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Homily for 8/19/12 - Transfiguration - filled with the divine light

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matthew 17:1-9 Our Lord took His three closest disciples, Peter, James and John and led them to the top of a mountain where He was transfigured before them and
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 19, 2012
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      Matthew 17:1-9

      Our Lord took His three closest disciples, Peter, James and John and led
      them to the top of a mountain where He was transfigured before them and
      shone with the uncreated light of His divinity. This light is not seen
      by the physical eye for it is not part of the physical creation, but it
      is perceived by the spiritual senses of a man that reside in his soul
      for it is the uncreated spiritual light which shines eternally from the
      divine nature of Christ. At that moment the Holy Spirit opened the eyes
      of the three apostles in order that they might be able to see this light
      and perceive the divinity of Christ. The Evangelist Luke tells us that
      “His face began to shine as the sun” telling us that just as the sun
      lights the physical world enabling us to perceive all of the physical
      creation, so also Christ is the light of the spiritual life, enabling us
      to see the spiritual nature of all things.

      This divine and uncreated light also fills all those that are united to
      Christ, for inasmuch as He lives in us, so also His light shines through
      us. Anyone who gazes upon the divine light with the eyes of his soul
      also partakes of that light to some extent. When Moses descended from Mt
      Sinai after receiving the tablets of the commandments from God, he was
      radiant with the reflection of that light and had to cover his face in
      order for the people to even look at him. In the Church, the saints have
      also manifested this light in themselves. One such example, well known
      to us, is Saint Seraphim; in the account of his conversation with his
      disciple Nicholas Motovilov we are told:

      “Then Father Seraphim took me firmly by the shoulders and said, ‘We are
      both in the Spirit of God now, my son. Why don’t you look at me?’
      “I replied: ‘I cannot look, Father, because your eyes are flashing like
      lightning. Your face has become brighter than the sun, and my eyes ache
      with pain.’
      “Father Seraphim said: ‘Don’t be alarmed! Now you yourself have become
      as bright as I am. You are now in the fullness of the Spirit of God
      yourself; otherwise you would not be able to see me as I am.’”

      This account tells us then why this light not evident in us who have put
      on Christ and so are also filled with the uncreated divine light. In
      order for this light to shine in us and in order to perceive it, we must
      also be “in the fullness of the Spirit of God.” Certainly we are all
      filled with the Holy Spirit through the sacrament of chrismation,
      however, our souls remain, as it were, encrusted with our sinfulness
      which blocks the realization in our lives of the Holy Spirit Whom we
      have received. In order for the light of Christ that is within us by the
      indwelling of the Holy Spirit to shine through, we must remove this
      crust of sin which hinders it.

      St Gregory Palamas tells us about this condition of our life and speaks
      of the warring nature of two loves within us. He says, “Whereas love for
      God is the source and staring point of every virtue, love for the world
      is the cause of all evil. For that reason these two loves are at enmity
      with each other and destroy each other.” In these few words, he both
      tells us the source of the crust of sinfulness which covers our soul and
      its remedy. The love of the world is the cause of all evil in us. This
      love was implanted in us by the evil one as a consequence of the sin of
      Adam. It is therefore at the root of the sinfulness which infects us and
      separates us from God. It can be destroyed only by the love for God
      which is planted in our hearts by the grace of God. Thus these two loves
      are at war in our hearts – the love of the world which pulls us away
      from God and the love for God for which unites us with Christ.

      “The foundation, origin and cause of these two opposing roots, love for
      God and love for the world, is another pair of implacably opposed loves.
      Love for the world springs from love for the body since we love the
      world because of our body’s well-being. On the other hand, love for God
      comes from love for our spirit, our soul, for we love God on account of
      the comfort and good fortune our souls will have in the world to come.”
      (St Gregory Palamas). These two loves, for the body and for the soul
      then form the foundation of the struggle in us to wipe away the crust of
      sin the prevents the light of Christ from shining out of us.

