Theodore the Studite: “Lord, by your will you granted power to my beauty” Thursday, Nov 12 2015 

Theodore_the_StuditeSince we have been counted worthy to celebrate the forefeast of the divine Transfiguration, from this then let us compose an instruction, discharging our duty in a few words.

On the one hand, all the feasts of the Lord expound the mysteries of his sojourn in the flesh, such as that he was born, that he was baptized, that he was crucified, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, that he was taken up in glory; while the mystery of the Transfiguration hints at the restoration in the age to come.

For in the same way that ‘his face blazed like the sun, while his garments became white as light’ (Matt. 17:2), in the same way he will come from heaven like lightning, with power and great glory to judge the universe.

And as Peter, James and John were with him on the holy mountain, so the elect will be with him in the kingdom of heaven, enjoying his ineffable manifestation as God and inexpressible joy.

And who is adequate for all this? Who is worthy to attain that joy? Who else but one whose way of life is pure and undefiled? For since our God is pure, or rather the highest light, he comes to the pure, and as he has placed a pure soul in us, he will also ask it from us pure.

For since it has been made according to God’s image and likeness, that is to say as a figure of the divine beauty, it has also shared in that beauty.

And knowing this the poet speaks thus, ‘Lord, by your will you granted power to my beauty’ (Psalm 29:8), that is to say to the beauty of the soul, lest, having turned away towards the ugly passions of sin and become disfigured, it fall from God and his divine rewards.

Since therefore it is agreed that our soul should be like this, lovely and beautiful, and that we should give it back to God like a pledge on the last day, the day of resurrection, I beg and urge that we love this beauty and carefully guard this loveliness, not turning back to the fair things of the present age or to the beauties of flesh and blood.

They are not beauties, but idols of beauty; they are rather corruption and change. And this we can learn from the end of things, for one who today is outstandingly beautiful and fair of face is tomorrow cast into a tomb, stinking and abhorrent. So there is nothing fair and loveable but exemplary virtue, which should be our chief pursuit, my brothers.

Theodore the Studite: (759-826): Catechesis 20 trans. Archimandrite Ephrem Lash @ Anastasis.

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Gregory Palamas: He bestowed at the time of His Transfiguration a divine power upon the eyes of the apostles Thursday, Aug 6 2015 

Gregory_PalamasThe apostles fell to the ground, unable to rest their gaze on the glory of the light of the Son, because it was a “light unapproachable”.

The Spirit, too, is light, as we read: “He who has shone in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 4:6).

If then the unapproachable is true and this light was unapproachable, the light was not a simulacrum of divinity, but truly the light of the true divinity, not only the divinity of the Son, but that of the Father and the Spirit too.

This is why we sing together to the Lord when we celebrate the annual Feast of the Transfiguration: “In Your light which appeared today on Thabor, we have seen the Father as light and also the Spirit as light,” for “You have unveiled an indistinct ray of Your divinity.”

[…] Denys the Areopagite, Gregory the Theologian and all the others who await His coming from heaven with glory, affirm clearly that Christ will be for all eternity as He then appeared, as we showed above.

This light, then, is not just a phantom without subsistence. Indeed, not only will Christ be eternally thus in the future, but He was such even before He ascended the Mountain.

Hear John Damascene, who is wise in divine things: “Christ is transfigured, not by putting on some quality He did not possess previously, nor by changing into something He never was before, but by revealing to His disciples what He truly was, in opening their eyes and in giving sight to those who were blind.

“For while remaining identical to what He had been before, He appeared to the disciples in His splendour; He is indeed the true light, the radiance of glory.”

Basil the Great testifies to the same truth: “His divine power appeared as it were as a light through a screen of glass, that is to say, through the flesh of the Lord which He had assumed from us; the power which enlightens those who have purified the eyes of the heart.”

And do not the annual hymns of the Church affirm that, even before the Transfiguration, He had previously been such as He then appeared? “What appeared today was hidden by the flesh, and the original beauty, more than resplendent, has been unveiled today.”

Moreover, the transformation of our human nature, its deification and transfiguration—were these not accomplished in Christ from the start, from the moment in which He assumed our nature?

Thus He was divine before, but He bestowed at the time of His Transfiguration a divine power upon the eyes of the apostles and enabled them to look up and see for themselves.

This light, then, was not a hallucination but will remain for eternity, and has existed from the beginning.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): The Triads, E 12-15, in Gregory Palamas: The Triads, ed. John Meyendorff, trans. Nicholas Gendle, Classics of Western Spirituality series, Paulist Press, 1983.

