Now that you have all stripped away those creature comforts of one form or another; what have you found, what have you uncovered ? What will you be working on?
Have you realized that under the layers of music, food, busy-work, posturing, the noise of life – the things we do to hide our pain and insecurities- that this is the dark place where we are meant to bring light to during Lent. Lent is where we heal with God.
This is the meatiness, where the real stuff is. Under all of this is where every human needs to continually heal.
The same prayers are said over again in our church, so we can take them to the core of ourselves, with God, He is there with us, to give us strength to heal. We are given the blessing of Lent to uncover the layer upon layer of personal struggle.
Why are we so prideful or angry or judgemental? What pain is under there? Do not say nothing is wrong, because if we are being honest, we are not perfect. We are here to be healed; each of us.
This healing is private, and possibly painful to do, but here we are doing it together as a community. How beautiful is that.
The answers are given in the richness of Orthodoxy. Truly it takes time, and time again to find it within. We need to be honest with ourselves and God, and be healed. What will you make new?
There is a thought that with the beginning of Great Lent, everything changes in regard to our Orthodox Christian life. I suppose there is an aspect to this that is true; after all, the character of some of our services change, different melodies are sung and scriptures read; even the light and gold vestments and coverings are changed to purple (or a darker colour). Yet if we look at Great Lent as having a particular function in the Church year, as opposed to being a unique or extraordinary time, we will see that we actually don’t change many things; rather we “do more” that we might clearly see and understand how much the Lord loves us.
Fasting from certain food and activities is a regular part of our Orthodox Christian life, yet Great Lent calls us to do more, by fasting more comprehensively. Throughout the year, we pray and read daily scripture readings, but Great Lent calls us to do more praying and reading of scripture. Throughout the year, we give freely of our treasures to those in need, yet Great Lent calls us to do more, in caring for the needy. We faithfully attend Church on Sunday mornings (truly a miracle in this day and age), yet Great Lent calls us to do more, by offering us many more beautiful services. We confess before the Lord our need of His mercy, forgiveness, and life, by offering our sins in repentance; but Great Lent calls us to do more, by examining our conscience more diligently through the sacrament of confession.
Yet the greatest, and most pressing effort that Great Lent calls us to might also be the hardest: to love. Truly, it is love that is the foundation of everything humanity strives for (mercy, peace, forgiveness, healing, unity, etc), and our life in the Church is no different in this respect. Yet Great Lent calls us to not just foster and cultivate the love of God and neighbour, but rather do more in seeking to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (Jn.4:10).
All of Great Lent (and by extension, our Christian lives) hang on this virtue alone (Cf. 1 Cor. 13). Truly this is the context for everything we do as Christians. Doing those things that bear witness to the love of God and neighbour alike, does more, in transforming the grief and sorrow of the cross (and all the world’s evil) to the unending praise and thanksgiving of the Resurrection (and the victory of Christ over that evil).
Doing more fasting, even if it is as simple as reducing one’s servings to half portions, does more; in bringing us closer to the Lord, who offers us Himself, “the bread of life” (Jn. 6:35)
Doing more praying and reading scripture, even if it is as small as reading a Psalm each day, saying the Lord’s prayer or the Lenten prayer of St. Ephriam, does more in revealing the “words of Eternal life” (Jn. 6:68) and the Kingdom to come (Mt. 6:10).
Doing more works of mercy, in even giving some change to a beggar and asking their name (so as to pray for them), does more, in serving the Lord himself in the least of His brethren (Mt. 25:40).
Doing more services, even if it’s attending only one of the midweek service in Great Lent, does more, in revealing that the content of every moment in our lives is truly “the accepted time;” and “the day of salvation”(2 Cor. 6:2).
Doing more confession, even if it for the smallest source of shame, does more, to help us see that “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world (and us), but that the world (and us) through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:17)
Doing more love, even when we patiently respond with love to anger or indifference at even the smallest transgression, does more, for abiding in love, we abide in God (Jn. 4:26)
Nothing really changes in Great Lent in regard to what we do; with one profound exception. In doing more of those normal parts of our life in Christ, it does more for us; it changes us!
“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:53-55)
Truly Great Lent reveals that this “change” isn’t necessarily the correction needed to get to the Resurrection of our Lord, but rather as reason for the Cross, passion, death and Resurrection of our Lord on that blessed and Holy third day.
