On the Feast of the Transfiguration

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Greetings on this glorious feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord – a feast of not just symbolic or metaphorical glory, but of both the physical and spiritual manifestation, in time and place, of the uncreated glory of the Creator Himself.

Mount Tabor became the place where the glory the Only-Begotten and Pre-Eternal Son of God was revealed to the disciples, as far as they were able to bear it.

The Saviour revealed that which had not been seen by the men and women of the Gospels: not by the magi, even though they fell down and worshipped Him as they laid their gifts before Him; not by the shepherds, even though an angel revealed the new-born Lord to them; not by Symeon the God-Receiver, even though he took the Infant-Saviour into his arms and recognised Him as the Light to enlighten the gentiles; not by the many sick, disabled and possessed people whom He healed and set free, even though He, as their Creator made them into new creations through the miracles He wrought.

Peter, James and John beheld the Saviour in a way that none had so-far beheld Him, as Christ the Eternal Logos revealed His divinity on Mount Tabor, and yet the Transfiguration represented a restoration of the glory in which Adam and Eve were clothed before the Fall, as we chant in the aposticha of vespers

“Thou wast transfigured, and didst cause the darkened nature of Adam to shine again, imparting to it the glory and splendour of Thy divinity.”

The glory that radiated from the Saviour and enveloped Him in the Transfiguration was not something in which He was clothed on the occasion. Rather, as the Church Fathers made clear, when Jesus was transfigured He did not take upon Himself something new that He did not formerly possess, or change into something or someone else. Rather, in the radiant splendour of the godhead, He showed Himself to His disciples as He already was, and as He always had been, though His divinity was temporarily hidden when He was incarnate, as the Saviour of the World.

In the words of St Gregory Palamas,

“We believe that at the Transfiguration He manifested…  only that which was concealed beneath His fleshly exterior. This Light was the Light of the Divine Nature, and as such, it was Uncreated and Divine.”

The Saviour revealed what His humility, His love and compassion had hidden when He was obedient to the Father’s will in the incarnation, clothing Himself in Adam and hiding what the Prophet Ezekiel had seen and struggled to describe when the Lord-Yahweh, the pre-incarnate Saviour, appeared on the heavenly chariot-throne in

“… a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also, from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the colour of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”

The uncreated-light of Christ’s divinity on Mount Tabor echoed the glory that Ezekiel could only approximate in words and images, and also the glory that Moses encountered when he ascended Mount Sinai: glory that was such that Moses himself was transfigured by his encounter with Christ-Yahweh, as St Gregory Palamas reminded his listeners:

“Even the face of Moses was illumined by his association with God. Do you not know that Moses was transfigured when he went up the mountain, and there beheld the Glory of God? But he (Moses) did not affect this, but rather he underwent a Transfiguration.”

On Mount Tabor, Moses, present in spirit, again reflected the divine-glory, whilst Elias who had bodily ascended into heaven reflected the light of the Transfiguration both physically and spiritually.

And, the Saviour appeared in glory, not simply to show the glory of His divinity to the disciples, but to give them a glimpse of the radiant promise of the resurrection, preparing them for the necessary suffering which would lead Him from Gethsemane and the Praetorium to Golgotha and the Arimathean’s tomb, as He went to His voluntary passion like a lamb to the slaughter, in the brokeness of the suffering-servant foreseen by the Prophet Isaiah, and Who…

“hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him… He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief… brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

The Transfiguration pre-empted His suffering, so that the necessity of the Cross and the sacrifice of Christ, as the Lamb of God and New-Passover, could be understood by those closest to Him, so that they would not be scandalised by the Cross of Christ, and His crucifixion.

Behind this voluntary and sacrificial-suffering, self-emptying and selfless giving was the same Christ who was transfigured to show the certainty of the glory which lay beyond the Cross and tomb: the glory of the Pre-Eternal Word made flesh for us men and for our salvation.

As St Ephrem the Syrian preached,

“He led them up the mountain and showed them his kingship before his passion, and his power before his death, and his glory before his disgrace, and his honour before his dishonour, so that, when he was arrested and crucified by the Jews, they might know that he was not crucified through weakness, but willingly by his good pleasure for the salvation of the world.”

Paths of suffering would also be the lot of the disciples, given courage by a glimpse of the glory of the Kingdom and the Master’s divinity, to shortly be reinforced by their experience of His resurrection, His glorious ascension, and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

The Saviour sought to share His glory with them, so that they – and every generation of faithful – might be partakers and inheritors of His glory, called to be transfigured like Moses and Elias, radiant in His light.

