TRANSFIGURATION THROUGH REPENTANCE
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Iveron Monastery of Orsk
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
Congratulations on the Transfiguration of our Lord!
On this day, the Lord takes three of His disciples, ascends Mount Tabor, and transfigures before them. Why does He take only three disciples when He has twelve of them? Does He give prominence to them? Does He love them more than the others? He has twelve but takes only three of them. However, we know that the Lord is unprejudiced. He cannot love one more than another. God is Perfect Love. Perfect Love cannot be less or more, it is always perfect.
Why three disciples? The remaining nine must have had temptations, as they were humans anyway. Perhaps, there was a little envy, jealousy, or even some simple human offense. Wasn’t there any space for twelve on the mountain? There was space but He took the three. The Lord seeks the one who is able to accept. However, this does not mean, the three were perfectly able to accept.
Once I heard the following story on Holy Mount Athos. In one skete, the Holy Fathers were serving the Transfiguration of the Lord. It was a small skete church, where a hieromonk was reading the Gospel for the Transfiguration describing how the Lord transfigured, “And Peter says, ‘Let us make three tabernacles.’”1 Tabernacles, or huts, in other words. The hieromonk read this passage and became silent for a while. At that moment, an Elder said, “Peter, Peter, what are you saying? Do you really want to hide the Glory of God into a tabernacle?” How earthly you think. Does the Glory of God need a booth? Where do you want to hide it? Let it shine for everyone.
This proves that the Lord seeks the one who can accept. Anyway, He takes those three chosen with Him and even they are not able to encompass. Just in a few days, we see that they are not able to accept. Peter betrays. As far as the rest two of them are concerned… The Lord tells them, “I am going to be crucified.” To which they say, “Grant us that we may be, one the first and the other the second in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Look, how earthly they are. On the other hand, shame on you, the Teacher tells them He is going to be crucified and you should cry bitterly because of this but you annoy Him all the time asking, “May James sit on Your right and John on Your left in the Kingdom of Heaven?” They cannot encompass it yet. The Lord is seeking someone who is able to encompass but cannot find even among them, even among those He takes with Him to Mount Tabor and transfigures before. Meanwhile, they experience this in an earthly way. “Let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” It might seem they should be in awe and speechless because of the event, but they think about such earthly things.
The Lord says, “Do not cast your pearls before swine.”2 He said so not because He despises pigs nor does He give offense to people, whom He compares to swine. This is only a comparison. A pig does not understand what pearls are, it prefers lentils, it is of interest to it. People often think the same way, “Give me something, so I can feel it and put it into my pocket. What are You saying about some high things? We cannot touch or smell them, or deposit them into our account. This is all very vague and uncertain.” It cannot be accepted. Our mind cannot accept it.
When were they able to accept? Someone will say, on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on them. Is this all? But before Pentecost, Peter betrayed. Do you remember how Apostle Paul speaks about himself? “I am one of the Apostles and one of monsters, as I persecuted Christ’s Church.” The Lord gave him so much Grace and he wrote so many holy words. But after what did God give it to him? After this suffering feeling of his cruelty. Peter changed. “Feed My lambs,”3 – the Lord tells him. But before this, He tests Peter’s repentance, “Peter, do you love Me?” “I love You but I feel very ashamed.” He cried throughout his life. Apostle Peter always had red eyes as he cried often.
The Lord did not simply give His Holy Spirit to the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost, but He gave Him after their deep repentance. It was not for nothing, otherwise, they would not have accepted.
Look, throughout the Old Testament, the Lord tries to give to the chosen people of Israel the promise. They cannot accept it. This is because they are damaged by pride. They are the nation chosen by God. And this drives them crazy. Believe me, they are the same way now, in Jerusalem. They cannot help being the Peculiar people. This is why they cannot acquire the Holy Spirit. As to encompass the Holy Spirit, one should squeeze oneself out of this place. This place should be vacant for the Holy Spirit. Drive yourself out of this place, and the Holy Spirit will come in. As long as you and your “I,” which is embroidered, adorned, and written with the capital letter, is there, it is impossible for the Holy Spirit to enter. We say, “Come and dwell in us.” To which He answers, “I would like to come, but there is no place for me there. I would have come. I am not proud, I am humble, I am kind, I am loving. I would have come, but there is no place for me there. You are there and do not yield to me.”
Transfiguration of a person is possible only after repentance. Once I heard the following horrible words from my spiritual child, “My conscience does not reprove me.” You are dead, my dear. You are dead. Conscience is the gift of God to people, so they might feel pain. Conscience is a pain, which indicates your sinfulness. But if it is silent… Look, let us compare ourselves to Holy Father Seraphim. Who he is and who we are? His conscience ached. A thousand days and a thousand nights on the rock, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” A thousand days and nights… Do you think he was standing on that rock, simply practicing asceticism, and admired himself thinking what a great ascetic he was? Not at all! All these thousand days and nights were full of sorrow and pain about himself. This is why there were those thousand days and nights. But if he did all this for the sake of mere asceticism and admired himself thinking how he would fly up into the sky in a rocket, these thousand nights would be worth nothing. How did he pray? Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. One cannot say this commonly or theatrically. These words can be uttered only through great sorrow, when your conscience aches. If your conscience does not ache, you are dead for the Kingdom of Heaven. You see the miracle of Transfiguration but say, “Let us make three tabernacles.” Let us hide all this, let us deposit it into our bank account. Lord, have mercy.
Everyone of us is called for the miracle of transfiguration of our own nature, which is fallen, worthless and rotten. However, this is possible only for those, who have repentance. For those who have only prayer, asceticism, and vigilance, it will not work. It works only if one has repentance above all. There is no repentance without acceptance of our own sins, without feeling horrible about ourselves, without crying over ourselves. There is no repentance in those who do not cry.
Sweetest Jesus, forgive us.
Blessed Feast to you all.
1 Mt. 17:4, Mk. 9:5, Lk. 9:33
2 Mt. 7:6
3 Jn. 21:15