THE GLORY OF THE LORD'S TRANSFIGURATION
- THE GLORY OF THE LORD'S TRANSFIGURATION
We know from the holy Gospel that a great trembling, a great awe seized the
holy Apostles on Mount Tabor when they were overshadowed by a cloud, and
from this cloud they heard the voice which creation cannot hear without
trembling, the voice of its Creator, the voice of God the Father, Who bore
witness to His Son.
But it was not only awe the Apostles felt; in the Gospel narrative about
the holiday we hear Apostle Peter's words: "Master, it is good for us to be
here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for Thee, and one for Moses,
and one for Elias."
These words issued from the depths of the Apostle's heart, which was
overcome with spiritual rapture and joy, and at this moment Apostle Peter
did not even think of what would actually happen if they remained on the
mountain; moreover, the Gospel points out that Peter did not know what he
was saying, i.e. he did not fully realize the import of his words, but only
expressed his spontaneous feelings and joy. It is that blessed feeling of
God's presence, which was attested to by the two whom the Lord had summoned
- one from the netherworld and the other from the mysterious world beyond -
the prophet and God-seer Moses and the prophet and God-seer Elias.
Do you remember how the prophet and God-seer Moses saw Him? The Lord
conversed with him as with His friend, and said to him: "I know you better
than all the rest," ? you are closest of all to Me. And then Moses dared to
ask: "Show me Thy glory." And the Lord responded kindly to this request. He
only pointed out to His faithful servant that man cannot stand face to face
with the glory of God, cannot see the face of God and remain alive (because
man would be so overcome with rapture, and joy, and awe, that his mortal
being would crumble, would melt like wax in the presence of fire).
For this reason the Lord said: "Thou canst not see My face; for there shall
no man see Me, and live; but ? said the Lord, - there is a place by Me, and
thou shalt stand upon a rock, and while My glory passeth by, I will put
thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with My hand when I pass
by, and thou canst stand and look after Me (see the reflection of My glory)
? but thou shalt only see Me from behind, as I pass by."
And so it was: the Bible says that when Moses looked after the departing
Lord, his face afterwards always shone like the sun, so that it was
impossible to look at him, and when he was among people, he always covered
his face and took off the cover only when he prayed to God or was alone.
Moreover, according to the Holy Fathers, the One Who appeared to Moses
there on the mountain, the One at Whose back he had looked, was the Lord
God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity ? the Son of God. Thus Moses saw
Him, and later he was honored to see Him face to face on Mount Tabor, where
Moses himself appeared in glory.
And the prophet and God-seer Elias was worthy to feel the blessed presence
of God. He had achieved a great feat: he had led Israel to the true faith,
but the evil Queen Jezebel hated him and began threatening him with death.
Then Elias became frightened and fled. But it would be wrong to think that
he fled because he feared for himself personally and was afraid of death.
When Elias fled into the desert, it was for death that he asked the Lord, -
consequently, he did not fear death, but he was afraid that if Jezebel
seized him and executed him, it would seem that his work did not end well;
the impression would be created that he had committed some crime for which
he was justly punished.
And in order for those whom he had brought to God not to be left with such
an impression, - Elias hid from the wrath of the evil queen. But there in
the desert the angel told him to come out in the morning from the cave in
which he was hiding and to stand at its entrance.
Elias is in the cave. He hears the stormy elements pass by: a great and
strong wind, a mighty earthquake, a searing fire ? "but the Lord was not
there," says the Bible succinctly. And when after all that wafted "a thin
voice of coolness," ? a quiet, peaceful and refreshing breeze ? it was
there that Elias sensed the mysterious presence of God ? "and there was the
Lord"? Thus he, too, was worthy to stand before His creator and converse
with Him; and now, on Mount Tabor, he, together with Moses, stood face to
face before the transfigured Lord.
For creation in general, and especially for man, there can be no greater
bliss than to be worthy to stand directly before the face of God, - to the
degree to which he can stand it without having his mortal essence fall
Therefore the Church sings on the feast of the Transfiguration that the
Lord showed His glory to the disciples "in so far as they were able to bear
it." Not all of His awesome and unbearable glory, before which even the
angels tremble and are unable to gaze upon, but only a part of His glory,
as much as the prophets and the apostles were able to bear.
But the first-created people in paradise possessed this bliss: the Lord
appeared to them like a Father, talked with them in paradise as with His
children. And only then did they understand what they had had and what they
had lost, - just as the Russian saying laments: "We do not treasure what we
have, but we weep upon losing it"?
But remember that the Lord calls each one of us to eternal life. There,
when the human soul passes into the region of eternity, it will earn this
bliss as much as it merits it, for eternal bliss, the bliss of the Heavenly
Kingdom, will consist of man being always with God and in God's realm. And
this naturally reminds us, as it should always remind us, of our sins and
Nothing impure or foul will enter the Kingdom of God, and for this reason
each one of us has to cleanse himself of all impurity of body and soul here
on earth, as the Holy Scriptures tell us, else we will not see the glory of
God and our souls will remain in eternal darkness and alienation from God,
from which may the Lord deliver us, sinners. Each one of us is greatly
sinful, but still we hope that by His mercy the Lord will not deprive us of
His Heavenly Kingdom.
Metropolitan Filaret (Voznesensky)