Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 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. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 2 Peter 1:10-19 (Epistle on Feast of the Transfiguration)
For the next two days, the Prayer Team reflections will relate to the Feast of the Transfiguration, celebrated on August 6.
On August, 6, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Savior. This feast commemorates an event in the Gospels, where Jesus went up Mount Tabor with Peter, James and John, and was “transfigured” before them. This means that He was elevated from the earth and appeared in glory in the skies above them. His countenance was so bright they couldn’t look at Him. And next to Him appeared Moses and Elijah, the two major figures of the Old Testament. In their appearance, they endorsed Him as the promised Messiah. The voice of God also came from heaven, confirming Christ as His “beloved Son.” This event most likely took place shortly before Holy Week, as in the Gospel narratives, it is immediately followed by Christ’s foretelling of His passion and shortly after that by the entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. However, since it is such a major feast in the life of the church, so that it was not lost in the myriad of services and happenings during Great Lent, the church placed this feast on August 6, forty days before the Feast of the Holy Cross. Since the Transfiguration was connected with the Passion of Christ, the Church has connected this feast to the feastday of the Holy Cross. Also, August signaled the season of the harvest. So, it is the custom of the Church to bless grapes on August 6, as both a blessing of the harvest and to remind us that Christ is the vine and we are the branches, and thus we are the harvest for Him.
When a Feastday of the Lord falls on a Sunday, the Scripture readings are specific to the Feastday and the ordinary Sunday readings are skipped. Thus, last Sunday was the 8th Sunday of Matthew and next Sunday will be the 10th Sunday of Matthew. The 9th Sunday is skipped this year, as the Transfiguration falls on a Sunday.
I want to make an important comment on the Epistle lesson, which comes from the first two verses of the passage: “Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:10-19) I was speaking with my Spiritual Father in the context of confession recently and he said something very profound to me. He said “God gives each of us a path to sainthood. We all have the potential to be saints, by following this path He has laid out for us. Each of us is called to a different vocation. We all have different talents. We will all have different hardships along the different paths we walk. But each path can lead us to the same place – salvation. It is up to each of us to embrace our path, and in doing so, we will inspire others to walk their unique path to salvation. In leaving our path, we will influence others to do the same. The path to sainthood wasn’t easy for any of the saints. Many of them suffered cruelty – exile, torture, being ostracized, death, etc. – on their way to sainthood. It wasn’t an easy road for any of them. We try as best we can to overcome our challenges. However, some challenges cannot be overcome – we simply must endure them. So, as we read in the Epistle of St. Peter, we need to be zealous and embrace our call, our path. And if we embrace our path, however difficult it may be at times, God will never let us fail in reaching our destination, salvation. The martyrs, as an example, at the moment they were about to die for their faith, were filled with joy. They KNEW where they were going. It’s getting off the path that will cause us to wonder where we will end up. If we embrace our struggles and stay faithful especially in times of struggle, we can have confidence that God will not fail us in leading us where we want to go, and making sure we get there.
Upon the mountain were You transfigured, and Your disciples beheld Your glory as far as they were able, O Christ our God; so that when they would see You crucified they might understand that Your Passion was deliberate, and declare to the world that in truth You are the Father’s radiance. (Kontakion of the Holy Transfiguration, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Walk your unique path of life with purpose, with strength and with confidence today!