Aphrahat the Persian: The Overflowing Love of Christ Saturday, Mar 29 2014 

ephrem-isaac-aphrahatBecause of His overflowing love…He opened the eyes of two blind men who had come to Him; and also He gave to the Twelve power and authority over all disease and infirmity, and also to us by their hands.

And He prohibited us from the way of the Gentiles and of the Samaritans. And He gave power to us by His mercy that we might not fear when they brought us before the rulers of the world.

And He set a division in the earth because of His great peace. And He forgave the many sins to the woman who was a sinner because of His mercies.

[…]  And He cast out from us unclean spirits, and He made us a lodging place of His divinity, and sowed in us a good seed which should give fruit a hundredfold, and sixtyfold and thirtyfold.

And He was placed in the midst of the world in the likeness of a treasure which is put in a field. And He manifested the power of His greatness when He was cast down from on high to the depth and was not harmed.

And He satisfied the hungry who had grown faint with five loaves and two fishes, five thousand men besides woman and children, and manifested the greatness of His glory.

And on account of His abundant love He heard the Canaanitish woman and raised up her daughter from her infirmity.

And by the power of Him who sent Him He loosed the tongue of the man who was dumb, and who was also deaf; and the blind saw His light, and by means of Him they glorified Him who had sent Him.

And when He went up into the mountain to pray the rays of the sun were overcome by His light. And He made His power known in the case of that boy upon whom a spirit had come, and at His word the demon went away.

And He gave us an example and a pattern that we should become as children and enter the kingdom of heaven.

[…] And again He showed His healing perfectly in the case of that man who was infirm thirty-eight years, and He magnified His mercy towards him and healed him.

[…] And He hired us as laborers that we should work in His vineyard, which is the vineyard of truth.

All these things our Saviour did unto us because of His great love. And we also, beloved, should be partakers of the love of Christ, while we love one another and fulfil these two commandments, on which hang all the law and the prophets.

Aphrahat the Persian (c.270-c.345): Demonstrations, 2 – On Love (19; 20). (The icon accompanying this extract depicts Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, and Aphrahat). 

John Chrysostom: “Reflecting the Lord’s Glory, We are Refashioned to His Likeness” Sunday, Mar 16 2014 

John_ChrysostomWhat does it mean, to say (as Saint Paul does) that: Reflecting the Lord’s glory, we are refashioned transformed to his likeness (2 Corinthians 3;18)?

This was clearer in evidence when the grace of miracles was actively at work; but it is not hard to see even now, for anyone with the eyes of faith.

For on receiving baptism the soul shines brighter than the sun, being purified by the Holy Spirit; and not only do we behold God’s glory, but from it we receive a certain gleam ourselves.

Just as bright silver, when struck by beams of light, can send out beams in its turn, not simply of its own nature but from the sun’s brilliance, so also the soul, once purified and become brighter than silver, receives a beam from the glory of the Holy Spirit and sends that on.

That is why he says, Reflecting, we are refashioned he same pattern from – or of, or by – his glory, that of the Holy Spirit, into a glory, our own, which is contingent, modelled on the Spirit of the Lord.

See how he calls the Spirit “Lord,” or “Master.” He it is who transforms us, who does not permit us to conform to this world, the maker and first cause of creation as he is. As he says: You have been established in Christ Jesus.

This can be explained in more concrete terms from the apostles. We think of St. Paul, whose very clothes were activated; of St. Peter, whose very shadow had power.

That could never have been, if they had not borne the king’s likeness; if they had not had something of his unapproachable brightness – so much, it appears, that their clothes and their shadows worked wonders.

See how that brightness shines through their bodies! Gazing on the face of Stephen, he says, they seemed to see the face of an angel.

But that was nothing to the glory shining like lightning within. What Moses bore on his face, they carried in their souls, but to a much higher degree.

The mark on Moses was more tangible; but this was incorporeal. Dimly glowing bodies catch fire from brighter ones close by and pass on to others their own incandescence.

All that resembles what happens to the faithful. In this way they detach themselves from the world and have their converse only in the things of heaven.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407):  From a Homily by Saint John Chrysostom on 2 Corinthians 3 @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

Gregory Nazianzen: I Await the Transformation of the Heavens, the Transfiguration of the Earth, the Renovation of the Universe Saturday, Nov 9 2013 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenI believe the words of the wise.

