Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters! I warmly congratulate you on this Patronal Feast Day of the Cathedral of the Transfiguration and pass on a blessing from our Metropolitan, His Eminence Vladimir, of St. Petersburg and Ladoga.
The Transfiguration of Our Lord occurred on a spur of a beautiful and majestic mountain. Jesus Christ ascended the mountain in order to pray. During prayer He conversed with His Heavenly Father. Before Him lay His coming journey to Jerusalem, the Cross, and His suffering. Whenever questions occurred to the God-Man, He would ask what is the Will of my Heavenly Father? Jesus Christ’s human will was one with the will of the Father. He ascended the mountain to ask His Father if the time had come for Him to go to His cross and to his sufferings.
The Apostles who were on the mountain witnessed an extraordinary conversation. Their Teacher spoke with the prophets Moses and Elijah, who long before the birth of the Apostles had departed from earthly life, yet now were inexplicably with Christ. Amazing! However, the life experiences of these great prophets were similar, in some sense, to that of our Savior. Moses conversed with God on Mount Sinai and received the Ten Commandments. Elijah encountered God on Mount Horeb, not during the wind, earthquake or fire, but in the still, small voice… Also, their deaths were terrifying and incomprehensible: Moses died alone on Mount Nebo, Elijah was carried away from the earth in a chariot of fire… And now Jesus Christ ascends a mountain to hear the voice of His Father tell him of his impending death on the Cross.
Moses and Elijah… two great men among God’s chosen people… two pillars of the Old Testament … The Jews believed and knew that Moses would accompany the Messiah, and that Elijah would prefigure the Messiah … In the event of the Transfiguration, they appeared as a direct fulfillment of the prophesies.
In the Gospel of Luke, we read that the prophets talked with Him and “spoke of his exodus, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31).
A remarkable work – exodus. It points to the people of Israel’s departure from Egypt into an uncharted wilderness after which their wandering would lead them to the Promised Land. Exodus …This journey was the most perilous journey in human history! An entire people, trusting in God, went into the unknown … And now Jesus Christ’s exodus into Jerusalem lies before Him, as He accepts death and the Cross.
Moses and Elijah were symbols for the people of the Old Testament. One – the greatest Law-giver. The other – a brave, faithful prophet, to whom God Himself spoke. All of the chosen people, the entire Old Testament, the entire history of mankind was represented in the prophets’ faces on the mount of Transfiguration. It’s as if history pointed the way to Jesus Christ’s journey and found its fulfillment in Him.
There is mention of a cloud in the description of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. A cloud is a constant companion in the history of man’s salvation. A pillar of cloud led the way for God’s Chosen people (Exodus 13:21-22), a cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34), a cloud filled the temple of Solomon during its dedication. A cloud bore witness to the glory of the Lord during important events in the history of mankind. A bright cloud overshadowed the mount of Transfiguration, and the voice of God was heard from it.
The event of the Transfiguration became the spiritual pinnacle of Jesus Christ’s earthly life. Here, Our Lord, in response to His question, heard the answer, “Yes!,” from all the people of the Old Testament and from all the world’s history. Here, He received from His Heavenly Father Who had sent His Son into this world, the blessing to go now to Jerusalem, to accept His death by crucifixion and to save the human race. The disciples who witnessed this unique holy event on the mount of the Transfiguration were to understand that when they saw the crucified Christ, they would understand that this suffering was voluntary, and that they were to proclaim to the entire world that their Teacher Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God and the Father of Lights.
Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, let the event of the Transfiguration of our Lord inspire our own way of the Cross during our earthly pilgrimage. In life, not everything is cloudless. Each of us bears his own cross. But in fully entrusting oneself to our Heavenly Father and in conforming our imperfect human will to God’s Will, we must always remember that our personal cross leads toward the Resurrection, even as we walk behind Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as we walk with him and experience our small – compared to His – temptations, struggles, suffering. Let us firmly believe that life’s trials and tribulations not be considered a tragedy. Christ conquered all tragedies through His Cross. And that is why an eternal, joyful Pascha awaits each of us. Amen.