Dear Beloved in Christ,
Yesterday we celebrated the great feast of Transfiguration. What a joy to see so many of you there for the feast! We blessed the grapes, as is traditional on this feast, signifying our thankfulness to God for His providence in the bounty within our lives—especially the foods we eat.
Transfiguration is a feast of light. The Son of God reveals Himself to His disciples (“as much as they could bear,” according to the Apolytikion hymn), and they are so swept away that they desire to stay at Mount Tabor indefinitely. For this reason St. Peter said, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He wanted to build permanent structures for them, so that they could all stay.
What were the three disciples experiencing on Mt. Tabor that made them desire to stay? Was it Jesus’ light—”his face like the sun and His clothing as white as light”? Was it seeing Moses and Elijah? No, it was the experience of who God is. St. John the Evangelist, who was on Mount Tabor on Transfiguration, later wrote in one of his epistles, “God is love.” In fact God is much more than this. God is joy, peace, kindness, forgiveness, and all that is good. He is the source of these things and their definition, their essence.
On Mount Tabor, this was the disciples’ experience: The fullness of what it means to be joyful; the fullness of what it means to be at peace; the fullness of what it means to love and be loved. Who would ever want to leave such a state of ecstasy?
Our celebration of Transfiguration is the celebration of this fact: That we too can partake in this as much as the disciples did, both here on earth and certainly in His eternal kingdom. St. Makarios the Great said, “The Lord clothes His chosen souls in the garments of the ineffable light of His kingdom, the garments of faith, hope, love, joy, and peace, the garments of goodness and kindness and all comparable things. They are divine garments, pulsating with light and life, and they bring us peace that passes all description.”
During the services for the Transfiguration this joy was palpable. We are walking in the joy of our Lord’s presence. Let us continue in this!
Next week we will celebrate one of the greatest feasts of the Church, the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Panagia. Come to celebrate! While the Divine Liturgy on Saturday is already full, the joyous vigil on Friday night still has ample room.
The vigil for the Panagia is a combination of services: Vespers, Artoklasia, Orthros, and Lamentations. We will bring out the epitaphios—the ornate woven icon of the Dormition—we will break bread (artoklasia) together, we will be anointed with holy oil from the vigil candle of the epitaphios, and we will chant the profound Lamentations for the Dormition of the Panagia. Through her prayers, may we continue to walk in the light of our Lord Jesus Christ!