Sermon of His Eminence, Bishop of Antania, Mr Parthenius, Abbot of the Holy Bigorski Monastery, delivered on the feast of the Holy Transfiguration of our Lord, during the Holy Liturgy at the Prechisyta Monastery Prechista in Kichevo, on the 19th of August, 2022
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!
Let us be grateful to the merciful God for granting us the privilege to celebrate this great holiday of our Lord – the Transfiguration of Christ. This unusual event reveals deeply who and what exactly our Saviour, Lord Jesus Christ is. Because, on Mount Tabor He miraculously revealed Himself to his Holy Apostles, Peter, Jacob and John, as much as they could bear, showing them His Divine glory, in which he abides together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. During His Transfiguration, the Old Testament prophets, Moses and Elijah, appeared on His right and left side, venerating Him and thus confessing that He is the Lord and Creator of the Law of the New and the Old Testament, He is the one to unify the celestial and terrestrial world.
The holiday of Transfiguration, just like all the others holidays in our Church, refers to each and every one of us. It is also our personal transformation. Actually, the transformation of the personality of the faithful is a long process, a work of the Divine grace which takes place in the mysterious life in the Church. That was the purpose of the descending of our Lord Jesus Christ on Earth – to recreate this world and turn it from mortal to immortal, from death to life. Certainly, the general transformation can only result from the transformation of each separate individual. With His Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection, Christ transformed our forefather Adam, and through him, conveyed this blessed opportunity to all of us. Thus, the Transfiguration on Tabor continues and takes place within the Church up to today. We could say that the Orthodox Church is a workshop where we have the exquisite opportunity to work on ourselves, to transform and be deified. In order to attain the Heavenly Kingdom, to become citizens of Heaven, we need to go through a personal transformation. This is a mysterious process which happens under the influence of the Divine, uncreated energies. During the Transfiguration on Tabor, the apostles were not capable enough to understand what really happened there. Still, their souls felt the primal grace which Adam had in Heaven and therefore, out of their minds, they exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here.
The eyes of the apostles did not only see the Transfiguration of Our Lord on Tabor, but also another unusual transformation. This happened on some other hill outside Jerusalem, at Golgotha, where the reasonable villain, who was crucified on the right side of Christ, also experienced his personal transformation. This humiliated and previously very sinful person, made peace with God and with himself and at that moment, because of his humbleness, his heart was opened for the most precious thing – repentance. Through repentance, He came to know God and attained true knowledge of faith. He recognized Christ as the Son of God and Saviour of the world and asked Him to be mentioned in the Divine Kingdom. Verily I say unto thee, to day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Lk. 23,43). Thus, this repented villain became the first citizen of Heaven which has been opened by our Saviour at Golgotha. There in His mercy and beauty, He awaits us all, my dear, regardless of our sins, our failures. He transformed Himself in order to transform us, of course only if we open our heart to Him, if we stand next to Him. He will not ignore us in silence. We just need to reconcile, repent and call out to Him: “Have mercy on me, help me! Let me be one with You, O Christ, be Your friend”.
All of us, my dear ones, are baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Isn’t the holy baptism a certain transfiguration of the person? Man becomes a new creation, transformed in the image of his Creator Christ. That is why baptism is not repeated. Just as the birth of the flesh is one, so is the birth of the Spirit. But over time, and due to many passions of ours, sins and falls, the grace of baptism is withdrawn. However, repentance has such power to restore, to resurrect in us that original beauty. And every Holy Liturgy is a great transformation. So, my dear ones, let us hasten to that sweet repentant conversion with Christ because the goal of our life is communion with Him that begins here and continues in eternity.
I am happy to see your faces in this temple and I am sure that God is also happy because He sees your longing for transformation and friendship with Him. Our festive joy was enriched today by the presence of the honourable presbyters Stephen and Peter, our brothers from the Slovak Republic, clerics of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. They showed us such a great honour because they took a long journey just to participate in the Liturgy in this sacred church, for the joy of all of us, for the Church of God. Here, you see the beauty of the fruit which came from the acceptance of our Church in the canonical and liturgical unity with the entire Orthodox world, by the grace and the wisdom of His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and through reconciliation with the Church of Serbia, which proposed and supported the appeal of our Church for autocephaly. Today our Lord is especially pleased that we can freely commune together with all our Orthodox brothers around the world. Now, however, our honour is so great due to the fact that these brothers of ours come from the very territory where the great Saints Cyril and Methodius, once our all-Slavic educators and teachers, who were Byzantines by origin and Orthodox by faith were once sent by the Holy Constantinople Patriarch Photius the Great and the Byzantine emperor Michael, to carry out their evangelical and educational equal-apostolic mission. Namely, in Moravia, today’s Czech Republic and Slovakia, our spiritual and civilizational forefathers preached the Gospel of Christ in Slavic language, with the alphabet created according to the dialect spoken by the Macedonian Slavs. The presence of our fathers and brothers from Slovakia is a great honour and joy for us, for which we are especially grateful. Now let us all continue with the Holy Eucharist, offering our hearts to Christ with great zeal and sincerity so that when we leave the church today, we could come out as Christians transformed in God’s love, to some extent better than what we are now.
For many years and may God grant you all health!