I believe that every fair and God-beloved soul, when it has been set free from the bonds of the body, departs hence, and at once enjoys a sense and perception of the blessings which await it.

It enjoys this inasmuch as that which darkened it has been purged away, or laid aside—I know not how else to term it.

And it feels a wondrous pleasure and exultation, and goes rejoicing to meet its Lord.

For it has escaped, as it were, from the grievous poison of life here, and has shaken off the fetters which bound it and held down the wings of the mind.

And so it enters on the enjoyment of the bliss laid up for it, of which it has even now some conception.

Then, a little later, it receives its kindred flesh, which once shared in its pursuits of things above, from the earth which both gave and had been entrusted with it.

And, in some way known to God, who knit them together and dissolved them, the soul enters with the flesh upon the inheritance of the glory there.

And, as it shared, through their close union, in its hardships, so also it bestows upon it a portion of its joys, gathering it up entirely into itself, and becoming with it one in spirit and in mind and in God, the mortal and mutable being swallowed up of life.

Hear at least how the inspired Ezekiel discourses of the knitting together of bones and sinews (Ezek. 37:3).

Hear how after him Saint Paul speaks of the earthly tabernacle, and the house not made with hands, the one to be dissolved, the other laid up in heave.

Hear how Paul alleges absence from the body to be presence with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:1, 6; Phil. 1:23), and bewailing his life in it as an exile, and therefore longing for and hastening to his release.

Why am I faint-hearted in my hopes?  Why behave like a mere creature of a day?

I await the voice of the Archangel (1 Thess. 4:16), the last trumpet (1 Cor. 15:52), the transformation of the heavens, the transfiguration of the earth, the liberation of the elements, the renovation of the universe (2 Pet. 3:10).

Then shall I see Cæsarius himself, no longer in exile, no longer laid upon a bier, no longer the object of mourning and pity, but brilliant, glorious, heavenly.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 7, 21 (Panegyric on His Brother S. Cæsarius).

Gregory Palamas: The Light of Thabor Shines in the Hearts of the Faithful and Perfect Thursday, Oct 10 2013 

Gregory_PalamasThe commandments of God also grant knowledge, and not that alone, but deification also.

This we possess in a perfect manner, through the Spirit, seeing in ourselves the glory of God, when it pleases God to lead us to spiritual mysteries, in the manner indicated by St. Isaac….

But let us also hear what certain other saints who preceded him have to say of the glory of God, mysteriously and secretly visible to the initiated alone.

[…] And, first among them, let us listen to their leader Peter, who says, “It is not by following improbable fables that we have come to know the power and presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but because we have ourselves become witnesses of His greatness” (2 Pet. 1:16).

And here is another apostolic eyewitness of this glory: “Keeping themselves awake, Peter and his companions beheld the glory of Christ” (Lk. 9:32).

What glory? Another evangelist testifies: “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white like the light” (Mt. 17:2), showing them that He was Himself the God Who, in the Psalmist’s words, “wraps himself in light as in a mantle” (Ps. 103 [104]:2).

But, after having testified to his vision of Christ’s glory on the holy mountain (2 Pet. 1:18)—of a light which illumines, strange though it may be, the ears themselves (for they contemplated also a luminous cloud from which words reverberated)—Peter goes on to say, “This confirms the prophetic word” (2 Pet. 1:19).

What is this prophetic word which the vision of light confirms for you, O contemplators of God? What if not that verse that God “wraps Himself in light as in a mantle”?

He continues, “You would do well to pay attention to that prophetic word, as to a lamp which shines in a dark place till the day dawns.”  What day, if not that which dawned in Thabor?

“Let the morning star arise!” What star, if not that which illuminated Peter there, and also James and John? And where will that star rise, but “in your hearts”?

Do you not see how this light shines even now in the hearts of the faithful and perfect? Do you not see how it is superior to the light of knowledge?

It has nothing to do with that which comes from Hellenic studies, which is not worthy to be called light, being but deception or confounded with deception, and nearer to darkness than light.

Indeed, this light of contemplation even differs from the light that comes from the holy Scriptures, whose light may be compared to “a lamp that shines in an obscure place”, whereas the light of mystical contemplation is compared to the star of the morning which shines in full daylight, that is to say, to the sun.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): The Triads, D 17-18, in Gregory Palamas: The Triads, ed. John Meyendorff, trans. Nicholas Gendle, Classics of Western Spirituality series, Paulist Press, 1983.

