Jun 02 2019

Part39: The Third Stage: Christ Our Passover P.6, 5- The Triumph of the Lamb (1st. Continuation)

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ORTHODOX SPIRITUALITY

Dr. Nos’hi Abdel-Shaheed

Part Thirty-Nine

CHAPTER 6

The third stage: Christ Our Passover.

(Part 6)

5- The Triumph of the Lamb (1st continuation)

 

The Transfiguration:

(Its introduction was presented previously in Part 5)

Transfiguration of Christ and the Spiritual Life:

The glory of Christ, which appeared in the Transfiguration, is received as a foretaste by the believers, who are still on earth, by the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in them. The Holy Spirit, whom we receive in Baptism and the Holy Chrismation, is “the guarantee of our inheritance” (cf. Eph. 1:14) which gives us a share in the glory of Christ from now. But this glory that the believers now receive within them through the Holy Spirit creates in them a new life. This life is not of this world. This is because true Christians “are not of this world, and Christ Himself is not of this world” (cf. John 17:14).

Those who believe in Christ and obtain His Spirit within themselves await with passion the coming of the Redeemer from heaven, because the light of the transfigured Christ, the living and glorified Christ, has shone in their hearts, and with this light they see with the eyes of their hearts the beauty of the glory of Christ and yearn for the day of full union with the Lord. As if they are saying with the Apostle Paul “Having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”(Phil. 1:23).

But this glory, which the believers look forward to in the future, they prepare for it now while in the flesh. This preparation is to purify the heart of darkness and of sin with the power of the true light of Christ, which moves us from darkness to light. The Lord Jesus says, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46).

And also, “believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36). Being joined to Christ, the true light, makes us change from within and become the sons of the light that is to say, we become as full of light as He is. Therefor the Lord says, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). The disciples of Christ, and those who believe in Him and follow Him, truly enlighten the world with the light they derive from Christ, who said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12).

Those who want their life to be transfigured by the light of the glorified Christ need to purify their hearts. When the heart is purified, all life will be full of light, as the Lord says, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.” (Luke 11:34) The simple eye means the heart that looks at Christ simply, honestly and lovingly, and becomes full of the light of Christ, who enters and pierces even the depths of the heart. And the heart that is filled with the light of Christ, darkness escapes it and becomes a pure heart that can see the glory of God. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matt. 5:8).

Looking at the Glory of the Father:

Looking at Christ with simple eyes purifies and illuminates the heart. This inner view of Christ can be achieved through connecting with Him in prayer. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Prayer, can illuminate us with the light of Christ’s glory and illuminate our hearts during praying. And the Holy Spirit gives us, through faith, to look at the glory of Christ who ascended to heaven and is now in exalted glory. Although the glory of Christ is beyond description and perception, the Apostle Paul says: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).

That is to say, that by constantly looking at Christ with our hearts we see from within His glory. But we do not see it directly as it is but “as in a mirror.” We see the glory of the heavenly Christ reflected in the mirror of our hearts, and with this view we change by the power of the light shining in our hearts to become like the image of the glory of Christ. The apostle says that we are changing “from glory to glory,” that is, the change to the image of the glory of Christ is growing more and more from glory to more glory. This glory is of Christ and not our glory. And he concludes by saying “just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” that is to say, that the process of looking at Christ, and the process of changing to the image of the glory of Christ, all this is the work of the Holy Spirit within us. The Spirit of God is the only one who can do all that in us.

The Transfiguration and the Cross:

What draws our attention in the incident of Christ’s Transfiguration is that Moses and Elijah, who appeared with him in glory at the time of the Transfiguration, spoke with him about his exodus which he was to complete in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). The redeeming sufferings of the Cross and of death were the subject at the time of the Transfiguration. Doesn’t that alert us to the fact that the suffering of the cross is the way to fulfill the kingdom of God in creation? The kingdom, which Christ declared its beginning in His body through Transfiguration.

The cross, or death, is the way to resurrection with a body of glory. The glory, resurrection, and life were hidden and concealed in the body of Christ. When Christ sacrificed His body with His free will, He offered Himself with full love to be slaughtered on the Cross, life burst forth from Him and the divine light emerged until it appeared openly in the illuminated, magnificent, and glorified body of the resurrection, over which death no longer has dominion (Rom. 6:9), to give life and light to every heart that believes and follows Him. For the light to shine in us, we must receive Christ’s life within us. So we radiate with His light and we become “light of the world” and “shine before men.” (Mat. 5:14,16)

If we want to share the inheritance of light, we have to deny ourselves, carry the cross, and follow Christ. We have to give ourselves completely up to God obeying the commandment. We have to practice voluntary death out of a true love to Christ. We must open our hearts and our whole being to the Holy Spirit to be filled with the life of Christ, and know the power of His resurrection so we can put to death our earthly lusts. The path of crucifying the self and its lusts is that of the resurrection and the transfiguration, and it is the same way of loving God with all the heart, and the love of brothers and sisters, it is the way of obeying the commandment of Christ; the way of prayer and devotion to the Lord with all the heart, and the way of loving from a very pure heart; love that is established in light, “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him… But he who hates his brother is in darkness… ” (1 John 2:10). The love of Christ is the light that banishes darkness.

Transfiguration and Resurrection:

The light of the glorified Christ which shines within us now, as mentioned above, is a hidden light which cannot be seen now. This magnificent light that appeared on the face of Christ, His body and His clothes at the time of transfiguration is stored in us now and works to renew us day by day. It is the same light that will shine on our bodies to achieve the glory of the resurrection in Christ’s Second Coming, which shall be from the heavens, fearful and full of glory. As St. Makarius says: “All what the soul has stored within itself in this present life will then be exposed and revealed from the outside, visible in the flesh, and, by the power of the Sun of Righteousness, the glory of the Holy Spirit will come out from within and cover the bodies of the saints, that glory that was theirs but hidden in their souls … The glory of this light will appear and be revealed on their bodies in the resurrection, for the glory that the saints now receive in their souls, i.e. in the present life, is the same which will cover up their bare bodies and seize them to heaven to rest there with the Lord in His kingdom, flesh and soul forever.1                        (To be contd.)

Saint Mark’s Orthodox Fellowship urges you to study the Bible and encourage others to do the same. Please feel free to make copies of these notes to distribute them. The Fellowship welcomes any questions, or comments.
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Footnotes:

  1. Sermons of St. Makarius. 4th edition. Published by The Orthodox Patristic Center. Fifth Sermon, P. 74-6.

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