Become all flame: thoughts on the Transfiguration

This morning at the parish of St John Maximovitch, Santa Maria, we celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ.

I love the deeply theological insights of St Gregory Palamas and others on this feast. But today it was a joy to simply tell and explain the story to folks who had not heard it before: How for just a moment, the disciples were enabled to see what was always true, that a human person in union with God in Christ is radiant, holy, and awe-inspiring. Only our sins and passions prevent us from seeing this reality and from acting like deified, immortal sons of the Holy and Living God at all times.

From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

…on which topic, see St Seraphim’s conversation with Motovilov.

Finally, here is a musical fable about communion and the mystery of God the Consuming Fire.

The King Beetle On A Coconut Estate from the album “It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright” by mewithoutYou. (Download the song for about a dollar at Amazon.) It’s a parable about beetles who are trying to figure out what fire is. Honestly I find the singer’s voice grating, but the first time I heard the song it made me weep. The ending chorus calls us back to Abba Joseph’s words: “Why not be utterly changed into fire?

Saint John halo

Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, serving the Divine Liturgy in Tunis, 1962.

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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