Germanus of Constantinople: “It is Time, My Mother”, Says the Lord, “to Take You to Myself” Thursday, Aug 15 2013 

Germanus of ConstantinopleIt is time, my Mother, (says the Lord), to take you to myself. Just as you have filled the earth and all who dwell in it with joy, O you who enjoy such grace, come, and make the heavens joyful once again.

Make my Father’s dwelling-place radiant; be a spiritual guide for the souls of the saints.

For when they see your glorious passage here to my side, escorted by angels, they will be convinced in their faith that their own place, too, through you, will be to dwell here in my light.

Come, then, in exultation; rejoice now, as you rejoiced at the angel’s greeting. In every way you now have the dignity of your title, ‘full of grace.’

As when you were about to conceive me you were invited to rejoice, so rejoice again in my desire to take you to myself.

Do not be disturbed at leaving behind the corruptible world, with all its desires. Forget about its power of corruption.

For you will not leave those who live in the world bereft of your protection; but just as I, who am not of the world, watch over those who live in it and take care of them, so your patronage will not be taken away from those who live in the world, until its consummation.

The extravagant demands of the flesh will no longer disturb you. You are ascending to a fuller life, to joyful rest, to unconquerable peace, to an existence untroubled by cares, to delights free of passion, to permanent freedom from distraction, to unending enjoyment, to a light that never fades, to a day without evening—to me, the creator of all that is, including you.

Where I am, there is eternal life, incomparable joy, a dwelling-place without parallel, an indestructible city. Where I am, then, you will be also: a mother inseparably one with her undivided Son. Where God is, there is all goodness of heart, all delight, all brilliance.

No one who knows my glory wants to abandon it. No one who comes to my rest seeks again the things of the corruptible world. Ask Peter if there was any comparison or likeness between the world and Mount Tabor, when he gazed for a short time on my glory.

When you lived in the world of corruptible things, I revealed my power to you in visions; now that you are passing from that life, I will show myself to you face to face. Give the earth what belongs to it, without anxiety.

Germanus of Constantinople (c.634–c.733): excerpt from An Encomium on the Holy and Venerable Dormition of Our Most Glorious Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, in On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies, SVS Press, 1998, pp.170-172); fuller extract @ Priest Matthew Jackson.

John Chrysostom: The Mystery of the Transfiguration and the Significance of Moses and Elijah Tuesday, Aug 6 2013 

John_ChrysostomOn Matthew 17:1-9 (the mystery of the Transfiguration)

Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it (Matthew 16:24-25).

Jesus sets before Peter, James and John…these persons – Moses and Elijah.

Each of these, having lost his life, found it. For each of them both spake boldly unto tyrants, Moses to the Egyptian, Elijah to Ahab; and in behalf of heartless and disobedient men; and by the very persons who were saved by them, they were brought into extreme danger; and each of them wishing to withdraw men from idolatry.

[…] What if Moses clave a sea? Peter walked on the water, and was able to remove mountains, and used to work cures of all manner of bodily diseases, and to drive away savage demons, and by the shadow of his body to work those wonderful and great prodigies; and changed the whole world. And if Elijah too raised a dead man, yet these apostles raised ten thousand….

He brings them forward accordingly for this cause also. For He would have them emulate their winning ways toward the people, and their presence of mind and inflexibility; and that they should be meek like Moses, and jealous for God like Elijah, and full of tender care, as they were. For Elijah endured a famine of three years for the Jewish people; and Moses said, “If thou wilt forgive them their sin, forgive; else blot me too out of the book, which thou hast written.”

Now of all this He was reminding Peter, James and John by the vision. For He brought those in glory too, not that these should stay where they were, but that they might even surpass their limitary lines. […] For “except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”

For not into Egypt did they enter, but into the whole world, worse disposed than the Egyptians; neither were they to speak with Pharaoh, but to fight hand to hand with the devil, the very prince of wickedness. Yea, and their appointed struggle was, both to bind him, and to spoil all his goods; and this they did cleaving not the sea, but an abyss of ungodliness, through the rod of Jesse,—an abyss having waves far more grievous.

See at any rate how many things there were to put the men in fear; death, poverty, dishonor, their innumerable sufferings…. But nevertheless against all these things He persuaded them boldly to venture, and to pass as along dry ground with all security. To train them therefore for all this, He brought forward those who shone forth under the old law.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 56.

