The Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ each year on August 6. I don’t know how it is everywhere else, but up here in Anchorage, where our humble parish is named after this important Feast, we tend to forget it, and fail to give it the attention that it deserves. This is partly because in early August we are primarily focused on our upcoming Greek Festival, and enjoying the last few weeks of summer. But I think we also tend to forget about the Transfiguration because we do not relate to it in the same way that we relate to the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, celebrated only nine days later. We love the Theotokos and relate to her as a mother, and we can both marvel at, and celebrate, her painless passage from this life to the next life. But with the Transfiguration of Christ, we may have a little bit harder time understanding what it means for the Church and what it means for us personally, and why it should be celebrated.

The word “transfiguration” comes from the Greek word “metamorphosis”, which speaks to a change in form or nature. This name is attached to the phenomenon that took place on Mount Tabor, when the Lord was transfigured in front of the disciples Peter, James, and John. Though this change in form appeared to take place in Christ, the true change happened not in Christ, but in the disciples. Their hearts and eyes were opened in a new way, and they received the grace to perceive in Christ what had previously been hidden – the Glory of His Divinity. This Glory was revealed only in part, yet it was still so powerful that the disciples fell to the ground in great fear. With their physical eyes they saw a brilliant light, brighter than the sun, and with the eyes of their souls they experienced the overwhelming love of God.

Did you know that we are called to this very same experience? We are called by God to draw near to Him, to be united to Him in a bond of perfect love and freedom, and the resulting experience of this bond will be our own “mini-transfiguration” – the experience of the overwhelming power of Divine love. We are already partakers of the Lord’s Divine Nature, for the same divinity that made the disciples fall to the ground on Mount Tabor is the very same divinity that we receive into our bodies in Holy Communion. We receive Him in the Holy Mysteries, but unfortunately we do not always perceive this reality.

We know that Christ first ascended a mountain before He revealed His glory to His disciples. This was in order to teach us that if we are to behold this glory in our own lives, we must first ascend the mountain of love for God. We must ascend to those things that are higher, are elevated, and leave the lesser things of this earth in their own proper context, meaning that we must slowly, step-by-step, ascend towards God and away from all of our earthly attachments. This most certainly includes placing the Divine services back in their important place above our festivals and other material concerns. We are exhorted to do this every Sunday during the Cherubic Hymn as we chant, “now let us lay aside all earthly cares, that we may receive the King of all.”

Our reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion should permeate and transfigure our whole being with divine grace. However, this will only happen to the degree that we are prepared to receive it. The Mount Tabor of our hearts must be cleansed and we must ask God to make us worthy to experience the fullness of His love for us. May He find each of us worthy to behold His glory, that we might be transfigured by it, as were the disciples on Mount Tabor. Amen.