The Temptation of Christ According to Luke 4:1-13 and Its Application to Our Church’s Lenten Discipline
Luke 4:1-13, and its parallel in Matthew (Mt 4:1-13), used to scare me when I was a kid because they mentioned the devil. Then, as I grew up, I learned that Christ has overcome the devil, and that there is no longer anything to fear. So why are these potentially disturbing passages in the Bible in the first place? The simple answer is that by showing us how Christ has conquered temptation, by His mercy and power, we can be able to do the same.
During Great Lent, the Church instructs us to increase our fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Luke 4:1-13 describes how Jesus uses these three graces to overcome temptation. The setting of this scripture is the desert, recalling the Israelites’ wandering in the wilderness for forty years during their journey to the Promised Land. The Evangelist Luke tells us that for forty days Jesus also has been in the wilderness, and there is tempted by the devil. Christ’s salvific responses to the devil’s three temptations not only fulfill scripture, but they also give us a guide for our own forty-day Lenten journey, and thus for our entire lives. Let’s follow our Saviour’s way through the desert.
The devil uses many schemes to tempt Jesus. Satan begins with pride: “If you are the Son of God…”(Luke 4:3a, 9b) and “To you I will give all this authority and their glory…” (Luke 4:6a). He continues with magic: “…command this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3b); and “…throw yourself down from here.” (Luke 4:9c). Satan even quotes scripture in order to tempt our Lord: In verses 9-11, Satan says, “For it is written, ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” (Luke 4:10-11 quoting Psalms 90 (91):11,12)
Each temptation involves a different aspect of our fallen human existence and weakness. The first is about physical need, because Jesus is hungry after having had nothing to eat for forty days (Luke 4:2b). The second temptation is about earthly power and glory (Luke 4:6). And the third is about irresponsible and careless living (Luke 4:9-10).
Christ responds to these three temptations with scripture, all from the book of Deuteronomy. These passages in Deuteronomy are set in the Israelites’ forty years of wandering in the desert. The Hebrews did not fare well there; none of them made it to the Promised Land. Thankfully, though, Jesus shows us the way: His triumph over the temptations in the wilderness not only corrects the Israelites’ weakness, but also gives us a practical guide in how to follow Christ in overcoming our temptations on our journey with Him into the Promised Land.
The first temptation is that Jesus should turn a stone into bread. He replies with Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man does not live by bread alone…” (Luke 4:3-4) Deuteronomy says that the Hebrews had been murmuring that they had no bread. The passage then explains that the Lord was humbling the Israelites them in order to test them, to see what was in their hearts, and to see if they would follow His commandments. God allowed them to hunger, and then fed them with manna from heaven (Deuteronomy 8:2-3. See Exodus 16). So the Lord fed them and took care of them: He helped the Israelites to understand that they were, as we are, completely dependent upon God not only for food, but for all things.
The second temptation is that Jesus could have the power and glory over all of the kingdoms of the world in return for worshiping the devil. Jesus replies with Deuteronomy 6:13: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.” (Luke 4:5-8) Deuteronomy says that the Lord was reminding the Israelites that it was He, the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the house of bondage in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 6:10-12) Because the Israelites accepted this deliverance, they were not to go after other gods, but to fear, worship, and serve the Lord their God only (Deuteronomy 6:13-19. See Exodus 15:1-18). So the Lord delivered them: He reminded the Israelites of the love He has in His Covenant for His people, and therefore for us all.
The third temptation is that Jesus should throw himself off of the pinnacle of the temple to demonstrate that God would send His angels to save him. Jesus replies with Deuteronomy 6:16: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” (Luke 4:9-12). This scripture in Deuteronomy alludes to the incident at Massah. (Deuteronomy 6:16. See Exodus 17:1-7) Here the children of Israel had been complaining that they had no water to drink, putting the Lord to the test by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” God answered by instructing Moses to strike with his rod the rock at Mount Horeb, and then water miraculously gushed out of the rock. So the Lord responded to their testing (tempting) Him: He put an end to their doubts and questions about Him by loving them and providing for them, as He does for us.
Yes, Christ’s responses to the devil’s temptations are based on scripture, but these responses also demonstrate the Lord’s love for us. In every instance of the Hebrews’ grumbling, doubting, and unfaithfulness in the wilderness, God provided for them and offered them an everlasting Covenant. In the same manner, the Lord responds to us in our time of need with His Love, extends his Covenant to us, and leads us to the Promised Land of His Kingdom.
