Transfiguration / Dormition
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… Today we mark the apodosis, the ‘leave-taking’ of the feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We also stand today on the threshold of the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, which we will celebrate Monday evening and Tuesday morning. These two feasts mark the end of the Liturgical year… and they offer us worthy insights into the Christian life and our path toward God.
Let us recall the great feast of the Transfiguration… when Christ ascended Mt Tabor and the Light of His Divine Grace shone forth before His disciples Peter, James, and John. This shining illumination of Christ occurred as Christ was about to go to Jerusalem to face His suffering… His arrest, torments, and crucifixion.
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom makes the following observation:
‘There are blessed or tragic moments when we can see a person revealed to us in a light with a depth, with an awesome beauty, which we have never suspected before.
It happens when our eyes are open, at a moment of purity of heart; because it is not only God Himself Whom the pure in heart will see; it is also the divine image, the light shining in the darkness of a human soul, of the human life that we can see at moments when our heart becomes still, becomes transparent, becomes pure.
But there are also other moments when we can see a person whom we thought we have always known, in a light that is a revelation. It happens when someone is aglow with joy, with love, with a sense of worship and adoration. It happens also when a person is at the deepest point, the crucifying point of suffering, but when the suffering remains pure, when no hatred, no resentment, no bitterness, no evil is mixed to it, when pure suffering shines out, as it shone invisibly to many from the crucified Christ.'
Metropolitan Anthony’s observations reflect upon both the purity of heart of the observer - which allows us to see the light and grace of God; as well as the soul’s disposition of the one being observed - when a person is ennobled by self-giving love or by sacrificial suffering… then here too we may see the light and grace of God shining through.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… let us recognize this! The light and the grace of God shines forth, yet it is both through the lack of purity in our heart that we fail to see that light, and it is through the imperfections of our love and the distortions of our suffering that this light is blocked from shining through us for others to see.
I used to fly a lot for business. It was always a stunning revelation for me to take a flight on a cloudy day. The weather may be foggy or raining as the plane takes off, but soon we are ascending and moving through the layers of cloud, when suddenly, we break through and above the clouds is a perfectly blue sky with a radiant sun shining forth! I was always struck by this…
And isn’t this an accurate metaphor for the ever-present and ever-illuminating light of the love of God? God does not change. That clear blue sky of His light and His love are always shining forth. It is we who create the atmosphere of fog and clouds that obscure both ourselves and others from seeing and experiencing the light and warmth of His love.
It is that light which produces fruit. On the feast of Transfiguration we bless the first fruits – joyfully celebrating and thanking God for the harvest of the late summer. And what are the fruits of the light and love of God? Apostle Paul lists them for us: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5: 22-23)
Here as we come to the end of the yearly Church calendar, we come upon the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. How fitting and how meaningful it is that the Church year concludes with these two feasts: the Transfiguration and the Dormition.
In the Transfiguration we see manifestation of the light of God and we celebrate and give thanks for the fruits which come forth from the blessing of that light. And with the Dormition, our attention is brought before the most perfect example of such fruits of the Spirit, the Ever-Virgin Mother of our Lord, she who is more honorable than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim!
Holy Scripture does not give us many words from the Mother of God. But those few phrases we do have are extremely precious and most edifying. Think of one of the first things we hear from her as she responds to the Archangel Gabriel: ‘Behold the handmaiden of the Lord! Let it be to me according to thy word.’ May God grant that we would have the trust and courage for this to be our daily prayer… ‘Behold the servant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to thy word.’
And then let us reflect on the last words recorded in the Gospels of the blessed Virgin. At the wedding in Cana, her advice to the disciples of the Lord, her Son, was: ‘Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.’ This is her legacy to us and we would be wise to make this our daily guidance.
On this leave-taking of the feast of the Transfiguration, may God grant us that purity of heart to see His glory and by the prayers of His Most Pure Mother, may we strive to bear those fruits of the Spirit. Tomorrow evening we will gather to celebrate the Dormition of the Mother of God. May her words and her life stand before us as testaments to the transformative power of the light and grace of God!