(This is a post from two years ago. On August 6th of 2008 our family was preparing for our Chrismation, (entrance into the Orthdox Church on August 16). After reading this post, I am so thankful that we are home in the Church. Our deep love for Christ has only increased since our arrival to Holy Orthdoxy. God be praised.)
Last night, within the soft, warm radiance of a perfect Autumn sunset; in the midst of sweet smelling beeswax candles; with the sun beginning it’s final descent to the West; a handful of Christians gathered to do what Christians have done on August 6th since the ancient days; we gathered to pray, sing, hymn, listen, and receive the holy mystery of the Eucharist – the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ on the feast of “metamorphosis” or Transfiguration. How fitting to receive bread and wine, the work of our hands, the fruit of this earth – and then to believe in faith that as the prayer of ‘epiclesis’ “calling down the Holy Spirit” by the priest – that this earthly food becomes the very Body and Blood of Jesus. In fact, the Transfiguration of Jesus happened all over again for us last night, right before our very eyes; and like the event two centuries ago on Mt. Tabor we beheld His glory, we fell to our knees in His presence and we saw a glimpse of the life to come. We were in Uncreated Light… the Light of God. The Orthodox Church remembers 12 great Feasts throughout the Church year and we actually live them again now in the present. The power and blessing of an event that happened “there and then” blesses us “here and now”. In August, two of the twelve occur: The Transfiguration of Christ on August 6th and the Dormition (the falling asleep) of Mary His mother on August 15th. There is something so very right about gathering together in the House of the Lord with dear brothers and sisters, with others mystically united with us across the globe, and yes indeed, across the cosmos unto heaven itself. To be in His presence is best summed up by Peter, “…Lord it is good for us to be here…” Indeed, very good Peter! To the rest of the world it was Tuesday, dinner time, the commute, the mad dash to softball practice, or to the Mall… but to His Church and His people – it was a call to come up to the “mountain” and to rest awhile with Jesus from the craziness of culture. To say no to the world, and yes to the calendar and time piece of God the Father. To join Peter, James and John – to sing with the angels, to partake of His gift of Eucharist. Golden vestments, fresh cut flowers strewn in front of the altar, Byzantine plainchant filling the air with deep beauty, holiness, reverence, the raising up of incense (the prayers of the saints) filling our senses with comfort… When an Orthodox Christian worships he worships with everything: sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing… not sense is left out. Finally, at the end of Liturgy – we bring our work – the fruit of the harvest: grapes, and other bounties from the blessing of God in this current growing season, and together, priest and people, we offer up prayers of thanksgiving for the harvest that God in his goodness and love to mankind has provided. So, how could I have spent last night? Could have been swimming. Could have been cutting the grass. Could have been packing for my trip to Chicago tomorrow… But the real question is this: “Where would you rather be?”
Give me Mt. Tabor! Give me Peter, James and John. Give me Jesus the Light of the World. Give me this little Mission Church building which from the outside looks like a pole barn (in fact it is!) – but inside it’s the very place of Heaven itself. For when we walk through the doors – we walk into the Uncreated Light of the Transfiguration… ‘”..Lord it is very good to be here…” Very good indeed. -Anaphora!
HYMN OF PRAISE
THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
There, where Israel defeated Sisar
There also condescended, the Heavenly King
Prayer, to go and to nightly vigils,
The glory of His Transfiguration, to manifest,
And the faith of His followers, to confirm
In the eternal victory of Him the Victor.
There, divine light from Himself, He released
Dispels the thick darkness, and illuminated Tabor;
The Light, for a long time, which in Himself contained
From which, to the world, a little at a time dispensed
Abundant rays, now released,
Jubilant rays, sweet rays.
The glow of humanity, to reveal to heaven,
To earth and to men, the Divine Truth.
Let the firmament, its Representative see,
Let the earth recognize God, the Savior.