Prologue from Ochrid - August 6 [August 19]
1. The Transfiguration of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In the third year of His ministry, the Lord Jesus spoke more frequently to His disciples of His coming Passion, but linked it always with His glory after His suffering on the Cross. That His coming suffering should not utterly shatter His disciples, so that they fall away from Him, He, the all-Wise, decided to show them, before His Passion, something of His divine glory. He therefore, taking with Him Peter, James and John, went by night onto Mount Tabor and was there transfigured before them. 'And His face shone as the sun, and His raiment became white as snow', and there appeared beside Him Moses and Elias, the great prophets of the Old Testament. And the disciples saw and were amazed, and Peter said: 'Lord, it is good for us to be here; if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles: one for Thee, one for Moses and one for Elias.' While Peter was still speaking, Moses and Elias disappeared and a bright cloud came and overshadowed the Lord and the disciples, and a voice came out of the cloud: 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.' Hearing this voice, the disciples fell prostrate on the ground as though dead, and remained thus lying in fear until the Lord came to them and said: 'Arise, and be not afraid' (Matt. 17). Why did the Lord take only three disciples with Him onto Tabor, and not all of them? Because Judas was not worthy to behold the divine glory of the Master whom he was to betray, and the Lord did not want to leave him alone at the foot of the mountain, that the betrayer should not thus work his betrayal. Why was He transfigured on the mountain and not in the valley? That He might teach us two virtues: love of toil and pondering on God. To climb to the heights involves toil, and the heights represent the heights of our thoughts: pondering on God. Why was He transfigured at night? Because the night is more fitted to prayer and meditation than the day, and because the night covers all earthly beauty with darkness and reveals the beauty of the starry heavens. Why did Moses and Elias a pear? To shatter the Jewish fallacy that Christ was one of the prophets - Elias, Jeremiah or one of the others. This was why He revealed Himself as King over the prophets, and why Moses and Elias appeared as His servants. Up to this moment, the Lord had many times shown His divine power to His disciples, but on Tabor He showed them His divine nature. This vision of His divinity and the hearing of the heavenly witness to Him as the Son of God must have been of support to the disciples in the days of the Lord's suffering, for the strengthening of a steadfast faith in Him and His final victory.
Why did our Lord not manifest His divine glory on Tabor before all the disciples instead of before three of them? First, because He Himself gave the Law through the mouth of Moses: "At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established" (Deuteronomy 19:15). Therefore, three witnesses are sufficient. These three witnesses represent three main virtues: Peter Faith, for he was the first to confess his faith in Christ as the Son of God; James Hope, for, with faith in the promise of Christ, he was the first who laid down his life for the Lord, being the first to be slain by the Jews; John Love, for he reclined on the bosom of the Lord and remained beneath the Cross of the Lord until the end. God is not called the God of many but rather the God of the chosen. "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob" (Exodus 3:6). God often valued a faithful man more than an entire nation. Thus, on many occasions, He wanted to destroy the entire Jewish nation, but because of the prayers of righteous Moses, spared that nation to live. God listened more to the faithful Prophet Elijah than to the entire unbelieving kingdom of Ahab. Because of the prayers of one man, God towns and people. Thus, the sinful town of Ustiug was to be destroyed by fire and hail had it not been saved by the prayers of the one and only righteous man in it, St. Procopius, the "fool for Christ" (July 8).
To contemplate the Providence of God, which rewarded the virtue of Ruth and Boaz (The Book of Ruth):
- How Ruth, being left a widow, remained faithful to Naomi, her aged mother-in-law and, by her labors, fed both, Naomi and herself;
- How the wealthy Boaz was merciful and helped these two poor women;
- How Boaz and Ruth entered into marriage from whom was born Obed, the father of Jesse, who was the father of David.
About the exaltation of the Church of God
"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it" (Isaiah 2:2).
This prophecy pertains to the Church of Christ. However much of this prophecy could seem to be mysterious to the Jews before Christ, so much more is it completely clear for us today. Mountain or height: the house of the Lord is truly established "in the top of the mountains", i.e., in the heights of the heavens, for the Church of Christ, first, is not sustained by the earth but rather by the heavens and finally, one part of the members of the Church (and now, a greater part) is to be found in heaven, while the other part is still on earth.
Further, the Church of Christ is "exalted above the hills", i.e., above all earthly and human greatness. Human philosophy and art and all the cultures of people as well as all earthly values represent only the low hills in comparison to the infinite heights of Christ's Church. For it was not difficult for the Church to create all of those hills, while neither one of them, nor all of them together, in the course of many thousands of years, was able to create the Church.
Finally, the prophet says: "all nations shall flow into it." To what, truly, up to now, have all the nations flowed if not into the Church of Christ? The Temple of Jerusalem was inexcessible to the Gentiles under the penalty of death. The Church, however, from the beginning called all nations on earth, obedient to the command of the Lord: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations" (St. Matthew 28:19).
This is the vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos, a vision from afar, a vision truthful and wonderful.
O Wonderful Lord, we give You unceasing thanks that You have made us worthy to be the children of Your Holy and True Church that is exalted above all the worldly heights.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK