TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD (6th August

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by Kelly Anna Tsoi
The feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ is one of the most important feasts of the Orthodox Church. It teaches us about who Christ is as well as aids us in our own spiritual journey. The Transfiguration is the revelation of the Divinity of Christ and points to the transformation of creation and the second coming of Christ. The Transfiguration is the event where Christ brought three of His beloved disciples to the top of Mt Tabor and he was transfigured in front of them, to show his disciples His glory. The kontakion of the feast gives us an understanding as to why Christ chose to reveal Himself in such a way: ‘Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, O Christ our God, and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they were capable, that when they should see Thee crucified, they might know that Thy suffering was voluntary and might proclaim to the world that Thou art indeed the reflection of the Father.’ Christ reassures the disciples. He reveals to them His glory in order that they can cope with the upcoming events of His passion, crucifixion and resurrection. He gives them the strength and hope that they will need in order to see these events by showing them, in a physical sense, His divine glory. An examination of the icon of the Transfiguration gives us a better understanding of the meaning behind this event. The icon of the Transfiguration is pure theology. It encapsulates the Church’s doctrine about the person of Christ, who is of one essence with the Father, who became fully human while remaining fully divine. It is this icon that shows Christ in His divine glory, but it is His humanity that was transfigured with the divine light. The Holy Trinity is present. The Holy Spirit is manifested in a bright cloud which overshadowed the disciples and from that cloud came the voice of God the Father who witnessed to Christ as being His beloved Son (Matt 17:5). The Transfiguration takes place at the top of a mountain. In ancient times the mountain was considered the meeting place between heaven and earth, and a place of revelation. The triangular shaped mountain depicted in the Transfiguration icon was a universal symbol of the meeting place between heaven and earth. Christ is at the apex of the triangle, the pinnacle of the world,
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Radiantly Keeping Feast
Presbytera Eisodia Menis
The Feast of the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady, the Mother of God is a joyous occasion for our Church. Having prepared for the feast with fasting and prayer and vigil, we honour the Theotokos with psalms and hymns. Tradition teaches us that the Theotokos was attended at her deathbed by the Apostles and first bishops of the Church. Our Lady gave up her soul which was received by Jesus who took her soul, reborn anew, to heaven.
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year XXXI July - August 2006

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and there is an outpouring of divine goodness downwards and outwards upon creation. It is at the top of the mountain, where Christ is positioned, which represents the point of convergence of all human efforts ascending towards Godi. When we look at the icon of the Transfiguration we can see that Christ is the focal point. He sets the example of what a perfect human being is. Christ is the archetype for all of humanity. As St Athanasius stated, ‘God became human so that humanity could become gods’, but God became human so that humanity could become more humanii; a humanity that God had always intended from the beginning (cf. 1 Jn 3:2; 1Cor 15:51). Christ’s humanity was physically transformed on Mt Tabor and seen by the eyes of the disciple, and it is this transformation of humanity that gives us the ultimate example of the goal of humankind. Many saints of our Church have experienced this divine light and they were transformed. It is this divine light shining outwards from within that is depicted in the icons of the saints. When Moses returned from the mountain, after being in the presence of God, the people had to shield their eyes because his face shone so brightly (Ex 34:29-30, 35). In the icon of the Transfiguration Christ is gloriously depicted, in brilliant white or golden robes. In ancient times white was the colour of divinity. It transmits a sense of pureness, calm and tranquillity, and is the closest means of depicting light itself. Objects are visible only because they are illumined by the light. When light strikes something that is the colour white, in reality it is reflecting all colours. In the same way God reflects all things. The opposite of white is black, the colour which absorbs everything and reflects nothing back. Humanity can be likened to this darkness. It is

only when we absorb the light of God that ‘the splendour of our God [is] upon us’ (Ps 90:17 LXX). When we are illumined by the Spirit and absorb this light, it is possible to reflect this light and grace upon others. The figure of Christ is depicted in front of geometric shapes, usually a set of diamond shapes or circles, which are known as the mandorla. Generally there are three concentric rings which represent the Holy Trinity. The colour of the mandorla goes from light on the outside to darkness on the inside, closest to the body of Christ.

