Homily 

By His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

At the Great Vespers of the Transfiguration

Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church

Corona, New York

August 5, 2022

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I am so very pleased to return to this precious Transfiguration Parish of Corona for your feast, and for the celebration of your much beloved Proïstamenos, the Very Reverend Archimandrite Chrysostomos Panos. Tomorrow marks the tenth anniversary of Fr. Chrysostomos’ ordination to the Holy Priesthood in this very parish, and I know that you embrace him as a spiritual father with the same love that he embraces you as his spiritual children. I wish all of you “many, many years” on this happy occasion.

Your feast day – that of the Transfiguration of our Savior in the presence of the Prophets Moses and Elias, and before the eyes of Peter, Iakovos and John – is a moment of tremendous meaning in the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the one hand, it seems as if His appearance was changed, so that as Scripture says:

His garments shined with a searing brilliance, blinding white like snow, as no fuller in the world could whiten. *

But on the other hand, perhaps nothing changed about the Lord of Glory. Rather, it was the Disciples who were changed, though they did not realize in that moment that the scales had fallen from their eyes, and they beheld the Lord as He truly was.

Whichever it was, it was a moment of great significance; for in it, the Lord spoke not to His Disciples, but to the Prophets. To Moses, who represents all those who have died, and to Elias, who represents the living, because he was assumed into Heaven bodily without having passed through the doorway of death. And what did they talk about? The Gospel of Luke tells us:

Καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνδρες δύο συνελάλουν αὐτῷ, οἵτινες ἦσαν Μωϋσῆς καὶ ̓Ηλίας, οἳ ὀφθέντες ἐν δόξῃ ἔλεγον τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ ἣν ἔμελλε πληροῦν ἐν ̔Ιερουσαλήμ.

And behold! Two men, Moses and Elias, were conversing with Him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of His ‘Exodus,’ the one that He was about fulfill in Jerusalem.

Most translations, if not all, translate the word, ἔξοδος, as “departure.” But think for a moment, my beloved Christians, of the power in the word “Exodus” for any Christian, much less for our Jewish Brethren. The Lord was speaking with those Prophets who had foreseen His Advent about His Divine Crossing Over – His Exodus from Death to Life, and His leading us from earth to Heaven.

This “Exodus” was the subject of the glorious display on Mount Tabor. For the essence of the Lord’s Glory is in His willingness to endure the Passion, the Cross and even Death in order to redeem us. It is why we change the title on His Divine Cross in many of the icons of the Church to read: Ὁ Βασιλεὺς τῆς Δόξης – “The King of Glory;” and not what Pilate inscribed: ̓Ιησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν ̓Ιουδαίων – “Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews.”

On that mountain of Transfiguration, the Three Disciples were overwhelmed with confusion and weariness, and they did not know how to respond. Peter blurts out:

“Master, it is good for us to be here! Let us make three tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses and one for Elias!”§

But even the Evangelist says that he did not realize what he was saying.** And so it is with us, my friends. We catch a glimmer of God’s glory in a sunrise, in the birth of a child, in a rainbow, in an all-night vigil, in a peak experience of the created world.

But these glimpses of God’s glory are not for us to capture and imprison in experiences of our own making. They are for us to embrace His message of sacrifice – the message of His Exodus – to come down from the mountain top and share His saving love with everyone we meet, in every place we encounter them.

Here in this parish, you are reminded every time you enter these sacred precincts of our Savior’s Transfiguration.

May you always keep in your hearts the knowledge that transfiguration is for transformation – of the heart, mind and spirit. So that we may offer our sacrificial love to those around us, and bring the glory and light that shone upon the Holy Mountain Tabor into the life of the world and all who live it.

Amen.

 

* Mark 9:3.
† Luke 9:30-31.
‡ John 19:19.
§ Luke 9:33.
** Ibid.