible hands hast fashioned man in Thine image; and Thou hast now displayed the original beauty in this same human body formed by Thee, revealing it, not as in an image, but as Thou art in Thine own self according to Thine essence, being both God and man.
In a union without confusion, Thou hast shown us on Mount Tabor the live coal of the Godhead that consumes sins while it enlighten souls, and Thou hast caught up in ecstasy Moses and Elijah and the chief disciples.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Katavasia: The thrice-blessed tree, on which Christ our King and Lord was crucified through which the one who deceived Eve by the tree has been caught by God, Who in the flesh was nailed to you granting peace to our souls.
Irmos: In my affliction I cried out unto the Lord, and the God of my salvation heard me. The Savior Christ, Light shining forth on Tabor more brightly than the brilliance of the sun, has enlightened us. Going up into Tabor Thou wast transfigured, O Christ, and darkening all error Thou hast made Thy Light shine forth. On Tabor, O Christ, the glorious apostles recognized Thee as God and bent their knees before Thee in their amazement.
Irmos: Be merciful to me, O Savior, for many are my transgressions, and lead me up, I beseech thee, from the abyss of evil, for unto Thee have I cried: Hearken unto me, O God of my salvation.
How mighty and fearful is the vision that was seen today! The visible sun shone from heaven, but from the earth there shone upon Mount Tabor the spiritual Sun of Righteousness, past all compare.
The shadow of the Law has grown exceeding weak and passed away, and Christ the Truth has plainly come, cried Moses as he looked upon Thy Godhead on Tabor.
The pillar of fire plainly showed to Moses Christ transfigured, and the cloud pointed clearly to the grace of the Spirit that overshadowed Mount Tabor.
Kontakion Tone 7
On the mountain wast Thou transfigured, O Christ God, and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could see it: so that when they would behold Thee crucified, they would understand that the suffering was voluntary, and would proclaim to the world that Thou art truly the Radiance of the Father!
Awake you sluggards, lie not for ever on the ground; and you thoughts that draw my soul towards the earth, arise and go up to the high slope of the divine ascent. Let us run to join Peter and the sons of Zebedee, and go with them to Mount Tabor, that with them we may see the glory of our God and hear the voice they heard from heaven; and they proclaimed that this is the Brightness of the Father.
Katavasia: When Jonah crossed his hands in the belly of the whale he clearly prefigured the saving passion. When he came out of it after three days he heralded the resurrection of Christ our God Who was crucified in the flesh and enlightened the world by His resurrection on the third day.
Irmos: Once in Babylon the children, sons of Abraham, trampled upon the flame of the furnace, and they sang to Thee this song of praise: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!
On Mount Tabor, O Christ, the apostles, bathed in the light of Thy unapproachable glory, cried aloud: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou.
The apostles delighted in the whirlwind of the divine voice, in the cloud that shed dew, and in Thy shining majesty, O Christ; and they sang: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou.
As Peter looked upon Thee, O Christ, shining forth on Mount Tabor in unapproachable light, he cried aloud: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou.
The children of Zebedee were with Christ, the Prince of life, when light went forth from His Person, and they thundered out: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou.
Irmos: The Hebrew Children in the furnace boldly trampled upon the flame, and they changed the fire to dew as they cried aloud: Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, for evermore.
Now the invisible has become visible to the apostles: on Mount Tabor the Godhead has shone forth before them in the flesh, and they cried aloud: Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, for evermore.
On Mount Tabor the apostles, struck with wonder, trembled with fear before the beauty of the divine Kingdom, and they cried aloud: Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, for evermore.
Now the unheard of has been heard. For the Son Who came forth without father from the Virgin, receives glorious testimony from His Father's voice, that He is both God and man for evermore.
Not by adoption hast Thou become the beloved Son of the Most High, but Thou wast such by essence before the world began; and without changing Thou hast come to dwell with us who cry to Thee: Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, for evermore.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Katavasia: The ignorant command of the godless king breathing with wrath and measured murder frightened and depressed the people! But neither the animal anger nor the flaming fire scared the three young men, who stood in the furnace and sang: Blessed art Thou, O most glorified God of our Fathers!
Irmos: Once in Babylon the children, burning with zeal for God, bravely trampled upon the threat of the tyrant and the fire: thrown into the midst of the flames but refreshed with dew, they sang: Bless the Lord, all works of the Lord!
Thou, Who dost uphold all things by Thy will, hast gone up with Thine undefiled feet into Mount Tabor. There Thy face shone with a splendor brighter than the light of the sun, and in its radiance stood the elect of the Law and of Grace, singing: O all you works of the Lord, bless the Lord.
