The Transfiguration … a modern icon by Alexander Ainetdinov
Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration [6 August 2015] The Gospels recount how Christ was transfigured before Peter, James and John. Appearing with Christ were Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and Prophets of Israel. Christ is said to have shone like the sun.
In the Daily Office of the Church of Ireland, the Gospel reading today is Saint Luke’s account of the Transfiguration. The parallel passage in Matthew 17: 2 is more descriptive: “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.”
According to the 13th century Eastern theologian, Saint Gregory Palamas, the Light that shone around Christ was God’s divine energies, divinity itself. In the Transfiguration, we behold the Divinity of Christ, and we see our own call as human beings to become divinised by Grace.
The early Church Fathers said that Christ became a human being so that human beings might become God. We are reminded of Christ’s uniqueness as the Son of God, but also, our own destiny to become sons and daughters of God as well.
As we are reminded in the Second Letter of Saint Peter: “His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may … become participants of the divine nature...” (II Peter 1: 3-4).
Many years ago, in Saint Thomas’s Church, Dugort, on Achill Island, I heard a sermon that drew the sharp and shocking contrast between the light that enveloped Christ in the Transfiguration and the light that was emitted by the first atomic bomb as it exploded over the city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.
Later today, at 1.05 p.m., as President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, I am speaking at the annual Hiroshima Day commemoration organised by Irish CND in Merrion Square, Dublin.
The way this feast day and this commemoration fall together on 6 August is a reminder of what we can do to each other despite our shared humanity and a reminder of the call to become fully human and to become part of God’s glory and goodness.
Readings: Daniel 7: 9-10, 13-14; Psalm 97; II Peter 1: 16-19; Luke 9: 28-36.
Luke 9: 28-36
28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’ – not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
Father in heaven,
whose Son Jesus Christ was wonderfully transfigured
before chosen witnesses upon the holy mountain,
and spoke of the exodus he would accomplish at Jerusalem:
Give us strength so to hear his voice and bear our cross in this world,
that in the world to come we may see him as he is;
where he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Post Communion Prayer:
we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
May we who are partakers at his table
reflect his life in word and deed,
that all the world may know his power to change and save.
This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.