Orthodox America

  The Transfiguration

Thou wast transfigured on the mountain O Christ our God, and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory, as far as they were capable, that when they should see Thee crucified they, might knew that Thy suffering was voluntary and might proclaim to the world that Thou art indeed the reflection of the Father.

(Kontakion of the Feast. tone 7)


During his earthly ministry, our lord Jesus Christ drew great crowds of people who loved Him and followed him. When He spoke to them it was most often in parables. To his disciples, however, He explained more clearly what was to happen in the future and what sufferings awaited Him.  The disciples were Hs closest followers who listened attentively to every word of their Teacher.  Before thy Lord's Resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit, however, they were not fully enlightened, that is, they were not able to understand the mysteries of the spiritual world. They knew Christ to be Perfect Man, but they did not yet understand how He was also Perfect God.  They were very troubled, therefore when Christ told them that He would have to suffer many things and to be killed. If He were truly the Son of God, could He not avoid such a fate? Would He really die and leave them alone in the world? To calm their fears and strengthen their faith, our Lord revealed to three of His disciples the glory of His Divinity.

Forty days before His death on the Cross, Jesus Christ took three of His disciples-. Peter, James and John-up onto a high mountain to pray. They became tired and fell asleep. When they awoke, they saw the Lord in glory: His garment was white as the light and His face shone like the sun with such brightness that it was difficult to look upon. On either side of Christ stood Moses and Elijah who spoke with Him about the sufferings and death which awaited Him in Jerusaem. They represented the Old Testament Law and the Prophets and were sent to witness the glorification or the Lord in His New Testament.  It was the first time they saw God in his humanity, just as it was the first time the disciples saw His Divinity

Overwhelmed by what he saw, Peter cried out: "Lord, it is good for us to be here and, if Thou wilt, Jet us make here three tabernacles (tents): one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." But he did not know what he was saying. Suddenly a bright cloud came over them and out of the cloud a voice saying:

 This is My beloved Son, in with whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him.

 Upon hearing the voice of God, the disciples fell down covering their faces in fear and trembling.  Then Christ came close to them and said, 'Arise and be not afraid." looking up, the disciple S saw that Moses and Eljah were no longer there; only the Lord stood before them.  And as they went down the mountain together, He asked them to tell no one what they had seen until after He had risen from the dead.

The Transfiguration is celebrated as one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church. Although it took place 40 days before the Lord's Crucifixion, the Feast was early transferred to August 6, 40 days before the Exaltation of the Cross, so that it could be celebrated with great joy which would not be possible during Great Lent.  It is a pious Orthodox custom to offer fruits to be blessed at this time as an offering of thanksgiving to God. Also, the ripened fruit reminds us that God expects us as Christians to be fruitful, to change our lives so that we too may reflect at least a little of that divine light which shone so brightly on Mt. Tabor at the Lord's Transfiguration.