When the infinite Light that knows no evening, even the brightness of the Father that gives splendor to creation, ineffably appeared in unapproachable glory on Mount Tabor, it made men godlike as they sang: O all you works of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Standing in reverence on Mount Tabor, Moses and Elijah clearly beheld the express image of the divine Person, even Christ, shining forth as lightning with the glory of the Father, and they sang: O all you works of the Lord, bless the Lord.
The face of Moses once shone with glory because of the divine voice he heard in the darkness; but Christ covers Himself with light and glory as with a garment. For He, Who is by nature Himself the Author of light, shines upon those who sing: O all you works of the Lord, bless the Lord.
The disciples, looking on Mount Tabor upon Christ wrapped in a cloud of light, fell on their faces to the ground, and with their minds enlightened they sang this hymn of praise to Him, and to the Father and the Spirit: O all you works of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Irmos: The tyrant of the Chaldeans ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more for the three Children who were filled with reverent fear of God: but seeing them saved by a greater power, he cried: O you children, bless the Creator and Deliverer; O you priests, sing His praises; O you people, exalt Him above all for ever.
The disciples, O Master, heard the testimony of the Father; and unable to bear the sight of Thy Face Whose lightning brightness was too fierce for the eyes of man, they fell to the ground in awe, singing: O you priests, bless Christ; O you people, exalt Him above all for ever.
O blessed Master, Thou art by nature the fairest King of all kings and blessed Lord of all lords, and Thou dwellest in unapproachable light. To Thee the disciples, struck with wonder, cried: O you children, bless Christ; O you priests, sing His praises; O you people, exalt Him above all for ever.
Because Thou art Master of heaven and Lord of the earth, and hast dominion over the things under the earth, there stood beside Thee, O Christ, the apostles from the earth, and Elijah the Tishbite as if from heaven, and Moses from the dead, singing with one accord: O you people, exalt Christ above all for ever.
Thy chosen apostles left all idle cares behind them upon earth, and followed Thee Who lovest mankind to the divine way of life that is high above this world. So they were accounted worthy to receive the vision of Thy Godhead, and they sang: O you people, exalt Christ above all for ever.
Katavasia: You three young men, friends of the Trinity, bless God, the Father and Creator! Praise the Word, Who descended and changed the flames to dew! Exalt the Spirit Who gives life throughout all ages! We praise, bless, and worship the Lord, singing and exalting Him throughout all ages!
Megalynaria: Magnify, O my soul, the Lord Who was transfigured on Mount Tabor!
Your birth-giving was incorruptible! God came forth from your body and appeared on earth in flesh, dwelling among men. Therefore, we magnify you, O Theotokos.
The disciples, struck with fear and illuminated with the sudden stream of strange light, looked at one another and fell face downwards upon the ground, worshipping Thee the Master of all.
A divine voice came forth from the cloud confirming the wonder. For the Father of lights called to the apostles: This is My beloved Son. Hear Him.
On Tabor the ministers of the Word looked upon strange and marvelous wonders, and hearing the voice of the Father, they cried out: This is the imprint of the archetype, even our Savior.
O unchanged Image of the One Who Is, O Seal that cannot be removed or altered, Son and Word, Wisdom and Arm, Right Hand and Strength of the Most High, Thee do we sing with the Father and the Spirit.
Irmos: Every ear trembled with fear at hearing of the ineffable condescension of God: how the Most High of His own will came down even unto the flesh and was made man from a virgin womb. Therefore we the faithful magnify the undefiled Theotokos.
To show plainly how, at Thy mysterious second coming, Thou wilt appear as the Most High God standing in the midst of gods, on Mount Tabor Thou hast shone in fashion past words upon the apostles and upon Moses and Elijah. Therefore we all magnify Thee, O Christ.
Come and hearken unto me, O you peoples: going up into the holy and heavenly mountain, let us stand in spirit in the city of the living God, and let us gaze with our minds at the spiritual Godhead of the Father and the Spirit, shining forth in the Only-begotten Son.
Thou hast taken me captive with longing for Thee, O Christ, and hast transformed me with Thy divine love. Burn up my sins with the fire of the Spirit, and count me worthy to take my fill of delight in Thee, that dancing with joy I may magnify both Thy Comings, O Lord Who art good.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Katavasia: You are the mystical paradise, O Theotokos in which Christ blossomed. Through Him the life-bearing wood of the Cross was planted on earth. Now, at its exaltation as we bow in worship before it, we magnify you!
Another Katavasia: Today the death that came to man through eating of the tree, is made of no effect through the Cross. For the curse of our mother Eve that fell on all mankind is destroyed by the fruit of the pure Mother of God, whom all the powers of heaven magnify.