This inner darkness represents the transcendent nature of God. It is God’s essence which is unknowable and this is why it is in darkness. However the outer ring is light because it represents God’s energies, which graciously allow us to participate in God. It is through these energies of God that we have the possibility of deification, becoming gods by grace. An example of experiencing God’s energies is through the sacraments of the Church. It is through the sacraments that God’s energies and grace come upon us. In the icon of the Transfiguration we can see Moses and Elijah on either side of Christ. They are standing upright and their bodies are touching the outer parts of the mandorla. This indicates that they

have been sanctified by Christ. The icon shows that everything is illumined by the glory of Christ: the rocks, the disciples, Moses and Elijah! At the Transfiguration the energies of God are seen in the uncreated light by the disciples. It is through these uncreated energies that God makes Himself known to and partaken by creation. The same transfiguring power of God is evident today. This isn’t just an event that happened on Mt Tabor. This same transfiguration also occurs at every Eucharist, during the Divine Liturgy. Bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. When we receive Holy Communion we are transfigured by the body and blood of Christ. Our life is transformed into an eternal life in Christ, for as Christ says “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53). Moses is usually depicted holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments. Moses and Elijah are present to bear witness to Christ and to show that Christ is the fulfilment of both the Law and the Prophets. Moses received the Law from God on Mt Sinai, as is read on the eve of the feast during vespers (Exodus 24:12-18). Elijah represents those who prophesied about the coming of the Messiah/ Christ. The presence of Moses and Elijah, alongside the disciples, shows continuity between the old and new covenants. This is a circle of communion; dead and living, old and new, all living in the presence of, and touched by, God. Moses represents those righteous dead. Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot, thus, he represents those still alive, and this communion between the living and the dead reminds us that we are joined with those who have fallen asleep, to worship God at the second coming. The disciples represent us, those struggling in the world. This circle of communion is
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also present during the Divine Liturgy. The full Church, made up of both the Church militant, here on earth, and the Church triumphant, those already in heaven along with the saints and the angels, are present to offer thanksgiving and worship to God. In many icons of the Transfiguration a circle can be drawn in the lower half, which encompasses Christ and the disciples, as well as another circle encompassing Christ, Moses and Elijah. It is Christ who unites us all. The top of the icon has a sense of peacefulness and calm. Moses and Elijah appear to be conversing with Christ. In contrast, the lower half of the icon shows Christ’s disciples, Peter, James and John, in a state of chaos and disarray. It is these three disciples who Christ first asked to follow him, and it is those same three disciples who he chooses to be with him in the garden of Gethsemane. Among the three disciples we can discern different levels of spiritual advancement. James on the left has fallen backwards, his hands covering his eyes. John appears prostrate in the middle and he has even lost one of his sandals. Peter on the right appears to be steadying himself, his arm raised towards Christ. From the three disciples we observe the effect that being in the presence of the transcendent nature of God has on human beings. In the gospel reading for the feast (Matthew 17:1-9) we read how Peter manages to converse with Christ and wants to build three tabernacles, one each for Moses and Elijah and one for Christ. From these images we can tell that Peter is the most spiritually advanced of the three disciples. While all three are struck by the awesome sight of the divinity of the Lord, it is St Peter who is still able to converse with Christ. Christ’s light shines on the disciples, and this light also shines on us. The disciples are generally not shown with halos, since the Holy Spirit has not yet enlightened them, and they are in an early stage
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of spiritual growth, just as we are. The disciples see and are touched by God’s glory and it is through this experience that they are strengthened further in their spiritual journey. Our own spiritual journeys can be likened to climbing a mountain, just as the disciples climbed the mountain to see the Divine Light of Christ. Saint Maximos the Confessor states that to those who are spiritually advanced and who have been ‘able to follow [Christ] as He climbs the high mountain of His Transfiguration He appears in the form of God’iii. Even though we are all at different levels of spiritual advancement, Christ continues to be with us on our journey, encouraging us to climb higher so that we may experience God. Thus ‘the Transfiguration no longer takes place on Mt Tabor, but within every person who welcomes Christ, the image of the Father who sends the Spirit upon His beloved’iv.
i Maria Giovanna Muzji, Transfiguration: Introduction to the contemplation of icons. Translated by Kenneth D. Whitehead. Boston, MA: St Pauls Books and Media, 1991, 122. ii (Bishop) Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1999), 70-71. iii Saint Maximos, ‘Second century on theology’, in The Philokalia: The complete text. Volume 2. Trans. by G.E.H. Palmer et al. (London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 1990), 140. iv Michel Quenot, The Resurrection and the icon. Crestwood, NT: SVS Press, 1997, 151.

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St Mary entered eternal life without Judgement. Her body although buried in the tomb was translated to heaven. Therefore we celebrate a second Pascha, the resurrection of her who is already united to Christ before the Last Judgement and the general resurrection. In falling asleep, the Theotokos did not forsake the world. We are blessed, for we have her constant protection as she intercedes for us. The services of Vespers and Matins for the Dormition expound the tradition and teachings of our Church. For example in the vespers we read (by Theophanis): ‘Come, O gathering of those who love to keep the feasts, come and let us form a choir. Come, let us crown the Church with songs, as the Ark of God goes to her rest. For today heaven is opened wide as it receives the Mother of Him who cannot be contained. The earth, as it yields up the Source of life, is robed in the blessing and majesty. The hosts of angels, present with the fellowship of the apostles, gaze in great fear at her who bore the Cause of life, now that she is translated from life to life. Let us all venerate and implore her: Forget not, O Lady, your ties of kinship with those who commemorate in faith the feast of your all-holy Dormition.’ The services inspire our warm and sincere participation in the public prayer of our congregations to honour the Mother of God.