Today, we, like Jesus, face these same temptations. We are tested about our bodily needs, about the attraction of earthly power and glory, and about living recklessly without care. By allowing God to work in and with us, we have been given in His Church the tools to address these temptations. During the Lenten season, we are instructed to fast from certain foods and activities in order to remember that we are dependent upon the Lord for all things. We are instructed to increase our prayer in order to say “Yes” to the Lord our God and to His Covenant, and to therefore worship Him only. We are instructed to increase our almsgiving in order to have more care for ourselves and for others. By following our Church’s Tradition of fasting, praying, and almsgiving, both during Great Lent and extending to every day of our lives, we can work with our Lord to conquer the temptations that lie before us.
In conclusion, during our Lenten journey, let us follow the Lord Jesus, the Example of examples. Let us follow Him into the wilderness in order to fight our temptations. Let us increase our love of God and of our neighbours through more fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. And let us accept and embrace the Lord, the One who has delivered us and who is bringing us into His Inheritance of the Promised Land.
I can not express enough how moved I was this past Sunday evening when our parish came together to celebrate my tenth anniversary of ordination and assignment to St. Nicholas.
Indeed there is so much to be thankful for. Whether it be for the amazing dinner, the kind words and gifts, let alone for the care and generosity for myself and family, I find myself being the most thankful for the fact that there are too many people to thank. This celebration and the last ten years, truly bear witness to the blessed love and generosity of this community as a whole and not anyone person or another.
In the same way that a head or a hand is useless without a body, and needs each other member to properly function, the priesthood can only be properly understood (and fulfilled) within a community; as each is dependent on the other. My ten years at St. Nicholas bears witness to this. I have brought very few people into our Church, compared to our faithful who have echoed the words of the Apostles “Come and see” (Jn. 1:46) with their friends and families, let alone spent as much time talking with those coming to our parish as our faithful. I have done very little work at “keeping the lights on”, or cleaning and maintaining our Church; let alone, conducting and singing with the splendour and beauty that is a mark of our services, in comparison to the faithful of our parish, who have laboured and laboured in their love of God. Indeed the last ten years bear witness to the life of our Church; a witness of our community as a family.
Although I had talked with the council leading up to my assignment, and had met many people in the community, when Matushka Taesia and myself came to visit and look for a place to live in Winnipeg, the first real first experience of this parish being a family, was when we showed up at our new home after driving for three days from Ottawa. I don’t know what I was expecting, but was surprised to find our new home clean and prepared for us (as best as it could because the landlord still had furniture and personal items all over the house). Yet this surprise turned into an outpouring of tears, when I opened the fridge and saw that it was fully stocked with food. This might have just been my exhaustion, or just feeling overwhelmed by a move across the country, but I think it was mainly because I was moved beyond words, by the acceptance and love of this parish for a “stranger”; demonstrated in even the little things of a clean house, and full fridge. Truly it was a “cup of cold water” offered in love (Mt. 10:42). This acceptance and love offered ten years ago has truly been the standard of this parish for the world around us; offered time and time again, to those who cross our threshold regardless of who they are, where they are from, or what they do.
Of course throughout these past 10 years, that generosity has far exceeded a clean house and full fridge, and that acceptance of me as a stranger, has grown into something more personal and touching; but that first impression of generosity has been always something I have held onto as being more precious than gold, if only because it was a witness of what this parish was and still is; a family, and even more. The Church and the Body of Christ.
Yet, as much as our parish bears witness to the love and work of our faithful, I truly think that the context for all of this stems from the work of our beloved Fr. Bob and Matushka Dianne. The words of the Lord express this beautifully “ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not laboured; others have laboured, and you have entered into their labours.”(Jn. 4:35-38)
The manifestation of our parish as a family, (something that we now “reap”) has everything to do with the work of Fr. Bob, and Matushka Dianne, who diligently labourd (“sowed”) with boundless love and generosity in their witness of the Lord’s saving love. Not only did they guide me pastorally as I learned how to serve as a priest, but they guided (and continue to guide) our community in attending to the “one thing needful” (Lk. 10:42) as a family and not anything else; that is sitting at the feet of our Lord in humility and thanksgiving. None of what we have today, would ever have been possible had it not been for their love and dedication to God and neighbour alike. I pray that neither I, nor our parish, ever forget their offering of love that opened the hearts of a community that accepted me and many others.
