Holy Transfiguration feast

What is the feast of Transfiguration?

August 20, 2020

icon of the Holy TransfigurationIcon of the Holy Transfiguration made in St Elisabeth Convent, Minsk

On August 19th (August 6th according to the Gregorian calendar), we celebrate another very special Great Feast of the Orthodox Church - the feast of the Transfiguration of our God, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

This feast commemorates the wondrous glorification of Christ on Mount Tabor, accompanied by the Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah, as witnessed by the disciples' Peter, James, and John.

The story behind the feast

As we read in the synoptic Gospels, prior to the Transfiguration the disciples followed Jesus as He taught in Galilee. They were growing in faith and understanding with Peter eventually confessing, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

One day, Christ ascended the mount Tabor to pray, taking with Him Peter, James, and John - His three closest disciples. While Christ was praying, the disciples fell asleep. When they woke up, they saw Jesus standing on the peak of Mount Tabor with the uncreated light radiating from Him, with His face shining and His clothes becoming whiter than snow. They also saw two Old Testament prophets - Moses and Elijah.

The apostles were frightened and Peter said:

“Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (Matthew 17:4)

Then the disciples heard the voice of God telling them that Jesus was, in fact, His Son.

What does it mean to be transfigured?

Christ did not change His nature or revealed a different one. He, being fully God and fully man, revealed a glimpse of who He really is. By this He also showed us the ultimate honor and glory of human nature, being created in the image and likeness of God. 

The feast of the Transfiguration is an important theological statement affirming the Christian teaching that Christ is fully God and fully man. It also reaches back to the manifestation of the Divine Logos in the Old Testament and points forward to Christ’s return to the Father in Heaven to sit at His right hand. 

It also shows the fate of all matter - it will be transformed. We will all be transformed into the Kingdom of God. 

The moment of deification, when a person is most Godlike, is also the only time when they become their truest selves, they become most human. This idea is vital to all aspects of the Orthodox faith. 

open air LiturgyNight open-air Divine Liturgy on the Lysaya mount

How do we celebrate Transfiguration?

Two years ago we started a new tradition of our Convent. Every Transfiguration night we gather on the mount Lysaya near Minsk (it is the second-highest mount in Belarus) and celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the open air.

Watch this video to see how beautiful and inspiring the celebration was last year!

On the day of the Transfiguration we sing the following hymn:

“You were Transfigured on the Mount, O Christ God,

Revealing Your glory to Your disciples as far as they could bear it.

Let Your everlasting Light shine upon us sinners!

Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Giver of Light, glory to You!”

(Troparion of the Transfiguration)

open air LiturgyNight open-air Divine Liturgy on the Lysaya mount

The icon of the Transfiguration tries to truly depict something that is very difficult to depict - Christ, revealing the fullness of His Divinity to his Apostles. What we see on the wonderful Transfiguration icon is Christ wearing a bright white garment, the beams of light radiating from Him, the prophets Elijah and Moses and Christ’s disciples falling down and not being able to look at the transfigured Jesus. 

Ultimately, the Transfiguration is a joyous celebration in anticipation of our own metamorphosis (which is the actual Greek word for ‘transfiguration’), our transformation from a slave of sin into a beloved child of the Heavenly Father. 

PS - If you would like to send a prayer intention, you can do so by clicking on this link. The community of Saint Elisabeth would be happy to pray for you and your family to God during The Feast of the Transfiguration of our God, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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