Similar paths have been trodden by the Saviour’s followers throughout the history of the Church, from the Roman persecutions to the trials of the new-martyrs and confessors of the Communist Yoke in the 20th century, and the suffering of the persecuted Ukrainian Church, today.

Through this suffering countless believers have been spiritually transfigured, finding great strength and joy even in their sufferings – encountering God, with their endurance and courage buoyed by the promise touched upon by St Leo the Great in his homily for the feast,

“About which the Lord had Himself said, when He spoke of the majesty of His coming, Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in their Father’s Kingdom (Mat. 13:43), while the blessed Apostle Paul bears witness to the self-same thing, and says: for I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18): and again, for you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. For when Christ our life shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:3).”

… and in this he reminds us that most will have to wait for the life of the age to come to behold God’s glory, when the righteous shall shine like the sun, when the elect will be sharers in the light which shone upon the mountain of the Transfiguration.

Few will have the worldly foretaste of this glory, like St Symeon, St Seraphim or St John the Wonderworker, but we live in hope of the promise of the glory of God manifest on the mountain.

To attain to this promise, glimpsed on Tabor by the disciples, we must take up our Cross and follow the Saviour in selfless love and obedience: thoroughly, faithfully, and maximally.

This is the only way each of us can even begin to climb the mountain, even its lowest and gentlest slopes: embracing spiritual life as askesis/ascetic labour – praying, fasting, struggling for purity, through repentance and by making the Gospel and the Law of God the entire rule of our lives, day by day.

Above all, let us be fervent in prayer, as our communion with the Living God joins time and eternity, and our finite and transient human lives with the changeless eternity of the life of God who always IS.

In prayer there is a certain transcendence of time and place, as there was when the Lord was transfigured on the mountain, and pure prayer is at the centre of our metamorphosis and transfiguration.

St Gregory Palamas, (taking the Transfiguration Gospel from St Luke) observes that

“That same Inscrutable Light shone and was mysteriously manifest to the Apostles and the foremost of the Prophets at that moment, when (the Lord) was praying. This shows that what brought forth this blessed sight was prayer, and that the radiance occurred and was manifest by uniting the mind with God, and that it is granted to all who, with constant exercise in efforts of virtue and prayer, strive with their mind towards God. True beauty, essentially, can be contemplated only with a purified mind.

Let us raise up our hearts and minds to God, as even in wordlessness, this is prayer.  And, through prayer – sometimes easy, often a struggle – let us labour to purify our intellect, thoughts and senses, so that we may contemplate things divine and eternal, and join ourselves to things heavenly and changeless: racing to the mountain in this prayer, eager to behold and experience the glory of the Lord.

“Arise, ye slothful thoughts of my soul, which have ever been dragged down to the earth! Be ye upborne and rise aloft to the summit of divine ascent! Let us make haste to Peter and the sons of Zebedee, and with them let us go to Mount Tabor, that we may see the glory of our God with them, and may hear the voice which they heard from on high; and they preached that Thou, in truth, art the Effulgence of the Father.”

(Ikos of the Matins Canon)

… and let us not simply rise up to go, to seek, to hear, but to spiritually labour and struggle to be clothed as partakers in that very glory that shone forth upon the mountain, so that Adam’s darkened nature in us may shine once more.

S prazdnikom! Happy Feast!



From Transfiguration to Dormition

Dear brothers and sisters,

What a busy three days we had from Friday to Sunday, with Friday ‘s Transfiguration Liturgy in Butetown, Saturday Liturgy in Cheltenham, and yesterday’s Liturgy in Canton.

Our Cardiff celebrations brought worshippers from Bath, Stroud, Chippenham, Warminster and the Forest of Dean, in addition to our locals. It also meant that we were able to bless the home-grown fruit and produce of three English counties as part of our Transfiguration celebrations!

Though our Cheltenham Liturgy only brought a dozan of us together, it was a joyful occasion, with a second blessing of fruit and produce and a wonderful meal with everyone around the table chatting, welcoming new arrival from Khmelnitsky.

Having had the blessing of been able to celebrate services with the faithful in Wiltshire in the last fortnight, and then Cheltenham, being able to serve the faithful in their home environs is a great blessing, and I think all who have provided transport for making this possible.

Sunday was certainly one of my busier days, and such was the volume of confession that they exceeded time before proskomedia, continuing whilst Deacon Mark prepared the chalice for communion, and also after Liturgy. Together with spiritual counsel to individual parishioners this lasted until 15:30, by which time virtually everyone had gone.

I am sorry that I was unable to socialise, eat and talk with parishioners at trapeza, but it was simply not possible, given pastoral needs on an unusually busy day. However, in future, this needs managing, as the only time we are all together is for Sunday Liturgy and trapeza, and the faithful must have the opportunity to talk to there priest.