As we now look to the future and continue to be faithful to the witness offered by Fr. Bob and Matushka Dianne, and each other as Christians, we are promised something much more by the Lord. That glorious celebration we just had, will be something more glorious, as it will be a celebration that will stretch on for centuries to come; even into the Kingdom of Heaven! May the Lord bless that I can continue to be a part of this journey, with this my family in Christ!
“…The fact that there is no Biblical verification of the facts of Mary’s birth is incidental to the meaning of the feast. Even if the actual background of the event as celebrated in the Church is questionable from an historical point of view, the divine meaning of it “for us men and for our salvation” is obvious. There had to be one born of human flesh and blood who would be spiritually capable of being the Mother of Christ, and she herself had to be born into the world of persons who were spiritually capable of being her parents.
The Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, therefore, is a glorification of Mary’s birth, of Mary herself and of her righteous parents. It is a celebration as well of the very first preparation of the salvation of the world. For the “Vessel of Light,” the “Book of the Word of Life,” the “Door to the Orient,” the “Throne of Wisdom” is being prepared on earth by God himself in the birth of the holy girl-child Mary. The verses of the feast are filled with titles for Mary such as those in the quotations above. They are inspired by the message of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. The specific Biblical readings of the feast give indications of this.
At the Vespers the three Old Testament Readings are “mariological” in their New Testament interpretation. Thus, Jacob’s Ladder which unites heaven and earth and the place which is named “the house of God” and the “gate of Heaven” (Genesis 28:10-17) are taken, to indicate the union of God with men which is realised most fully and perfectly – both spiritually and physically – in Mary the Theotokos, Bearer of God. So also the vision of the temple with the “door ‘to the East” perpetually closed and filled with the “glory of the Lord” symbolises Mary, called in the hymns of the feast “the living temple of God filled with the divine Glory.” (Ezekiel 43:27-44:4) Mary is also identified with the “house” which the Divine Wisdom has built for himself according to the reading from Proverbs 9:1-11.
The Gospel reading of Matins is the one read at all feasts of the Theotokos, the famous Magnificat from St. Luke in which Mary says: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Lk. 1:47).
The Epistle reading of the Divine Liturgy is the famous passage about the coming of the Son of God in “the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man” (Phil. 2:5-11) and the Gospel reading is that which is always read for feasts of the Theotokos – the woman in the crowd glorifies the Mother of Jesus, and the Lord himself responds that the same blessedness which his mother receives is for all “who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk. 11:27-28).
Thus, on the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, as on all liturgical celebrations of Christ’s Mother, we proclaim and celebrate that through God’s graciousness to mankind every Christian receives what the Theotokos receives, the “great mercy” which is given to human persons because of Christ’s birth from the Virgin.”
Archpriest Robert Stephen Kennaugh
Monday, September 8, 2008 Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God
The plight of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine has justifiably been the focus of our prayers and supplications to the Lord. This is indeed praiseworthy, and I ask our faithful to continue praying for peace and resolution, and to also consider offering something tangible to those who have had their lives turned upside down by an unwanted war, and especially those who are children.
St. Nicholas has partnered with the Manitoba Parents for Ukrainian Education non-profit organization to help provide school supplies and all for Ukrainian refugee children, called “Backpacks for Hope” which provides Ukrainian refugee children with school supplies and toys, so that every Ukrainian refugee child that arrives in Manitoba receives those basic necessities for school. Our blessed Patron, St. Nicholas is in many respects a patron of those who are in need; As the Akathist to St. Nicholas says “You are truly a helper to all, O God-bearing Nicholas, and you have gathered together all that flee unto you, for you are a deliverer, a nourisher, and a quick healer to all on earth, moving all to cry out in praise to you…” and a request like this call for school supplies, presents an opportunity for our community to bear witness the love and intercession that he has provided for our families over and over again, for the last 111 years.
Let us offer our thanksgiving to God for his intercessions, by following his example of providing the needed items for these children; and by it manifest the saving love of God for the whole world. May the Lord bless your generosity.
Items that can be donated are the following.
