Orthodox America


  For the Light of the World


When Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, O Christ our God, Thou didst show Thy glory to Thy disciples as far as they could bear it. Let Thy everlasting light shine also upon us sinners through the intercessions of the Theotokos. Giver of Light, glory to Thee.

(Troparion of the Feast, tone 7)

 

"Here, I'll tell you about humble Seraphim! I took a special liking to the words of my Lord Jesus Christ: In My Father's house are many mansions (that is, for those who serve Him and glorify His Holy Name). On these words I, humble Seraphim, paused and wished to see these heavenly abodes, and I prayed my Lord Jesus Christ to show them to me; and the Lord did not deprive me, the humble one, of His mercy. He fulfilled my desire and request; and so I was transported to these heavenly abodes, only I do not know whether in the body or without the body, God knows; it is inconceivable.. And about that joy and heavenly sweetness of which I there partook, it is impossible to tell you”

With these words Father Seraphim became silent... He stooped his head, quietly patting his heart with his hand; his face began gradually to change and finally became so glowing that it was impossible to look at. Then Father Seraphim once more began to talk:

"Oh, if only you could know what joy, what sweetness await the souls of the righteous in heaven, then you would be determined in this temporal life to endure any sorrow, persecution, and calumny with gratitude...  There, there is no sickness, no sorrow, no lamentation; there is sweetness and rejoicing unutterable; there the righteous will shine like the sun....

(From the Introduction to "The Acquisition of the Holy Spirit" in Vol. I of the Little Russian Philokalia:- see p.11)

Thus sings our holy Church on this Feast day, recalling that wondrous event which took place so long ago on Mount Tabor. On that same mountain ,.rising majestically above the Palestinian plain, there is even today a triumphant celebration of that glorious event.

In telling us how the Transfiguration occurred, the holy Gospel says that the Saviour went up the mountain "to pray." Referring to this passage in a sermon, one of our great bishops explained that the immediate purpose of His ascending the mountain was the Saviour’s intention to pray there. But not only to pray, for the troparion says that He showed His glory to His disciples "as fan as they could bear it," i.e., as far as they were able to perceive this glory. And the kontakion indicates that the Lord did this precisely in order that they would remember this wondrous miracle when the time came for Him to suffer...

And so we pray, "Let the light shine also upon us sinners, through the prayers of the Theotokos."

What spiritual darkness has settled upon the world today! And it is becoming increasingly darker,. more dense. The Lord said in the Gospel that he who performs evil cannot abide the light but executes his deeds in darkness, fearing the light and fleeing from it. And now a thick darkness has enveloped mankind, Because of this all manner of iniquity, all filth which is conceived today by the sons of men, all this is performed openly. Clearly. for most of humanity, the spiritual light is already fading out and is all but extinguished. For this reason we must pray that the everlasting light which illumined the Apostles on Mt.. Tabor would shine also upon us

The Lord went up the mountain to pray, and during prayer He was transfigured. We know from the lives of saints that many of them were similarly wondrously transformed-and it was precisely during times of prayer.. just as the ancient ascetics shone with a blaze of light like the sun, so too in more recent times in Russia great ascetics have shone with uncreated light  From the life of St. Seraphim, you know how his holy face shone like the sun during his conversation with Motovilov.. We also know of an incident in the life of Elder Ambrose (of Optina); while he was alone in his cell praying, a monk hurriedly entered, and just as suddenly rap out in fright-he had beheld the race of the praying elder shining like the sun in the darkness of his cell, Likewise we know that many saw St:' John of Kronstadt surrounded by a wondrous divine light just at the time when he was before the altar offering his flaming prayer to the Lord of Glory. Experience has shown that when someone truly prays, he becomes enlightened. One can always distinguish between those who pray hypocritically, for show, and those who pray sincerely, thinking of no one else save God before Whom alone they stand.

Lt is this spiritual light, this everlasting light, which can illumine us during sincere prayer: For this reason, whether we pray for a long time or for a short time, we must regard the moments spent in prayer as the most important time of our life, for it is during this time that we stand before God and converse with Him. The Holy Fathers say that during the reading of the Holy Gospel and the patristic writings, God converses with us. And in prayer-we converse with God, This is of great benefit to the soul, for it is in conversing with one's Creator and Lord that the soul is illumined with that light for which we pray on this •bright Feast of our Lord's Transfiguration.

Metropolitan Philaret

First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad

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