Rev. Anthony is a Coptic Orthodox monk from St. Shenouda Monastery in Australia. He completed his Master of Arts in Ancient History at Macquarie University and is currently working to earn his Doctor of Philosophy on the subject of the Arrow Prayer. In the monastery, Father Anthony collaborates with many young people to produce Orthodox-inspired books and music.
The story of the transfiguration of Christ shows us Christ’s divinity, but it also demonstrates how transformative time in prayer can be.
The story begins with Jesus going up to the mountain to pray with Peter and John, immediately linking prayer with transfiguration. It is in prayer that God reveals himself to us, and we are transformed into his image.
In the Old Testament, after Moses spent time on the mountain and received the commandments, he came down and “the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him” (Ex 34:29), which again relating prayer or speaking to God to our transfiguration, our transformation.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Saint Paul makes a point in which he compares the Jews—who could not look at the face of Moses—with believers in the New Testament. Through prayer, we have direct access to God, “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord.” And by spending time with God in prayer, we are “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.”
There is a very interesting story in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers that shows us how they understood the transfiguration that happens to us when we stand up to pray:
“Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, ‘Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?’ Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you will, you can become all flame.’”
Stories like these might be discouraging when we read them, as they make us question if we are even praying, but there are three things we need to consider that gives us hope.
1 — When Jesus was transfigured, he was not alone. The gospels mention that there were “two men” with Him, as if to say that He did not want to be alone when He is glorified but wanted to share this glory with us, human beings. So it is God’s pleasure that I am transfigured with Him
2 — These two men were Moses and Elijah, individuals who didn’t have a perfect past. Moses killed the Egyptian, and Elijah lost all faith in God and was scared of Jezebel. We can identify with both of these men, as they did not have the best start to their spiritual life with God.
3 — Moses did not know that his face was shining when he came down from the mountain. The Bible says, “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him” (Ex 34:29). So it is not for us to see our progress in prayer (our faces shining). It is for others to see.
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