Daily Reflection for August 6, 2020



Why did our Lord not manifest His divine glory on Tabor before all the disciples instead of before three of them? First, because He Himself gave the Law through the mouth of Moses: “At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15). Therefore, three witnesses are sufficient. These three witnesses represent three main virtues: Peter Faith, for he was the first to confess his faith in Christ as the Son of God; James Hope, for, with faith in the promise of Christ, he was the first who laid down his life for the Lord, being the first to be slain by the Jews; John Love, for he reclined on the bosom of the Lord and remained beneath the Cross of the Lord until the end. God is not called the God of many but rather the God of the chosen. “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). God often valued a faithful man more than an entire nation. Thus, on many occasions, He wanted to destroy the entire Jewish nation, but because of the prayers of righteous Moses, spared that nation to live. God listened more to the faithful Prophet Elijah than to the entire unbelieving kingdom of Ahab. Because of the prayers of one man, God towns and people. Thus, the sinful town of Ustiug was to be destroyed by fire and hail had it not been saved by the prayers of the one and only righteous man in it, St. Procopius, the “fool for Christ” (July 8).
(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.
            Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” – not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone. But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen.
(Luke 9:28-36)

This passage from the gospel of St. Luke is the selection read at the festal matins service. The reading at liturgy is from Matthew. The transfiguration of our Lord on Mount Tabor is one of the “theophanies” of the incarnate Son of God. There are so many things to say about this event, beginning with the basic Christian calling to be transfigured ourselves. When the Lord shined with the Divine Light, He revealed Himself as God. That also revealed a hint about the resurrection of each of us, and what the Kingdom is to be like. When the voice of the Father boomed out of the cloud, He witnessed to His Son. Moses and Elijah appeared, “speaking of His decease which He was about to accomplish.” This connects the Transfiguration with the Passion and Crucifixion. He spoke about that with the disciples before they went up to the Mount. That was the “after these sayings,” that St. Luke refers to at the opening of the passage. Finally, the desire of the disciples to build tabernacles for the Lord, Moses, and Elijah witnesses to the desire of believers to simply be with the Lord and “out of the world.” Then they are sent back down the mountain by the Lord to be “out of the world” while in the world.

What we need to not lose sight of, however, is the somewhat subtle reference to “eight days.” The eighth day has always been seen by the Church as an eschatological reference — pointing to the last days and the end of time. The eschaton is the Kingdom of God established at the end of time. The eighth day is the day beyond time. Sunday is the first day and the eighth day, being the first day of the week and the eighth day beyond time, because the liturgy is the sacramental presence of the Kingdom of God. For these events to be chronicled “after eight days” is an iconic word pointing to the Kingdom being made present at that moment. Mount Tabor became a place “out of time” and the Kingdom present. For the disciples taken up that mountain, they were the first humans to experience what we all experience now in Jesus Christ and His Church. Every moment of worship, every moment of faith, every moment of love becomes a transfiguration of the self and the world. The Church is Tabor. We are standing bathed in the divine light. Like Peter, James, and John, we are sent back down the mountain to take the divine light into the world. May we shine, even if only dimly, with Him. And may we remember that we live in the eighth day.