New or near new backpacks
Glue (glue sticks or school glue)
New small toys (eg: cars, UNO cards, Pretty Ponies, craft kits, playdoh, colouring books, stickers etc.)
New hygiene items (eg: Children’s shampoo/Children’s body wash or soap/ deodorant for teens, chapstick/lip gloss, pocket Kleenex, hair accessories, toothbrush, and toothpaste)
Our epistle reading for today can feel somewhat cryptic and a surface read can leave us scratching our heads wondering exactly what it was that St Paul was trying to tell us and the Corinthians. This reading is part of a larger discussion that he is having with the Corinthians though and it helps to remember some of the rest of that discussion.
Two weeks ago, we read from this same letter how the Corinthians were dividing themselves into groups based on which apostle they followed (or maybe were baptized by). They were dividing themselves into groups and this was something St. Paul came down quite hard on. Remember how he asks them rhetorically, “was Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Of course, the answer to this all is a resounding no.
It seems like the Corinthians were approaching the faith as if it were about getting the right doctrine. They were findings small differences between the apostles and using those differences to be thing that made them better Christians. St Paul’s message to them is that there is no Christian faith other than the one based in Christ Jesus. It is a worthwhile thing for us to consider, because we can all look for and easily find differences today, in a church that suffers from ethnic divisions, when internet teachers set themselves up as sources for a more pure faith than whatever watered down version that they consider everyone else to have. We certainly live in an age where differences abound and are continually used as wedges which divide us.
In today’s reading St Paul is continuing on this same theme. He drives home the point that the apostles are united in their efforts and message and he shows the Corinthians that the path to a mature Christianity – might I say, to a full faith – is that of the cross. Immediately before where our text picks up today St Paul is chiding them because they are reigning as kings. His implication is that, while they someday will reign as kings, this reigning could take place only after they had experienced the cross, only after they had given their very lives for Christ.
St Paul than continues, “ For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” Here it’s worth noting that he sees the apostles as having a common calling and that it was a calling to the cross. He goes on using sarcasm to point out that the Corinthians were living in a way that was quite the opposite, “ We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!”
He points out that they have many instructors. Some translators use the word “teacher” or even “babysitter” here and he contrasts them with his position as their father. The idea here is that he cares about them in a way that their teachers did not. A teacher (or babysitter) cares for a child, but their concern usually ends when their involvement with the child ends. A father knows that in some way, the world is seeing them (the father) when it looks at the child.
As fathers we pain to see our children divided. We know we can manipulate them to be on one side or another or to make a particular decision, but we also know that our children need to learn to stand on their own, and we do not want to see them divided against each other.
And our passage today ends with those words that are a bit jarring, “imitate me”. In another passage later in this same letter to the Corinthians St. Paul says, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”. And in other passages, he simply says, be imitators of God. Why does he feel that he can use all of these ideas, seemingly interchangeably? I think the clue in this passage is that the context that he is calling for us to imitate him in is not his greatness, but in his pursuit of the cross. And in the same manner, to the extent that each of us learn to give up our lives for Christ, give up greatness and power, we also can say, “imitate me”.
In some way, I see a parallel with today’s Gospel reading. Here we encounter the disciples’ failure to cast out a demon which Christ then casts out. When the disciples ask him why they could not cast it out, he points to their unbelief; their lack of faith. The story then takes an unexpected turn as Christ predicts his passion and this vignette ends with the line, “And they were exceedingly sorrowful”. Why do these two stories tie together in this way? How does St. Luke see a connection between the disciples’ lack of faith and the cross? Or maybe I should read more carefully, the cross and the resurrection, because Christ clearly points to his resurrection in this passage.
I think it might have something to do with the fact that the disciples’ faith was going to grow through the cross and the resurrection. And not only because they got to witness Christ’s death and resurrection. But their faith grew as they learned to experience the cross and the resurrection for themselves. Of course, we ultimately only get to experience resurrection when we cross from this age to the age to come. However, St. Paul pointed out for us many opportunities to experience death and resurrection in our everyday lives. “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.”
Our readings show us that somewhere between the story of the disciples’ unbelief and St Paul’s letter the Corinthians, the apostles got hold of this. They lived in the shadow of the cross, looking both behind them, “on the night he was betrayed”, and ahead, “to your second and most glorious coming”, to Christ’s resurrection.
May we be strengthened to give our lives for Christ by the prayers of the Holy Apostles and by the prayers of the martyrs who also took hold of this truth.