      The body yearns for the fleeting pleasures of the present which are
      sensual, that is they work through our senses and thus are focused only
      on the physical world which is the domain of our bodily senses. When we
      pursue these pleasures to excess and cultivate them we subject and
      enslave ourselves to the domination of all the various passions. These
      passions act on us through our senses: our sight, hearing, smell, taste,
      touch. Some of these passions focus on the pursuit of pleasure beginning
      with the stomach: gluttony, the pursuit of taste and delicacies, and
      drunkenness for example. These pleasures of food then lead to other
      lower passions such as fornication, adultery, immortality, the pursuit
      of pleasure through drugs and other bodily impurity and perversion.
      These passions enslave us and make us long for all manner of sensual
      pleasure no matter how it defiles the soul and darkens the heart. “Once
      our senses have been subjected to evil from within and without, from far
      and near, they attract filth and deadly sin goes in and out through
      these natural windows of our (senses).” (St Gregory Palamas).

      There is another avenue of this love of the world expressed as
      acquisitiveness – the desire to possess all that we can. We begin by
      desiring to possess that which brings delight and pleasure to the senses
      and then the passion of acquisitiveness and love of money is kindled in
      us giving rise to theft, extortion and every form of greed. We desire to
      possess all and yet the world is itself transient and finite and we can
      truly possess nothing for all things must pass away. Therefore we are in
      a race with ourselves to constantly acquire more and more while at the
      same time that which we think we have acquired constantly passes away.
      Our acquisitiveness also drives us into competition and warfare with
      others for what they possess we cannot have and so we are driven to
      strife and even to war and murder in an attempt to take from them what
      we desire for ourselves.

      Finally there is another means of the perception of the world which
      becomes an avenue of this destructive love. It is our imagination, which
      produces other pleasures and passions of the soul such as conceit,
      pride, arrogance and vanity. By excessively indulging in our imagination
      we enter into a world of our own creation – a world of fantasy and
      escapism – in which we construct a false reality that not only separates
      us from God, but also separates us from reality. Nothing in this world
      of fantasy can satisfy our passions for all is a false illusion and in
      the end we have nothing but the pain of our broken dreams.

      The antidote and cure for this love of the world is the love of God
      which comes from the love of our own soul. When we raise our mind and
      heart to the spiritual realm we see the consequences of sin and
      separation from God. We see that there are torments which are very real
      and yet which we do not experience in this life. These torments of the
      soul are the result of our separation from God and thus we are spurred
      initially towards the love of God by the fear of punishment. We love God
      to avoid the torments of separation from Him. But such love born of fear
      cannot last and it must transform itself into love which is born out of
      service to God – knowing that by serving God we will receive the eternal
      joys of paradise. But even this is an imperfect love and it must pass
      away. We must finally begin to love God for Himself alone and desire not
      those things which He gives us, but desire Him. This love is the
      foundation of all our joy and of our union and communion with Him. The
      pleasures of the soul which we receive from God are eternal and
      limitless. There is no boundary or end to them. They do not pass away
      and so we are not caught in that hopeless race of trying to constantly
      trying to replace them.

      The delight of the soul originates from God and things divine. It is
      pure, free from passion and not mixed with suffering. It does not pass
      away and there is no illusion or lie or falsehood in it. How do we then
      acquire this love of God and nurture it in ourselves. The apostle Paul
      instructs us, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest,
      whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever
      things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any
      virtue, and if there be any praise think on these things.” (Phil 4:8).
      Here is the key for us – to turn away from the things of the world that
      damage the soul and to fill our minds and hearts with those things which
      are from God and which build up the soul. Ascetic labor breaks the hold
      of the passions on us and helps us overcome the love of sensual
      pleasure. Having broken away from the passions, we fill our lives
      instead with those things which are from God and thus feed and nurture
      the love of God in our hearts. It is this constant work that we do, to
      break away from the passions that seek to rule our lives and instead
      fill ourselves with the things of God. In this way we peel back the
      crust of sinfulness that hides the light of Christ in us and allow that
      light to shine through us. One step at a time we move closer that state
      of being “in the fullness of the Spirit of God” and entering into the
      brilliant uncreated divine light of the Transfiguration that shines from
      Christ into our souls and from thence into the world.

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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