The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (17:1-9)
Blessed Feast day! My brothers and sisters, today we are celebrating the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ and all of the miraculous events that surrounded that magnificent event.
When we listen or read the gospels it can be easy to think that these are simply myths or tall tales that have been handed down from generation to generation but none of this accounts for the extreme dedication and devotion of the apostles and earliest disciples to teach and preach this gospel everywhere and at all times, even under the threat of death. We see in today’s epistle reading that St. Peter already needs to remind the Christian community of the truth of their message. He writes
“Therefore, I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
He reminds us that he was an eye witness not only of the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus and His crucifixion, but even of the Lord’s miraculous transfiguration. This was such an important event because later on the disciples could recall it and realize that the one who sat with them and taught them and died for them was not simply human. He was also fully divine. He demonstrates this by revealing His glory to the three disciples who constituted His inner circle.
He glowed more brightly than the sun. His garments became whiter than any white. He seemed to glow from within, He was the source of the light, because we know Him to be the Light! This would have been a glorious sight and I have no doubt that each of us wishes that they could have been there to see it. In fact the ancient church teacher Origen writes,
“Do you wish to see the transfiguration of Jesus? Behold with me the Jesus of the Gospels. Let him be simply apprehended. There he is beheld both “according to the flesh” and at the same time in his true divinity. He is beheld in the form of God according to our capacity for knowledge. This is how he was beheld by those who went up upon the lofty mountain to be apart with him. Meanwhile those who do not go up the mountain can still behold his works and hear his words, which are uplifting. It is before those who go up that Jesus is transfigured, and not to those below. When he is transfigured, his face shines as the sun, that he may be manifested to the children of light, who have put off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. [Rom 13:12.]They are no longer the children of darkness or night but have become the children of day. They walk honestly as in the day.”
So Origen tells us that anyone can behold the transfiguration for themselves by simply beholding Jesus in the gospels, by studying and reading those texts. He tells us that God is beheld in form according to our capacity for knowledge. In essence, the Lord gives us according to what we can handle but He does this with some regard for the efforts we have put into this. If we barely study, barely scratch the surface, then the gospel stories will still provide some benefit to us such as comfort and uplifting but more is possible. If we struggle to learn and grow and know Him more deeply through His word, He will give us deeper and more intimate knowledge. He also tells us that part of that struggle is the struggle to be victorious in putting off the works of darkness and walking obediently to Christ’s teaching.
In essence we are told that anyone can be a witness to the transfiguration of the Lord by applying themselves to the task of loving Christ more fully. In the process of loving Christ we don’t simply see His light from far away, No! He draws us into His light. His light enters into our body and soul and transforms each of us into true children of God.
Speaking of children of God. Today we also celebrate the great blessing of sharing with you the third and final saint that was recently gifted to our community. We first celebrated the elder Joseph the betrothed. Next we celebrated St. Beatrix of Rome whom we commemorated last Sunday and now we celebrate St. Luke the Evangelist and Apostle.
We have many details from the life of St. Luke but for the sake of time we will only briefly touch on it. We know that he was born in Antioch, Syria and that he was a convert to the Jewish faith. He was a brilliant man who took his studies seriously and excelled especially in medicine and became known as a physician.
He was one of the 70 apostles of the Lord Jesus and very likely was present at the crucifixion of the Lord. Tradition also tells us that Luke was one of the two men who spoke as they walked along the road to Emmaus when the risen Lord Jesus came and walked beside them and taught them.
After the resurrection and Pentecost, Luke went out to preach the gospel and travelled to Sebaste, Antioch, Greece and Phillipi in Macedonia. He also travelled with the Apostle Paul and documented much of the history of the early Church in his work “the Acts of the Apostles.” Of course we cannot neglect to mention that his most important work was the writing of his gospel, one of the four most important books of the whole Bible around 60 a.d.
Holy tradition also tells us that Luke probably saw the martyrdom of St. Paul in Rome and that he later went to Italy, Dalmatia, Gaul, Macedonia and Egypt to labor on behalf of Christ and His Church. During all of these travels he ordained priests and deacons and healed those who came to him. Ancient tradition also tells us that Luke was the first iconographer of the Church and that his first icon was the image of the Mother of God with the infant Jesus.At the age of 84 he was martyred in Thebes, Greeceby being crucified on an olive tree.
The location of his relics werewell known during the fourth century because of the many miraculous healings that occurred there. At that time they were transferred to Constantinople. In 1204 they were stolen by Roman crusaders who plundered Constantinopleand the relic ended up in Padua, Italy. In 1992 the Metropolitan of Thebes requested a significant portion of the relics to be returned and this prompted a scientific investigation of the relics in Padua which confirmed that the relics indeed belonged to an individual of Syrian descent from between 72-416 a.d. A large portion of the relic was returned and since then has worked many miracles. On December 22, 1997 the marbletomb of St. Luke began to stream myrrh.
We should never be surprised when we hear of all the amazing feats and accomplishments of the saints. Indeed we even see Moses and Elijah alive and appearing to the Lord Jesus in today’s gospel. God is faithful to those who love Him and He gives us much more than we can ever begin to imagine because He is the life and the light of the faithful and there is no other life or light outside of that which He alone can give us. May our lives also shine with the love of Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father. Amen.