Transfiguration and Suffering  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

For today's Feast of the Transfiguration we turn to Norman Russell's Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on Theosis (St Vladimir's Seminary Press 2009). What happened to Jesus on the mountain during the Transfiguration was a manifestation of the theosis of his human nature. However, theosis is not limited to Jesus; it is the destiny of us all. But it is not accomplished without suffering. The excerpt is found on pp 109-111.

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The Transfiguration...is a revelation of the true stature of our human nature, a stature which our first parents in the Garden of Eden failed to attain. They listened to the voice of temptation, which suggested to them that they had been forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge because God jealously wanted to keep them in a state of immaturity...But knowledge in itself does not make us like God. Our twentieth-century history has taught us that only too painfully. "Adam", as St John Damascene says, "longed for deification before the proper time". Knowledge needs to be accompanied by humility, thanksgiving, purity of heart. The glory indicated by the Transfiguration is only to be attained through the self-emptying of the Passion. "It is only through this free kenosis [self-emptying]" says Metropolitan John Zizioulas, "that the ascetic is led to the light of the Resurrection. The light of Mount Tabor, the light of the Transfiguration, which the Hesychasts claimed to see, was given as a result of participation in the sufferings, the kenosis of Christ. " We arrive at our true human stature through sharing in the glory of Christ, having first shared in his Passion.

The Church Father who brings out this aspect of the Transfiguration most clearly is St Cyril of Alexandria. In his homily on the Transfiguration...he sets the narrative as Luke tells it within the broader pattern of the divine economy. The immediately proceeding discussion is of the greatest significance: "If anyone wishes to come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Lk 9:23). "This teaching" St Cyril comments, "is our salvation". It prepares us for heavenly glory through the acceptance of suffering for Christ's sake. The converse is also true: the vision of heavenly glory granted to Peter, James and John prepares them to accept the suffering that is shortly to come upon them...To see the Transfiguration is to see the kingdom of God. The radiant humanity of the Lord shows the apostles the destiny that awaits them. The Lord can now go to his suffering and death and the apostles can follow him, confident in the glory that can only be attained through sharing in the Cross.

This entry was posted on Friday, August 6, 2010 at Friday, August 06, 2010 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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