“…The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is the celebration of the fact that all human beings are “highly exalted” in the blessedness of the victorious Christ, and that this high exaltation has already been accomplished in Mary the Theotokos. The feast of the Dormition is the sign, the guarantee, and the celebration that Mary’s destiny is the same as all those of “low estate” (Lk. 1:48) whose souls magnify the Lord, whose spirits rejoice in God the Saviour, whose lives are totally dedicated to hearing and keeping the Word of God which was given to us in Mary’s Child, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world…”
Archpriest Robert Stephen Kennaugh. August 15, 2005
“How can I tell about this? How can I express in human words the light and joy experienced —as a gift, unmerited, truly by the grace of God—by the hundreds of people who travelled to far-off Alaska for the glorification of the righteous Elder Herman?”
Our blessed Saint Herman never started his journey over two hundred years ago, with the hope that one day hundreds of clergy and faithful would be glorifying his accomplishments, or that one day thousands of people would be venerating his relics, or even naming Churches after him. No. He started his journey with Christ as his only hope, and that he could truly bear witness to this eternal “light and joy”. That same divine “light and joy” that Fr. Alexander (and hundreds of thousands of people around the world) did, and now experience in our faith in Jesus Christ, and prayers to Fr. Herman.
Although it would have be truly beautiful to have been there for that momentous, or to even make a pilgrimage to Spruce Island in Alaska (may the Lord bless that we can do this one day); yet this “light and joy” in the presence of St. Herman, ‘s relics and throughout those services, as described by Fr. Alexander is something that is eternally revealed to us. This “light and joy” that he experienced at St. Herman’s Glorification was not a singular event or epiphany, rather it was a realization of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, manifested by those men and women (the Saints) who throughout all the ages, shone with forth the divine light of Tabor, in the witness of their faith. Even in the wilds of Alaska, with our Holy Father Herman, and here at our little Church in Manitoba in front of His Icon. It is with the eyes of faith that we behold this “light and joy” that Fr. Alexander and those with him beheld, The light of Christ that illumes the darkness of our hearts, and the boundless joy of “peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” in the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). By the prayers of our beloved intercessor and friend, St. Herman of Alaska, may our eyes of faith, behold such a splendor and wonder of the Lord’s mercy and grace that radiates throughout our continent, country, province, city, and parish. Blessed Father Herman pray to God for us!
The feast of the Transfiguration (Mt. 17:1-9, Mk 9:2-12 Lk. 9:28-36,) has always been a proclamation that assures humanity that Jesus Christ is not some wise sage or teacher, but is truly God: “light of light, true God of true God”, (as we say in the Creed). What was experienced on that mountain by Peter, James and John, was not some perceptible phenomenon akin to a sound and light extravaganza, nor was it a “spiritual” demonstration for the mind alone; rather it was a revelation of Jesus’ perfect divinity and humanity.
The same uncreated light which overwhelmed those disciples, was the same uncreated light that both Moses (Ex. 33:19-23) and Elijah (1 Kings/ 3 Kingdoms LXX 19: 11-12) bore witness to. The difference is that the vision of the Lord, and the blinding light of His glory, that had inspired and enlivened (and most likely terrified) Moses and Elijah was granted only as a promise to them. For us, this vision and light is more than a promise. It is the realization of that promise manifested in our baptism where we are granted a “robe of light”.
Through, with, and in Christ, we are given the ability to participate in that divine light, and become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4) and granted the possibility of bearing that divine light to a world in darkness. St. Seraphim of Sarov who in his conversation with Nicholas Motovilov, asked him “:Why don’t you look at me?” Motovilov replied “I cannot look, Father, because your eyes are flashing like lightning. Your face has become brighter than the sun, and my eyes ache with pain.” Father (Saint) Seraphim said: “Don’t be alarmed, your Godliness! Now you yourself have become as bright as I am. You are now in the fullness of the Spirit of God yourself; otherwise you would not be able to see me as I am.”
In our life as Christians, it isn’t enough to accept and talk about this divine life and light; we have to become it. If we are willing to live out our baptism in every moment, we like St. Seraphim and all the Saints, can manifest a total transfiguration of our own darkness and mortal nature, and become through grace all that He is by nature.
May the Lord grant us the strength and purity of heart to not only see this light, but to become it.