The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ

The Feast of Transfiguration in the Orthodox Church

feast of Transfiguration

There are quite a few Orthodox feasts that the faithful celebrate in summer every year. However, one of them definitely stands out to a lot of people. It is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ.

Christians like this feast not only because it is one of the twelve Great Feasts of the liturgical year. It also reveals to us the truths and the wisdoms, that are of extreme importance.

What does the Bible say about Transfiguration?

When it comes to Transfiguration, the Bible gives us a lot of information in detail. You can find passages on what happened that day in three of the Gospels - of Matthew (17:1-8), of Luke (9:28-36) and of Mark (9:2-9). There is no mention of Transfiguration in the Gospel of John.

Here is what we know about the Transfiguration from the Bible.

One day Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up a mountain. It is believed that the mountain was actually a high hill near Nazareth called Mount Tabor. When they got there, something mysterious happened. Here is how the three Gospels describe it:

  • There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2)
  • “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” (Mark 9:3)
  • “As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” (Luke 9:29)

When Jesus was transfigured, two people appeared next to Him - Elijah and Moses. They were talking to Jesus about His departure when Peter, amazed and frightened, said:

“Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (Matthew 17:4)

As soon as he said those words, a cloud covered them and they heard a voice coming from it:

“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7)

icon of Transfiguration

After that, the disciples could no longer see Elijah or Moses. As they went down the mountain, back to the other disciples, Jesus instructed Peter, John and James:

"Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)

The meaning of Transfiguration

What is it that makes the Feast of Transfiguration so important to Orthodox Christians? What is the meaning of Transfiguration for modern people living in the modern world?

There are a few important things that the Transfiguration of Christ reveals to us. First of all, it confirms the divinity of Jesus once again. It shows us that He was sent by the Father. It was especially important for the disciples to understand. It was meant to strengthen their faith and make them truly understand that Christ’s passion was voluntary.

Moses and Elijah, two of the greatest figures of the Old Testament, appear next to CHrist to further prove that He is in fact the Messiah, Who came to fulfill the law.

Secondly, it reveals to us that every human being can go through the process of theosis - becoming united with God again, becoming transfigured like Christ, achieving holiness. We are all called for it:

"The Son of God became man, that we might become god." (St. Athanasius of Alexandria)

The meaning of Jesus’ Transfiguration is simple. It motivates us to strive to be illumined by the Divine Light, just like Christ on Mount Tabor. It encourages us to be better Christians, to love one another and to love God, moving one step closer to our main goal of Salvation every single day.

Transfiguration in 2022

When do the Christians celebrate Transfiguration day in 2022? Actually, the date of Transfiguration is set and doesn’t change every year, unlike the dates of such feasts like Pascha or Pentecost.

Icon of the Transfiguration of Our Lord

A painted icon of the Transfiguration of Our Lord created in our Convent*

The Orthodox Christians who use the Gregorian Calendar celebrate Transfiguration on August 6th. Those, who use Julian Calendar commemorate this day on August 19th.

What happens inside of an Orthodox Church on the day of Transfiguration? Firstly, the festive Divine Liturgy is always served in the morning. During the Liturgy the faithful sing various hymns of Transfiguration:

“On the Mountain You were Transfigured, O Christ God,

And Your disciples beheld Your glory as far as they could see it;

So that when they would behold You crucified,

They would understand that Your suffering was voluntary,

And would proclaim to the world,

That You are truly the Radiance of the Father!”

(Kontakion of Transfiguration)

There is also a beautiful tradition that has to do with the feast. Some people notice, that on the day of Transfiguration, churches are usually full of people with fruit baskets. That is because parishioners bring grapes and other fruits or vegetables to be blessed by the priest. Here in Belarus, as well as in Russia, the faithful normally bring grapes and apples. The blessing of fruits signifies the final transfiguration of all creation in Christ.

PS - If you would like to send a prayer intention, you can do so by clicking on this link. The community of Saint Elisabeth would be happy to pray for you and your family to God during The Feast of the Transfiguration of our God, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

* You can order this icon and other products of St Elisabeth Convent by clicking on this link.

August 18, 2022
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