people and trees
Revd Doru Costache
Bishop Jean Kovalevsky: trees are rooted people, people are uprooted trees trees symbolise us, we symbolise trees when praying with lifted hands, we, like trees, have two roots: one deep in the soil of our being, and one pointing to the skies of spirit

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Adam’s Lament – From the Writings* of Staretz Silouan (1866-1938) of the Holy Mountain
by Vicki Petrakis
When one embarks on a piece of writing one is necessarily forced to look at their own lived existence in order to give a true account of what is being read and what is being conveyed. In a world where we are taught to live objectively and teach objectively Henry David Thoreau presented his version of simplicity when he told us in Walden, “In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained”. In similar style the writings of St Silouan are presented in the first person – the I – making his works appear not only personal but as a reflection of life in prayer. In his chapter on ‘Adam’s Lament’, St Silouan presents Adam’s fallen condition as a dialogue between himself and Adam. It reads like a poetic chapter in which he examines Adam’s lament and seeks advice and heavenly knowledge from Adam and finally concludes with Adam’s response, “Repent before the Lord, and entreat Him. He loves man and will give all things” (54). descendants who suffer and live in enmity with one another. press Adam’s lament to regain the lost paradise that he so much wept for having grieved his beloved God. The chapter on ‘Adam’s Lament’ may be appropriately read in conjunction with another chapter in the book titled, ‘On the Will of God and on Freedom’ because it is here where we discover how not to grieve God. When our Lord Jesus Christ instructed us on prayer he taught, ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven’. In writing his chapter on the will of God there is no doubt that St Silouan would have had a significant and yet simple insight into our Lord’s command…to simply do God’s will. Our Orthodox theological training accommodates the will of man and the will of God as an unfolding synergy between God and man and yet if we look deeper at what St Silouan reveals we discover that the person who gives his soul to the will of God feels the love of God, even though the body may be suffering (68). St Silouan teaches us that “The most precious thing in the world is to know God and understand His will, even if only in part” (69). It is through prayer and following the consultation of a spiritual father that we come to know the will of God, tells us St Silouan (74). “How clear it is to me that the Lord steers us” (75). How clear! And yet how darkened are our minds! To all those who yearn to do God’s will, may Your will be done oh Lord on Earth as it is in Heaven… * Wisdom from Mount Athos – The Writings of Staretz Silouan 18661938, by Archimandrite Sophrony (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1975).
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Adam cried, “Where art Thou, O Lord? Where art Thou, my Light? Why hast Thou hidden Thy face from me?” These words of desperation are also comforting as St Silouan describes that “God is love insaturable, love impossible to describe” (49). Love insaturable and impossible to describe – does that mean that in my fallen condition I am left unto my own devices to contemplate this love and partake in His mystery? Off course not for this precisely was the mistake that Adam made…forgetting to consult God. To use the parable for instance whether it was right to eat from the fruit Eve gave him. To experience the love of God we are asked to partake in the life of the Church. When we are divorced from this life we are twice doomed; from communion with God’s people and alienated from knowledge of God. Living away from Christ, man’s soul is left to discover for itself how and where to find the Holy Spirit; to find the lost St Silouan tells us, “Adam knew love and peace that Adam had exGod in paradise and after his fall sought Him in tears” (51). Imagine perienced in paradise. If we cannot being intimate with the love of God! be saturated in God’s love because of its density how is it possible for To a person living away from the us to ever pursue it with the knowlChurch intimacy with God’s love sounds bizarre and yet Adam was edge that the mind provides? capable of this experience before the fall. What was Adam’s experience? God’s love is experiential and is felt in living the life that we are granted. St Silouan hints at this experience when he tells us that Adam was wid- St Silouan understood this and cried out with Adam, “I too have lost owed of the love of God (47). Further clues are provided when St Si- grace and call with Adam. Be mercilouan tells us that, “Adam pined on ful unto me, O Lord! Bestow on me the spirit of humility and love!” (48). earth, and wept bitterly, and the earth was not pleasing to him” (47). Living with God, Adam lived peace and love in a state of humility. Every The peace and the love that Adam soul which has experienced the Lord experienced in direct communion yearns for Him in this manner. Our with God could not be lived in the deepest desires which cannot be fallen condition and so Adam was left to lament for himself and us his quenched by anything earthly ex-

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Reading the Bible: Elijah on the Mountain of God
by Revd Dr Doru Costache

