Sermon of His Eminence Bishop of Antania, Parthenius, Elder and Abbot of the Holy Bigorski Monastery, for the tenth week after Pentecost, delivered after the Holy Gospel reading at “St George the Triumphant” church in Rajcica, on August 16th, 2020.
My dear ones, today’s Holy Gospel teaches us about the miracle our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ, performed after His miraculous Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. The story begins with the words: And when they were come to the multitude… (Matthew 17:14), referring to the time when He, along with His three disciples Peter, James, and John, came down from Mount Tabor to the multitude, where the other disciples were waiting and where the desperate father was with his lunatic son.
The Holy Transfiguration of the Lord, which we will be celebrating in a few days, is liturgically moved to be celebrated exactly during the Lent of the Mother of God, although chronologically it occurred just before the Lord Jesus suffered on Golgotha. Then He miraculously transfigured Himself before His three disciples, showing them a fraction of His Divine Glory that He has in Heaven, along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Namely, as evident from the Gospel testimonies, at the moment of the Transfiguration, Christ blazed like the sun. His clothes became as bright as snow. Then the two Old Testament prophets, Moses and Elijah appeared on His right and His left side. He spoke with them before His disciples. The purpose of the Transfiguration of Christ was, among other things, to establish the disciples in the faith of the Son of God, before the terrible events and sufferings that are to follow. In other words to manifest His glory in Heaven and to witness the beauty given to man – a life in the proximity and the light of God. This is why, after seeing this prodigious transfiguration, Peter cried out: “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Matthew 17: 4). He just did not want to leave at all, because it was particularly delightful. He felt real joy, an indescribable sweetness like he had never felt before. In short, the Apostles experienced Paradise, which is, in fact, a strong spiritual condition of communion with God.
While descending from Mount Tabor, after the Holy Transfiguration, Christ and the three Apostles encountered a man, a desperate father, whose son suffered from an obsessive demonic possession. The unhappy father was seeking some help, even from the Apostles who were waiting for their Master. However, all was in vain, no one could help him and heal his son. Finally, in despair, he turned to Christ: Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said: O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? Bring him hither to me (Matthew 17, 15-17). This is the only case in the Gospel, where the Lord addresses the people with such words. Not because He does not love or can not stand us but because His creation does not have faith, avoids fast and prayer. The unconditional love that Christ has for mankind, is repeatedly expressed in His Gospel. He once even called himself The Son of the Man. And He does that with abundant love and dignity. And to the Father, who spoke to Him with lack of faith: If You can, have mercy on us and help us! – He replied: ..if you believe – everything is possible for the one who believes!” So the father confessed his lack of faith: Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief (Mark 9, 22-24). Finally, our merciful Lord healed the boy completely.
We began with the Transfiguration and ended with human disbelief. Two completely opposite events and I would even say states. On one hand, we have the radiance of the beauty of God, the conversation from above, the indescribable imperishable spiritual joy that tickled the hearts of the three Apostles. On the other hand, we have disbelief, pain, despair, and agony. In other words, heaven and hell, which in fact, are spiritual states that the soul already begins to experience in this life. In the first case we have a similar condition to the one in the Garden of Eden, the initial Paradise on Earth, where the man was in harmonious communion with God, hence in unspeakable joy and light. However, by abusing our free will, which is a gift of God’s unconditional love, the man consciously deprived himself of this blessed state by God and transformed it into a terrible infernal storm, as in the second state. Thus, with the comparison of these two opposing realities from the Gospel, the Lord teaches us that the condition in which we will live depends only on our choices, our faith, and the love we have for Him. Whether we would seek the Kingdom of Heaven, make it part of our lives, just as it happened on Mount Tabor, feel God’s uncreated energy and rejoice in that love, spreading its light around us, or would rather tap into the dark circles of disbelief, hopelessness, and hate…
The sacred and miraculous transfiguration repeats invisibly and graciously at each celebrated Liturgy When we properly prepare ourselves, with austerity, abstinence, prayer, and good deeds in the name of God, when we pay particular attention to the Holy Liturgy, then we feel peace in our heart, peace in our thoughts, a profound serenity of our whole being. Then our heart feels the holy presence of God, as we have a love for the neighbours with whom we share the same Body and the same Blood of Christ. And here, at this Liturgy, at this holy assembly, in a while, the canon of the Holy Eucharist will begin. The deacon will invite us with the words: Let us stand straight! Let us stand in awe! Let us be attentive, that we may present the Holy Offering in peace – and the Divine Transfiguration of the bread and wine we offer, into the Body and Blood of Christ will take place. The sacred light and grace of Mount Tabor will be present, but this time in our temple. However, when the Holy Liturgy ends, and we return to our homes, we will, without any doubt, face our current health issues and challenges with contempt, egoism, loneliness, and our passions. Then our heart will seek to return to that divine state, which we have experienced during the Divine Liturgy.
In our everyday life, most of our time is filled with moments during which we struggle to overcome various difficulties and temptations. Still, the moments when our soul experiences the grace of the transfiguration are rare. May God reverse that, and multiply these moments in our everyday life, in which we abundantly feel the holy grace as if on Mount Tabor, as of the Kingdom of God. May the spirit of the Holy Liturgy is the one which will always direct our lives. However, in order for that to happen, we need faith, struggle with our passions and egoism, through fasting, prayer and good deeds for others, and most important – through the desire to be constantly with God.
My dear ones, the choice is ours: whether we would aspire to Christ, wanting to know Him, reach for His uncreated energy, be enlightened by the light of His immeasurable love, becoming light not just for ourselves but also for others, or would rather walk in the darkness of this world, guided by the desires and passions, imprisoned by pride and greed, which will undoubtedly lead us to the state of despair and hell. May God give us the strength of reason, which is especially important so that we may make reasonable choices and our heart could follow the right path, the one of the light, of the Transfiguration. Then we could say like the Apostles: Lord, it is good for us to be here!
May God keep you in good health!