In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today our Lord’s human nature was transfigured by the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father, Whose voice witnessed to the Son’s divine nature.
We are perhaps reminded of another Feast of the Church taken from the Holy Scriptures, where the divinity of Christ was also witnessed to by the Father and the Spirit proceeding from the Father – Theophany, the Baptism of Christ. Both these feasts have a great prominence in our Church, which has been lost outside Her, where people do not believe in the words of the Holy Scripture, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from God the Father alone.
This Feast shows us firstly that the human and divine natures of Christ are united in One Person, secondly that therefore there is no unity without the Holy Spirit, and thirdly that our Saviour is Lord over Life and Death, for Moses, who died, worships Him, and Elijah, who did not die, also worships Him.
Today, however, I would like to point out an aspect of this Feast which is often overlooked: Mt Tabor, the ‘mountain’ where the Transfiguration occurred. This Mt Tabor is for us a figure of repentance. We note that, like the disciples, in order for us to see the transfiguration or to hope to be transfigured ourselves, we will first have to climb up, to mount, from our present condition. Otherwise any transfiguration or change for the better in our lives is impossible.
Now it is interesting that pilgrims who have been blessed to go to Mt Tabor and their photographs show us that Mt Tabor is not a mountain at all. It is rather a long, sloping hill with many obstacles, rocks and boulders, in the path of those who ascend it. And our transfiguration or salvation is like Mt Tabor. However hard we try, we will not be guaranteed salvation through a swift if arduous climb today. Salvation takes a lifetime, it is a long climb up a long slope, which is why the Lord gives most of us so long to live. Salvation is a long struggle which requires determination and perseverance, patient long suffering.
Our spiritual progress is then not sudden and dramatic. And there are many obstacles in our path in our daily struggle. To pick up our prayerbooks in the morning and again in the evening is a struggle and there are always obstacles in our path to even this: meals to prepare, trains to catch, phones that ring. Church life is indeed made up of little sacrifices, obstacles overcome. There are prayers to say, fasts to be kept, a donation to be made, the washing-up to be done, flowers bought, the church cleaned, a choir rehearsal to go to, a vigil service to attend, a confession prepared.
As we come now towards the end of the Church’s Year, we may well ask ourselves what the little sacrifices we have made since this Feast last year are . How far have we ascended up our own Mt Tabor? How have we changed over this last year? What have we done to lead a better life since then? How have we improved? What have we given God that we did not give Him before? It is this that we call progress: in what way am I a better Orthodox Christian than a year ago?
In our faith we are called to struggle daily, whatever the rocks or boulders in our way, whether they are pride or selfishness, lust or discouragement, envy or judging of others, we have to struggle to ascend our personal Mt Tabor, we have to fight for our personal transfiguration. That is why it is so important to come to confession and communion.
If we do not do this, then the Church will move away from us. For we can both go up and go down a slope. We can spiritually progress, but we can also spiritually regress. We can be transfigured by the love of God or we can be disfigured by the love of sin. And like progress, regress is not sudden and dramatic, regress too is a slope, as we say, a slippery slope.
Let us therefore take heed and give God what He really wants from us – our hearts and minds spiritually progressing.