And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John,
his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain
apart, and was transfigured before them: and His face
did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the
The men whom Christ had said would not taste death until they should see the form and the foreshadowing of His Coming are these three Apostles, whom, having taken with Him, He brought to a mountain and showed them in what manner He was to come on the last day: in the glory of His Divinity and in the body of His Humanity.
He led them up to the mountain that He might also reveal to them Who this Son is, and Whose Son is He. For when He asked them: “Whom do men say that the Son of man is?” they said to him: “Some Elijah, some other Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” And so He led them up into a high mountain, and showed them that He was not Elijah, but the God of Elijah; nor was He Jeremiah, but He that sanctified Jeremiah in his mother’s womb; nor one of the prophets, but the Lord of the prophets and He that had sent them.
And He showed them also that He was the creator of heaven and earth, and the Lord of the living and the dead; for He spoke to the heavens, and they sent down Elijah; He made a sign to the earth, and raised Moses to life again.
He took the Apostles up into a high mountain apart, that He might also show them the glory of His Divinity, and that He might declare Himself the Redeemer of Israel, as He had foretold by the prophets, and so that they would not be scandalized in Him in the passion He had taken upon Himself, and which for our sakes He was about to suffer in His human nature. For they knew Him as the son of Mary, and as a man sharing their daily life in the world. On the mountain He revealed to them that He was the Son of God, and Himself God.
He took them, therefore, up to the mountain that He might show them His Kingdom before they witnessed His suffering and death, and His glory before His ignominy; so that when He was made a prisoner and condemned by the Jews, they might understand that He was not crucified by them because of His own powerlessness, but because it had pleased Him of His goodness to suffer for the salvation of the world.
He brought them up to the mountain that He might also show them, before His Resurrection, the glory of His Divinity, so that when He had risen from the dead, they might then know that He had not received this glory as the reward of His labor, but that He had had it from all eternity, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
The disciples upon the mountain beheld two suns: one to which they were accustomed, shining in the sky; and Another, to which they were unaccustomed, which shone for them alone – the face of Jesus before them. And His garments appeared to them white as light: for the glory of His Divinity poured forth from His whole body, and all His members radiated light.
And there appeared to them Moses and Elijah talking with Him.
And this was the manner of their speech with Him: they gave thanks to Him that their own words had been fulfilled, and together with them the words of all the prophets. They worshipped Him for the salvation He had wrought in the world for mankind, and because He had in truth fulfilled the mystery which they had themselves foretold. The Prophets therefore were filled with joy, and the Apostles likewise, in their ascent of the mountain. The Prophets rejoiced because they had seen His Humanity, which they had not known. And the Apostles rejoiced because they had seen the glory of His Divinity, which they had not known.
Although Apostle Peter had confessed Jesus Christ as Messiah, he and the other apostles were still far away from understanding that the promised Messiah was not only to be a King from the seed of David, but also a suffering servant Who would take upon Himself an ignominious death. For Peter such a thought was so unbearable, so incompatible with everything he knew of Christ, that he began to berate Christ for revealing it, and in response received from Christ an incredibly harsh rebuff, in which the Lord stated with complete certainty that all attempts to make Him turn aside from His service, suffering, and death come from hell and have the prince of darkness as their origin. Moreover, the Lord speaks not only of the fact that He must die, but also says that everyone who wishes to be His follower must follow the same course.
During the time of Christ’s life on earth crucifixion was a death intended for slaves, hardened criminals, and traitors. No Roman citizen could be crucified without special sanction from Caesar. The cross was a universal symbol of ignominy, torture, and death, and when Christ said that his followers must carry this instrument of execution with them through life, such words elicited horror and protest among His disciples. Speaking of the cross, Christ did not mean that all the small difficulties which we encounter in life represent such a cross. He spoke primarily of the fact that we have to die within ourselves. This is most difficult, more fearful than all suffering, and seems impossible to man. Now, as in those times, many come to Christ to have Him fulfill all their needs and desires, but the Lord turns out to be the Messiah Who requires us to die an ignominious and torturous death within ourselves, killing off our selfish interests. In order to fulfill oneself, one must reject one’s own ego and follow Christ.
And today the Lord shows us what it means to confess Him as the Messiah and to follow Him, what it means for a person to fulfill himself through self-denial. His Face dazzled, because He became transfigured in front of His three disciples. He revealed His glory, which He had had “before the world ever was,” as Apostle John the Theologian tells us. And then they saw that there was no one there except Jesus. The Lord was the Divine center from which all rays issued, and He infinitely surpassed both Moses and Elijah – the Law and the prophets, although He was united with them. It was revealed to the disciples that the commandment on love, upon which, as the Lord says, “hang the entire Law and the prophets,” was not simply the most perfect morality, but Divine life itself, without which a person cannot become a person, and for the attainment of which he joyously desires to die within himself, to become dead to the darkness contained within each sin, and to become dead to the egoism which comprises the darkness of the entirety of all sins. It is this Christ’s love which shone forth on the Mount of Tabor, because He was the first to love us even to hell and the horror of death.
The Transfiguration occurred not so much for the sake of the Lord as for the sake of His disciples: He became transfigured before them, and a voice from heaven spoke to them. Even if they did not fully understand Him then, nevertheless, this was a decisive moment in the revelation to them of the mystery of God and the mystery of man, and although they had to be silent on this subject until by means of His death on the Cross came His Resurrection, for them this always remained the foundation of their preaching of the joy that would envelop the entire world, and which they announced on the basis of “having witnessed His grandeur.”
We celebrate this feast so that our faith would not be incomplete, so that hearing the words of Apostle Peter: “Lord, how good it is for us to be here!” – we would not forget what is good and what is bad, so that seeing this extraordinary light we would always distinguish light from dark. Never yet has it been so bad in the world, never yet has it been as dark as at present. How dark it becomes all around! With each passing year we see with greater realism how the world lies in iniquity, and how darkness thickens in the world. But “the light shines in the darkness,” and no darkness can overcome it. Christ, the Sun of truth, shines as before in the darkness of our life, and sending us today the sweetness of earthly fruits, as though from the Garden of Eden, He speaks to us of the fact that the world must be transfigured by love, which none of us has within himself, but which He is offering to us. And we understand that the mount of Transfiguration is always sweeter than the daily service, sweeter than the cross. However, the mount of Transfiguration is given to us precisely to imbue us with strength for our daily service, to make us capable of following the way of the cross. This is the radiant light with which the Lord wishes to encompass the entire world. The Holy Church tells us that present suffering is incommensurate with eternal glory, and that our brief and light suffering produces eternal glory in abundance. For our present temporary suffering is worth nothing in comparison with the glory which will be revealed within us, if only we suffer with Him in order to be glorified with Him.