Today on Tabor ion the manifestation of Thy light, O Word, Thou unaltered Light from the Light of the unbegotten Father, we have seen the Father as Light and the Spirit as Light, guiding with light the whole creation.
Special festive antiphones are sung instead of regular psalms during Liturgy. Before the reading of Epistles, the reader exclaims the following psalm verse, "LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all." The Epistle read on the service (2 Peter 1:10-19) says that shining of the Lord's glory on Mount Tabor is the proof of Christ's Divinity. The Gospel reading (Matthew 17:1-9) narrates on the Saviour's Transfiguration.
Verse sung before Eucharist: We shall walk in the light of Thy face, Lord, and rejoice in Thy name all day long.
A peculiarity of the Divine Service on the Feast of Transfiguration is the consecration of fruit and vegetables as thanksgiving to God for the blessed springings of earth, good weather and care for our daily bread.
Tradition of Consecration
of Grapes and Other Fruit
It is the tradition of the Day of Transfiguration to consecrate grapes, apples and other fruit after the Divine Liturgy. The custom of bringing fruit to the temple for consecration originates in the Old Testament time (Gen 4:2-4; Ex 13:12-13; Num 15:19-21; Deut 8:10-14). The Apostles brought this tradition to the Church of the New Testament (1 Cor 16:1-2). Instruction regarding bringing fruit to temple is found in the Third Rule of the Apostolic Canon, the earliest collection of ecclesiastic laws (canons), known since the second century. In Greece, August is the month of ripeness of fruit, mostly grapes and new ears of corn. Since old time, the faithful have been bringing them to temple for consecration and as Thanksgiving to God. St. John Chrysostom wrote, "Plowman receives fruit from the earth not so much for his labour and diligence, as out of goodness of God Who grows this fruit, because neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase."
Grapes are brought to temple because they are directly related to the Eucharistic sacrament; that is why in the prayer for consecration of grapes the priest says, "Bless, Lord, this new fruit of vine which reached ripeness because Thou kindly provided good weather, drops of rain and stillness. Let eating this fruit of vine make us joyful. And give us the honor of offering this fruit to Thee, as the gift of purging of sins, altogether with the Holy Body of Thy Christ."
In the first centuries of Christianity, the faithful brought forth to the temple the fruit and crops of the new harvest: bread, wine, oil, incense, wax, honey etc. Of all these offerings, only bread, wine, incense, oil and wax were taken to the altar, while the rest was used for the needs of the clergy and the poor whom the church was caring for. These offerings were to express gratitude to God for all goods, but at the same time help servants of God and people in need. Until today, consecration of bread and wine, eggs and milk and other food has been kept in consecration of artos in the church and meals at home on Easter. Consecration of flowers and tree branches is performed now on Palm Sunday, the days of the Holy Trinity and Exaltation of the Cross, and on Sunday of the week of the Veneration of the Cross. Rice with rasins and honey are used as offerings in services for the dead and remembrance repast. Prosphoros are brought forth for proskomide everywhere even today.
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So, on Mount Tabor Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated the Kingdom of God with power, giving the Apostles the joy of communion with God. By His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor the Lord calls us for a new life, to internal transfiguration which would make us meek out of proud, diligent out of idle, sober out of passionate, temperate out of greedy, concentrated out of absent-minded, God-obedient out of self-willed, compassionate out of heartless.
As much as soul is more precious than body, thus much internal, spiritual light is more important than external, physical light; and vice versa, internal, spiritual darkness is more dangerous, dreadful and disastrous than darkness of night or blindness. He who loses internal vision, altogether loses the everlasting life with God, of which light is a part, as well as it is a part of the corporal life.
Divine light resides in everyone since baptism. For a human not to be proud and lazy, God does not give him to feel the shining of internal light all the time. But still this light dwells inside the person's soul, increased by moral perfection, ardent prayer at church and at home, reading of the Holy Scripture, thinking about God, doing good works, and especially by receiving the Holy Communion. It is dangerous to artificially invoke and try to see the shining of spiritual light. This may lead to being caught in the devilish net. Clear vision of this light may be given rarely, when God finds it necessary to give consolation and support to a Christian.
Internal effect of this light is felt in peacefulness of soul, disgust for any sin, love for God and neighbors, desire to live for the good, strongly believe and trust God, long for the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us treasure the Kingdom of God inside us so that God would grant us eternal life in the Kingdom of Never-ending Light. Amen.
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Missionary Leaflet # E48
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Edited by Donald Shufran