Augustine of Hippo: What this Sun is to the Eyes of the Flesh, that is Christ to the Eyes of the Heart Tuesday, Aug 6 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaOn Matthew 17:1-9 (the mystery of the Transfiguration)

The Lord Jesus Himself shone bright as the sun; His raiment became white as the snow; and Moses and Elijah talked with Him.

Jesus Himself indeed shone as the sun, signifying that “He is the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

What this sun is to the eyes of the flesh, that is He to the eyes of the heart; and what that is to the flesh of men, that is He to their hearts. Now His raiment is His Church.

[…] Of this raiment, Paul was as it were a sort of last border. For he says himself, “I am the least of the Apostles.” […]  Now in a garment the border is the last and least part.

Wherefore as that woman which suffered from an issue of blood, when she had touched the Lord’s border was made whole, so the Church which came from out of the Gentiles, was made whole by the preaching of Paul.

What wonder if the Church is signified by white raiment, when you hear the Prophet Isaiah saying, “Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow”?

Moses and Elijah, that is, the Law and the Prophets, what avail they, except they converse with the Lord? Except they give witness to the Lord, who would read the Law or the Prophets?

Mark how briefly the Apostle expresses this; “For by the Law is the knowledge of sin; but now the righteousness of God without the Law is manifested:” behold the sun; “being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,” behold the shining of the Sun.

As the cloud then overshadowed them, and in a way made one tabernacle for them, “a voice also sounded out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son.”

Moses was there; Elijah was there; yet it was not said, “These are My beloved sons.” For the Only Son is one thing; adopted sons another. He was singled out in whom the Law and the prophets glorified.

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him!” Because ye have heard Him in the Prophets, and ye have heard Him in the Law. And where have ye not heard Him? “When they heard this, they fell” to the earth. See then in the Church is exhibited to us the Kingdom of God.

Here is the Lord, here the Law and the Prophets; but the Lord as the Lord; the Law in Moses, Prophecy in Elijah; only they as servants and as ministers. They as vessels: He as the fountain: Moses and the Prophets spake, and wrote; but when they poured out, they were filled from Him.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Homilies on St Matthew’s Gospel, 28, 2, 4.

Maximus the Confessor: Moses, Elijah and the Mystery of the Transfiguration (2) Monday, Aug 5 2013 

Maximus_ConfessorContinued from here…

Then they [Peter, James and John] are taught through them [Moses and Elijah] about wisdom and kindness dwelling with Him.

It is in accordance with wisdom that the word is declaratory of things made and prohibitory of things not made, and of this Moses is the type, for we believe the grace of law-giving to belong to wisdom.

And it is in accordance with kindness that the word invites and causes to return to the divine life those who have slipped away from it, and of this Elijah is the type, through himself manifesting the complete prophetic gift.

For the conversion through love for humankind of those who have erred is a characteristic of divine kindness, and the heralds of this we know as the prophets.

[And they are also taught about] knowledge and education. Knowledge is the source in human beings of the understanding of good and evil.

“For I have set before your face”, he says, “life and death” (Deut. 30:19), the one you are to elect, the other to flee, and lest through ignorance you disguise the worse with the good,

Moses proclaims what is to be done, prefiguring in himself the symbols of the truth. Education is needed for those who without restraint do what is contrary and indiscriminately mix what should not be mixed. In Israel the great Elijah was their teacher, the scourge of indifference, who, like reason, led to understanding and sense the mindlessness and hardness of those who were utterly addicted to evil.

[And they are also taught about] ascetic struggle and contemplation. Ascetic struggle destroys evil and through the demonstration of the virtues cuts off from the world those who are completely led through it in their disposition, just as Moses led Israel out of Egypt and educated her persuasively through the divine laws of the Spirit.

Contemplation seizes them as it were from matter and form, like Elijah on his chariot of fire, leading them to God through knowledge and uniting them with Him, so that they are no longer weighed down by the flesh because of the setting aside of its law, nor burning with zeal for the fulfillment of the commandments, because of the grace of poverty of spirit mixed with all real virtues.

Again, they learnt from the Word the mysteries of marriage and celibacy: through Moses, how one is not prevented by marriage from being a lover of divine glory; and through Elijah, how he remained completely pure from any marital intercourse, and how the Word and God proclaims that those who direct themselves in these things by reason according to the laws that are divinely laid down concerning them are made to enter into Himself in a hidden way.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662):  Eighteen Spiritual Interpretations of the Tranfiguration, From Maximus the Confessor by Andrew Louth (Routledge: London 1999) pp. 128-134 @ Mystagogy here and here.

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