Monday, August 06, 2012

Reflections on the Transfiguration

The Transfiguration as a Symbol of the Liturgy and Our Participation in Christ's Glory

by David Clayton

I recently read Jean Corbon's book The Wellspring of the Worship. In it Fr Corbon describes how an ordered participation in the liturgy opens our hearts in such a way that we accept God's love and enter into the mystery of the Trinity; in which we worship the Father, through the Son in the Spirit. This renews and transforms us so that we are rendered fruitful for God. The icon of the Transfiguration, he says, reminds us of this. It is an icon of the liturgy.

At one level the icon of the Transfiguration portrays, of course, the events as they happened in the bible. The composition of the icon shown above, by Theophanes the Greek, is ordered to Christ. He is flanked by the prophets Moses and Elijah who bow reverently. His appearance changes so that he and his clothing shine with uncreated light. Peter on the left is shown talking to Christ, he and the others all looking disoriented by what they are seeing and hearing. Three rays extend to the ears of the apostles as they hear the voice of the Father.

The biblical description of the Transfiguration, says Corbon, point not only to Christ's transfiguration but also to our own through participation in the liturgy.

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Blessing of First-Fruits at the Feast of the Transfiguration

Guest Article by John Vernoski,
Webmaster of

On the Feast of the Transfiguration, the Byzantine Church blesses the first-fruits of the harvest both as a giving back to the Lord what is His and has come from Him (1 Chronicles 29:14) and as a celebration of the promise of the final transfiguration of all things in Christ. The Divine Light glimpsed by the Apostles on Mount Tabor will transform all creation to its most perfect flowering and fruitfulness.

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St. Leo the Great on the Transfiguration

[An excerpt from a homily of St. Leo the Great (d. 461 A.D.) on the meaning and symbolism of the Transfiguration.]

Jesus took Peter and James and his brother John, and ascending a very high mountain with them apart, showed them the brightness of His glory; because, although they had recognised the majesty of God in Him, yet the power of His body, wherein His Deity was contained, they did not know... For the unspeakable and unapproachable vision of the Godhead Itself which is reserved till eternal life for the pure in heart, they could in no wise look upon and see while still surrounded with mortal flesh. The Lord displays His glory, therefore, before chosen witnesses, and invests that bodily shape which He shared with others with such splendour, that His face was like the sun's brightness and His garments equalled the whiteness of snow.

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