Some of you will remember how days like yesterday became normal when we first came to St John’s, so that I hardly ever had time with parishioners after Sunday Liturgy. This must not be allowed to be ‘normal’.  It is both amusing and apt that in Cheltenham, our matriarch. ‘mama Galina’, will not allow eating unless the priest is sitting at the table, insisting that this is the rule, and that everything else must wait until after trapeza.

Such a long ‘priest-day’ is, of course, the result of our not being able to enter St John’s until 10:15ish, leaving only 45 minutes before the Hours and proskomedia.

As I’ve commented before, in Nazareth House, I could be in the church two and a half hours before the Hours, having had hours to hear confessions the previous evening. This allowed ninety minutes for confession on Sundays, as proskomedia – apart from the day’s zapisky – had been completed before anyone arrived.

Since those days in Cathays, we have also gained parishioners from Gloucestershire, Northeast Somerset and Wiltshire, whose confessions are not possible in the week, as is the same for some of our older South Wales parishioners. They must have time for confession on Sunday morning.

The almost impossible juggling is one of the main reasons we need the use of a building with early access. Ideally, at least an hour is needed for the proskomedia, not twenty-five to thirty minutes, plus time to say the entrance prayers a vest before doing so. The present situation puts a strain on both time and clergy and needs to be appreciated by those confessing. This is why we have been so blessed to have Father Luke’s assistance and patience on so many Sundays, when he hears many confessions.

On the confessional theme, this week’s confessions will be on Thursday, in St Mary’s, Butetown, as the church will be unavailable on Friday. May I ask for requests by noon on Wednesday, to allow time to email those confessing.

Saturday will see Tracey’s baptism at 14:00 at Menna’s home in St Nicholas in the Vale, with our service for the eve of the Dormition at the end of the afternoon.

On Sunday, our Dormition Liturgy will be celebrated with the Hours, at 11:00, in St John’s Church, Canton. The variables may be found, as usual, at Orthodox Austin:


You are encouraged to bring herbs and flowers to place around the plaschanitsa of the Mother of God, as it is traditional for us to bless them to distribute to the faithful at the end of Liturgy!

I also encourage you to continue to dedicate this second week of the Dormition Fast to the Mother of God, and will continue to post the English translations of each evening’s Supplicatory Canon – not that they have to be only in the evening, but can be prayed at any time!

Remember that the afterfeast of the Transfiguration lasts until Friday, and try to include the troparion and kontakion – possibly other hymns of the feast – in your daily prayers.

Praying that the All-Merciful Lord may bless and protect you – Hieromonk Mark

Celebrating the Transfiguration in Butetown

Friday saw a joyful Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Transfiguration, celebrated in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Butetown.

Being a workday, there were only twenty of us, but those celebrating brought so much fruit and home-grown produce, that one of the large Victorian tables flanking the gates in the screen at the west end was more or less filled with baskets and bags.

Father Luke concelebrated, and a few oltarniky and singers fulfilled their important obediences so that we could celebrate the feast simply, but joyfully.

The abundance of grapes, fruit and produce was blessed at the end of the Liturgy, which was followed by a festive lunch in the parish hall, in which fish, wine and oil were very much enjoyed as a consolation during the Dormition Fast.

Several people commented on how joyful our celebrations are when celebrated at St Mary’s, and the little parish hall is always a place of wonderful fellowship, friendship, and sharing.

Thank you all who made the feast such a joyous and warm celebration, and to Father Dean and the parish for their wonderful hospitality.

“O taste and see…” – the Blessing and Enjoyment of God’s Gifts

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, as we celebrated the after-feast of the Transfiguration (the Apple Saviour / Яблочный Спас), it was satisfying to pick apples only half an hour before today’s Liturgy, with the morning dew still glistening on the leaves and fruit on the trees in the chaplaincy garden.

As the Hours and Liturgy progressed baskets and bowls of fruit multiplied on the table placed behind the stand bearing the festal and Kazan icons.

At the end of every Liturgy, during the singing of Psalm 33, we hear the words “O taste and see, the Lord is good.” The folk names of these feasts of the All-Merciful Saviour and the Transfiguration bear witness to this as we bless the gifts of God’s creation and receive them as a blessing from Heaven.Continue reading

Happy Feast of the Transfiguration

“Taking the disciples up, upon the lofty mountain before Thy crucifixion, O Lord, Thou wast transfigured before them, illumining them with effulgence of power, desiring both in Thy love for mankind and in Thine authority to show them the splendour of the resurrection, which do Thou vouchsafe unto us in peace, in that Thou art merciful and lovest mankind.” 

Dear brothers and sisters, Continue reading