In the third year of His preaching, the Lord Jesus often spoke to His disciples of His approaching passion, and also of His glory following His suffering on the Cross. So that His impending passion would not totally weaken His disciples, and so that no one would fall away from Him, He, the All-wise, wanted to show them a portion of His divine glory before His passion. For that reason, He took Peter, James and John with Him and went by night to Mount Tabor, and was there transfigured before them: His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light (Matthew 17:2). Moses and Elias, the great Old Testament prophets, also appeared beside Him. Seeing this, His disciples were stunned. Peter said: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias (Matthew 17:4). While Peter still spoke, Moses and Elias departed, and a bright cloud overshadowed the Lord and His disciples, and there came a voice from the cloud saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him (Matthew 17:5). Hearing the voice, the disciples fell face down on the ground as though dead, and remained that way, prostrate in fear, until the Lord came to them and said: Arise, and be not afraid (Matthew 17:7). Why did the Lord take only three disciples onto Tabor, and not all? Because Judas was not worthy to behold the divine glory of the Teacher, Whom he would betray; and the Lord did not want to leave him alone at the foot of the mountain, so that the betrayer would not, because of this, justify his betrayal. Why was our Lord transfigured on a mountain and not in a valley? So as to teach us two virtues: love of labor and godly thoughts—for climbing to the heights requires labor, and the heights themselves represent the elevation of our thoughts to the things of God. Why was our Lord transfigured at night? Because the night is more suitable than the day for prayer and godly thoughts; and the night, by its darkness, conceals all the beauty of the earth, and reveals the beauty of the starry heavens. Why did Moses and Elias appear? In order to destroy the Jewish fallacy that Christ was one of the prophets—Elias or Jeremiah or some other. That is why He appeared as a King, above the prophets, and that is why Moses and Elias appeared as His servants. Until then, our Lord had manifested His divine power many times to the disciples; but on Mount Tabor He manifested His Divine Nature. This vision of His Divinity, and the hearing of the heavenly witness to His being the Son of God, must have served the disciples in the days of the Lord’s passion—in the strengthening of a steadfast faith in Him and in His final victory.
HYMN OF PRAISE
The Transfiguration of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ
Where Israel defeated Sisera,
There also did the Heavenly King deign to go,
To pray in nightly vigils,
To manifest the glory of His Transfiguration,
And confirm the faith of His followers
In His eternal victory as Victor.
There He shone forth with divine light,
Dispelled the thick darkness, and illuminated Tabor.
The Light, long concealed within Himself,
Which He had shed upon the world in brief flashes,
Now burst forth in abundant rays—Joyful rays, sweet rays—
To reveal to heaven the brilliance of His humanity,
And to reveal to earth and men the truth of His Divinity.
Let heaven see its Messenger;
Let the earth recognize God, the Savior.
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 called not 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 He spared that nation so that it could live. God listened more to the faithful Prophet Elias than to the entire unbelieving kingdom of Ahab. Because of the prayers of one man, God saved towns and people. Thus, the sinful town of Ustiug would have been 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).