1 Corinthians 3.9-17

2 Peter 1.10-19

Matthew 14.22-34

Matthew 17.1-9

According to the chronology of the Gospels, the Transfiguration of Our LORD takes place shortly before He is arrested, tried, and crucified. Why, then, is the Feast of the Transfiguration not observed until Aug 6, during the season of the Dormition Fast?

On the 40th day from this day of the Feast of the LORD’s Transfiguration on Mt Tabor, we observe the Elevation of the Cross, Sept 14. Today, we enter a paschal season that mirrors and participates in Christ’s Holy Pascha. During these 40 days, we pass over from the Dormition of the Theotokos (Aug 15) to Her nativity (Sept 8), and from the end of the Church year to the beginning of a new Church year (Sept 1).

In this, the Church teaches us that our earthly life comes to be and passes away within the embrace of the Holy Virgin Theotokos, whose own earthly life embraces the whole mystery of Christ from His Conception to His Resurrection, even as She Herself is embraced by the uncreated Light of Christ, Her Son and our God. And this teaches us that there is a spiritual reality hidden beneath the veil of our earthly life: if we have united ourselves to Christ, the movement of our earthly life is rooted in the uncreated Light of Christ that shines forth from His Cross as our weapon of victory that destroys our death by the death of Christ, the God who is in us. Our life in this earthly body, then, is being transfigured in the Light of Christ that shone on Mt Tabor, and our dying and our death is transfigured into the destruction of death and the beginning of our resurrection in Christ.

Christ is the True Light coming into the world, it says (Jn 1.9). And the Light of Christ, it says, is the life of men (Jn 1.4). Placing the Feast of the Savior’s Transfiguration in the season of the Dormition Fast, the Church proclaims the Incarnation of God the WORD; for this placement of the Feast teaches us that Jesus Christ, the LORD, God and Savior proclaimed by the Bible, who trampled down death by His death, has come into the world through no other gate and in no other way than through the Living Temple of the Holy Virgin Theotokos.

‘Beloved, test the spirits,’ says St John. ‘Every spirit that confesses that Christ has come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus [is the Christ] come in the flesh is not of God. This is the spirit of the antichrist.’ [1 Jn 4.1-3] The Christ proclaimed in Holy Scripture becomes flesh of the Holy Virgin, and from no other. Without her, there is no Christ, and so there is no salvation, no trampling down death by death in the Resurrection. Therefore, in honoring and loving the Virgin Mary as Theotokos, we align our confession of Jesus Christ with the Bible, confessing the Jesus of the Bible who is truly the Christ, the Son of God, the divine Wisdom of God, the Power and Love of God, who has come in the flesh to save us from death and to give us who were in the tombs eternal life in the uncreated Light of God.

But, in confessing the Virgin Mary to be Theotokos, we also learn that our own human nature is created for God. For, She is not a Goddess; She is fully human. When She becomes the Birth-Giver of God, it is revealed that we are created to become bushes burning with the Fire of God, and, not only are we not consumed, but we become what we truly are: images of the Image of God, called to become partakers of the divine nature, partakers of the divine Fire, the earth of our body, soul and mind being purified, fired in the oven of space and time (‘purified’ comes from the Greek word for fire) to become smooth, adamantine stones – more precious than gold or fine silver – fitted for the Temple of God, which is the Church, the Body of Christ, the fullness of Him who is all in all.

I said that, when we are united to Christ through Holy Baptism, the earth of our body is purified, and our earthly life becomes the oven in which the clay of our earthly life is fired to become smooth, adamantine stones fit to be used in the building of the Heavenly Temple of Christ’s Body.  Dear ones, that means that our being transfigured, our being deified, is accomplished through struggle, the struggle of spiritual warfare to defeat and destroy our enemies who are not of flesh and blood; they are the principalities, the powers, the world rulers of this present darkness, the spiritual hosts of wickedness that assail us from the ‘heavenly places’ (cf. Eph 6:12).

The ‘heavenly places’ here would be the invisible realm of our thoughts; for it is in our thoughts that the dark spirits seek to entice us away from the uncreated Light of Christ that is our Life and to embrace their own deceptive light whose inner essence is the darkness of death. For, if we follow after the deceptive light, the thought takes form as a deed or a word and pushes us to bring it to full term, to make it incarnate as enmity, bitterness, anger, cynicism and the destruction of relationships and, finally, of our own soul.

Listen to the Psalmist: ‘Thou, O LORD, light my lamp [He transfigures my body, my life, in His uncreated Light]; O my God, Thou dost illumine my darkness. You instruct my hands for war. I pursue my enemies; I overtake them and I will not turn back until they are consumed [in the Fire of Thy Light]. I will dash them to pieces and they will not be able to stand, for Thou hast girded me with strength for war [the strength of His Cross]. Thou hast beat down under me all that rose up against me. Thou hast made my enemies turn their back before me and Thou hast destroyed them that hated me.’ (Ps 17/18.28&34-40).

The enemies against which we are fighting, again, are not of flesh and blood. They are the dark powers of wickedness. Their weapons are the passions – lust, gluttony, greed, anger, envy, vanity, pride, despair, sloth. By the sweetness of the passions, they seek to make us let go our weapon of victory, the Cross, so that they can devour us. Our weapon of victory, the Cross, is given to us in the form of the Church’s ascetic disciplines: prayer and fasting in the way of the Church. In His Church, the LORD trains our hands for war by teaching us how to descend with our mind into our heart where all our thoughts and desires originate. When we take up the Cross through the Church’s ascetic disciplines, our own human nature, even our own death is infused with the Might of the LORD’s divine Power in the fiery brilliance of His Uncreated Light.

But, it says that in the beginning, darkness covered the deep, and the Spirit of God was brooding over the face of the waters, and God said: ‘Let there be light, and there was light.’ And in that light, the whole created world was formed. The spiritual warfare by which we become partakers of the uncreated Light revealed in the LORD’s Transfiguration on Mt Tabor is the work of creation. Uniting ourselves to Christ, we work to overcome the resistance of our darkness that has covered us because we have loved the darkness more than the light, so that, becoming partakers of the uncreated Light of Christ’s divinity, we may be created anew with a clean heart, a new and right spirit.

The Feast of Transfiguration, then, calls us to battle. It reveals the purpose of our earthly life: to take up the Cross, the Church’s ascetical disciplines, as our weapon of victory, and to overcome the powers of darkness to become like Our Mother, the Theotokos, bushes burning with the Fire of God. Our LORD is He who is mighty in battle. His Cross is our weapon of victory. His Holy Mother is the supreme commander of triumphant hosts. Uniting ourselves to Christ in the love of His Holy Mother, we unite ourselves to victory that is certain because the battle has already been won. It waits only for us to align our lives with it and to become partakers of it.

Today’s Feast, then, is a Feast of divine Hope that is certain. It is the Hope of the LORD Jesus Christ who, in the flesh that He received from His Holy Mother and by His victory over death on the Cross, has overcome the world. He has scattered the powers of wickedness. He has filled the darkness with His fiery Light. He has burst the old wineskins of the old man in us with the New Wine of His Body and Blood and clothed us with the New Wineskin of His own Body suffused with His own Light and Glory. And, He has poured into us the New Wine of His Life incorruptible. Glory to Jesus Christ! Most holy Theotokos, save us! Amen!