1 Kings (3 Kings in the LXX) 19:3-13 [the text in italics] Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. When afraid, no matter the reason, and running for your life, you cannot find help in others and even in your earthly self. Leave down your servant, this corrupted body, and allow your soul/inner self fly towards the Rock. Leave the servant aside and fly to the desert for one day. [a day’s journey = the distance one could cover by walking constantly during a day; I chose to use for one day having the impression of being suggested here a personal experience of the only – not first – day of creation.] The desert, where there is no place to hiding and no possibility of disguise, where you could clearly see yourself, alone, in front of God. And for just one day, understanding that there is none other (cf. Genesis 1:5, where day one is, not the first) He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, Lord," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. The Tree... So present from the beginning to the end of the Scripture (Genesis 2:814; Revelation 22:1-6)... In Buddha’s vision too… The Tree is the symbol of the revelation, with its shadow cast on you, like a darkened refraction of the enlightening
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truth from above... There, under the Tree, is the best place in the world to express your fears, to shed your tears... There you could asleep/anesthetize your senses and your mind, preparing yourself, waiting for the answer (Genesis 2:21-25)... Is it not intriguing, how Elijah did not want to eat from the Tree? He was strong. He knew the truth was beyond the Tree itself. The Tree represented a symbol, the epiphany, incarnation of another reality…

Why Elijah fell asleep again? For an angel cannot be the answer. It (no he, no she) just represents the presentiment of the answer…

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you." So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. And Elijah was right. The angel cannot bring an answer, although it is to expect from it (no he, no she) All at once an angel touched him to tell you where to go for an anand said, "Get up and eat." He swer. looked around, and there by his After so frugal meal, and there is head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. no need for more actually (Matthew 4:4), he proceeded for He ate and drank and then lay his journey. down again. If you do not eat from below, food We are invited to learn from here from above will be served to you. that there is no real journey withTherefore do not worry, and con- out preparation: leave your servant down, go into the desert for one centrate on your quest. day, sleep under a tree, do not worship the angels, and eat. Only after all this you are ready to proceed for the toughest part of your experience There he went into a cave and spent the night. The cave is the symbol of preparing the rebirth (John 3:3-7). In the cave there is always night – the inner face of the day… He entered voluntarily his inner darkness (Genesis 1:2), renouncing his previous knowledge and virtue. Becoming a foetus in the womb of his mother – a foetus may claim neither knowledge nor virtue. Elijah is the symbol of the
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conscious. The cave/womb could be the unconscious. And to some extent he was prepared for this adventure of conscious remaking (1 Kings 18:42). The cave, the womb, rebirth And the word of the Lord came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?" By entering the darkness, by only renouncing vanity you could hope hearing the inaudible. The Merciful One came again to Adam, asking the most basic question of all: are you aware of what you seek and are? (Genesis 3:9) He replied, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." Always like Adam (Genesis 3:10), Elijah was not yet fully aware (see also the expression of his distress: I have had enough). His answer was not responding the fundamental question uttered by God instead of him. Recalling St Silouan, even the saints can be wrong. Thus you should not despair when your answers will be inappropriate

tered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. Powerful wind, earthquake, fire. All three are violent, and you know what they are... They represent the chaos you assumed personally when you chose to not hurt the others while working on yourself. But God is not to be found during the violent stages of your de-construction. He will be there, at the end of your painful journey, where/when you will struggle not anymore, where/ when you will serenely sit under a Tree, waiting for the revelation. Where/when you will cease to want anything more, understanding that what it is expected from you to be grateful for what already is. It (no he, no she) will come, caressing you gently, like the whisper of a soft wind When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He knew now. He knew he was wrong, running for his life. He answered in a humble silent way

On Souls and Various Ways of Living
Revd Doru Costache
According to Palamas, although I do not remember the place, the radical difference between human (reasoning/conscious) soul and the animal soul consists in the quality of the former to be more than a function. The animal soul animates flesh; and there is no other reason to be outside this function… The personal/human soul animates the flesh, but it also has a life of its own, a raison d’être which is not a mere function… A human soul, as principle of personhood, implies to be aware of the dignity and call of the self, besides the function of taking care of the others… Human persons are not like those flies whose main reason to be is to give birth, provide, and die after their offspring enters the same – pointless – circle… At least, if choosing to live for others, it is humane to grow personally as a result of such a choice…

The Lord said, "Go out and stand [see also this http://revdcostache. on the mountain in the presence of livejournal.com/32528.html] the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." You willingly entered the cave and the darkness, but there is no knowledge/answer in your own humility. You accomplished your task, becoming humble and forgetting about your vain knowledge. You are now ready to receive the wisdom from above: God is neither knowledge nor knowledgeable. God is presence, life, alive, somebody to be partaken Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shat-

editor: Rev. Doru Costache, PhD layout design: Ion Nedelcu address: 64 Linthorn Ave, Croydon Park, NSW 2133. phone: (02) 9642 02 60 www.geocities.com/sfmaria_sydney

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