Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
“Let us make here three Booths”
Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ
6 August, 2008
2 Peter 1:10-19 ; Matthew 17:1-9

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

This morning the Apostle Peter is making an important point for us as he says : “We did not follow cunningly devised fables”. Instead, they lived in the truth of the response to the personal encounter with Him who is the Truth. The Apostle Peter is recounting again the Events of the Mount of Transfiguration which we are celebrating today, and about which we heard in the Gospel reading for the feast.

We human beings are very much interested in systems and control. You could say that human beings are, to use a colloquial expression, “control-freaks”. We cannot somehow accept that the Lord should be in charge of everything. We tend to want to run everything ourselves. We want to control things. We want to have things under our thumb. We want to know what is going to happen next and next and next. We want to know months ahead exactly what is going to happen. We try to plan everything out. Of course, I have been taught and I am always saying that there is nothing the matter with planning.

However, it is important to make sure that the Lord is in charge of the plan. If we are making plans, we allow the Lord to adjust them. Hence comes that famous English expression (which seems to be expressed somehow in every other language, too) : “Man is proposing, but God is disposing”. The Lord is always adjusting things according to what is right, especially for us who are trying to live a life which is reflecting this experience. Throughout the whole world, this experience of the one Lord, Jesus Christ, is common to Christians. It is He who “is the same yesterday, today, and unto the ages” (Hebrews 13:8). We are handing down, and living out as Orthodox Christians not a system (although our lives do have a system). We are passing on our common, personal experience of the living God.

Today, in the midst of the experience of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, the Apostle Peter is saying (as it were) : “Let us just keep it like this. It is so wonderful. Let us build some booths here and stay here, and always be like this in the presence of the Lord”. This is not because of the shining light and the cloud, and so forth. The intensity of the experience of joy and love produces this sense of not wanting to let go of this moment when we are in the presence of the Lord.

I think we, also, ourselves, have experience of such moments in our lives. There have been many Divine Liturgies in which I have participated that have been electric with the love of the Lord. I really strongly wished that each of those Liturgies could have continued like that without coming to an end because it was so beautiful. However, each Liturgy inexorably went on to its end (as it must), just as the moment of the Transfiguration came to its end, as was necessary. The Lord, in His encountering us in His love, does not let us simply sit there and be stagnant in the experience. The experience, the encounter, has to bear fruit. Just as He, Himself, on the Mount of the Transfiguration, immediately descended and began healing people, the same thing happens with you and me. This encounter with the Lord (which we would like to stay the same) cannot be static. This dynamic encouter must go and bear fruit. We have to go and share this encounter with our Saviour, this loving relationship with our Saviour, and give joy and this sense of peace and hope to those around us in the same way as the apostles have been doing.

The Apostle Peter suggested that he would be praying for us, as well as for everyone else, because why else would he assure us that there would be reminders, which are the fruit of his loving prayers. Let us read his words again, and see what he says : “I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things [...] I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease”. I think we get plenty of reminders to this day that it is the Lord who is in charge. The joy is real. Our encounter is real. Our mutual encounter is real because for 2,000 years we have been inheriting the same experience of the same Lord, Jesus Christ. Through parents, through friends, through relatives, through whomever it is the Lord sends to us, He does come to us. He meets us. We know Him, and our hearts resonate together, all with the same experience. It is the same Lord, the same joy, the same peace, the same hope, the same goodness, the same loving Person with whom we wish always to be. I suppose, and I hope that there will come a time later on for all of us when that moment, that sense of being in the Lord’s presence can become a real, unending possibility (I mean at the end of our lives). God willing, we will be able to enter into His Kingdom,

When I start talking about the Lord in this particular way, it is difficult to stop talking about it. Let us simply end with the words of Saint Herman, which are the fundamental words by which we all ought to live. He says : “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all, and do His holy will”, glorifying the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.