Christ’s Transfiguration and our Own

Christ’s Transfiguration and our Own


Archimandrite Iakovos Kanakis


Yesterday and today we have a great feast of the Lord, the Transfiguration of Christ the Saviour. We shall say a few words about the feast, based on what the Gospel tells us. Not long before His crucifixion, Christ took three of His disciples, Peter, James and John, led them up onto a high mountain called Tabor and was transfigured before their eyes. His face became as bright as the sun and His clothes shone white. On His left and right appeared two figures from the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, who represented the Law and the Prophets respectively. The disciples were unable to bear the light and fell to the ground (Pentecost had not yet happened). One of them, Peter, asked Christ if they could set up tents and stay there. Then a cloud of light engulfed them and a voice was heard from the heavens- the same as had been heard at Theophany- saying: ‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him’. When the disciples fell to the ground in fear, Jesus said to them ‘Get up and don’t be afraid’. When they then opened their eyes, they saw no-one except Christ. As the came down from the mountain, Jesus instructed them not to tell anybody anything until He’d risen.

That, in brief, describes the event of the Transfiguration, but this great feast isn’t merely a historical event which happened once and now no longer concerns us. On the contrary, it’s very much of concern to us all, and has been since the time of Christ…

The first thing to note is why Christ went high up on a mountain in order to be transfigured. Could this not have happened on a plain somewhere?

If you look at Bible history, almost all the great events took place high up. Moses receiving the law and so on. Even more generally, it seems that even idolaters and pagans had events which took place high up. They would also go up to peaks, to high places, to perform their sacrifices. So it would seem to be some sort of general tradition that great events took place in elevated locations.

Another thing is a reference from Saint Nikodimos the Athonite, a great theologian and saint of the church, concerning the Lord’s choice of three disciples to experience His Transfiguration. Saint Nikodimos says that it was because these three were better prepared for the event. The Lord was and is able to look into hearts and recognize their intentions and spirituality. He even knew in advance who would betray Him…

Allow me to make another point. The Transfiguration tells us who Christ is. Now why was He transfigured shortly before the crucifixion? Because He wanted to show his disciples that He is God. He demonstrated His divinity with the light which shone from His countenance and His garments. In this way, through this feast, the Church is able to formulate the dogma that Christ is perfect God and perfect human. This is the answer to those who cast doubt on either His divinity or His humanity. Because there are some who claim that Christ was a great person and taught wonderful things. The Transfiguration, however, makes it clear that He wasn’t merely a good person; He was also perfect God.

So the transfiguration tells us who Christ is and who we are as people. It tells us about our path forward as human beings. It’s an answer regarding what we should be doing on this earth where we’ve come and where we exist. On this earth which we tread, we have to choose the way which leads to the Light. This is the experience of the Transfiguration: a progression and an effort to enter the Light and to become one with it.

The Gospel reading for the feast of the Transfiguration begins at Matthew 17, 1, but I always feel that we should also recall the immediately preceding verse (Matthew 16, 28) ‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before [unless] they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom’ [WJL].





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OCN has partnered with Pemptousia. A Contemporary post-modern man does not understand what man is.  Through its presence in the internet world, Pemptousia, with its spirit of respect for beauty that characterizes it, wishes to contribute to the presentation of a better meaning of life for man, to the search for the ontological dimension of man, and to the awareness of the unfathomable mystery of man who is always in Christ in the process of becoming, of man who is in the image of divine beauty. And the beauty of man springs from the beauty of the Triune God. In the end, “beauty will save the world”.

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Pemptousia and OCN have entered a strategic partnership to bring Orthodoxy Worldwide. Greek philosophers from Ionia considered held that there were four elements or essences (ousies) in nature: earth, water, fire and air. Aristotle added ether to this foursome, which would make it the fifth (pempto) essence, pemptousia, or quintessence. The incarnation of God the Word found fertile ground in man’s proclivity to beauty, to goodness, to truth and to the eternal. Orthodoxy has not functioned as some religion or sect. It was not the movement of the human spirit towards God but the revelation of the true God, Jesus Christ, to man. A basic precept of Orthodoxy is that of the person ­– the personhood of God and of man. Orthodoxy is not a religious philosophy or way of thinking but revelation and life standing on the foundations of divine experience; it is the transcendence of the created and the intimacy of the Uncreated. Orthodox theology is drawn to genuine beauty; it is the theology of the One “fairer than the sons of men”. So in "Pemptousia", we just want to declare this "fifth essence", the divine beaut in our life. Please note, not all Pemptousia articles have bylines. If the author is known, he or she is listed in the article above.