On the Transfiguration,

On the Transfiguration,
attributed to St. Ephrem the Syrian
translated by Archimandrite Ephrem Lash

1. From the land comes the joy of harvest, from the vineyard fruits that
give food, and from the Scriptures teaching that gives life. The land has
one season for the harvest, and the vineyard has one season for the vintage,
but the Scripture when read always overflows with teaching that gives life.
The land when it has been harvested lies fallow and the vineyard when the
grapes have been picked is unproductive, but when Scripture is harvested the
grapes of those who expound it are not lacking in it. It is picked every day
and the grape clusters of the hope in it are never exhausted. Let us then
draw near to this land and enjoy its life-giving furrows; and let us harvest
from it grapes of life, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said to his
Disciples, `There are some of those standing here who will not taste death
until they see the Son of man coming in his glory'.

2. `And after six days he took Simon Peter and James and John his brother to
a very high mountain and he was transfigured before them, and his face shone
like the sun, and his garments became white like light'. Men whom he said
would not taste death until they saw the image of his coming, are those whom
he took and led up the mountain and showed them how he was going to come on
the last day in the glory of his divinity and in the body of his humanity.

3. He led them up the mountain to show them who the Son is and whose he is.
Because when he asked them, `Whom do men say the Son of man is?' They said
to him, ³some Elias, others Jeremias, or one of the Prophets.² This is why
he leads them up the mountain and shows them that he is not Elias, but the
God of Elias; again, that he is not Jeremias, but the one who sanctified
Jeremias in his mother's womb; not one of the Prophets, but the Lord of the
Prophets, who also sent them. And he shows them that he is the maker of
heaven and earth, and that he is Lord of living and dead. For he gave orders
to heaven and brought down Elias, and made a sign to the earth and raised up

4. He led them up the mountain to show them that he is the Son of God, born
from the Father before the ages and in the last times incarnate from the
Virgin, as he knows how, born ineffably and without seed, preserving her
virginity incorrupt; for wherever God wills it, the order of nature is
overcome. For God the Word dwelt in the Virgin's womb, and the fire of his
divinity did not consume the members of the Virgin's body, but protected
them carefully by its nine month presence. He dwelt in the Virgin's womb,
not abhorring the unpleasant smell of nature, and God incarnate came forth
from her to save us.

5. He led them up the mountain to show them the glory of the godhead and to
make known to them that he is the redeemer of Israel, as he had shown
through the Prophets, and they should not be scandalized in him when they
saw his voluntary sufferings, which as man he was about to suffer for us.
For they knew him as a man, but did not know that he was God. They knew him
as son of Mary, going about with them in the world, and he made known to
them on the mountain that he was Son of God and God. They saw that he ate
and drank, toiled and rested, dozed and slept, things which did not accord
with his divine nature, but only with his humanity, and so he took them to
the mountain that the Father might call him Son and show that he is truly
his Son and that he is God.

6. He led them up the mountain and showed them his kingship before his
passion, and his power before his death, and his glory before his disgrace,
and his honor before his dishonor, so that, when he was arrested and
crucified by the Jews, they might know that he was not crucified through
weakness, but willingly by his good pleasure for the salvation of the world.

7. He led them up the mountain and showed the glory of his divinity before
the resurrection, so that when he rose from the dead in the glory of his
divine nature, they might know that it was not because of his harsh toil
that he accepted glory, as if he lacked it, but it was his before the ages
with the Father and together with the Father, as he said as he was coming to
his voluntary passion, `Father, glorify me with the glory which I had with
you before the world existed'.

8. And so on the mountain he showed his Apostles the glory of his divinity,
concealed and hidden by his humanity. For they saw his face bright as
lightning and his garments white as light. They saw two suns; one in the
sky, as usual, and one unusually; one visible in the firmament and lighting
the world, and one, his face, visible to them alone. His garments white as
light showed that the glory of his divinity flooded from his whole body, and
his light shone from all his members. For his flesh did not shine with
splendor from without, like Moses, but the glory of his divinity flooded
from him. His light dawned and was drawn together in him. Nor did it depart
somewhere else and leave him, because it did come from another place and
adorn him, nor was it for his use. And he did not display the whole depth of
his glory, but only as much as the limits of their eyes could encompass.

9. `And there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him'. And the
words that they said to him were such as these: they were thanking him that
their words and those of all their fellow Prophets had been fulfilled by his
coming. They offered him worship for the salvation which he had wrought for
the world for the human race; and that he had fulfilled in reality the
mystery they had only sketched. There was joy for the Prophets and the
Apostles by this ascent of the mountain. The Prophets rejoiced when they saw
his humanity, which they had not known. The Apostles also rejoiced when they
saw the glory of his divinity, which they had not known, and heard the voice
of the Father bearing witness to his Son; and through this they recognized
his incarnation, which was concealed from them. And the witness of the three
was sealed by the Father's voice and by Moses and Elias, who stood by him
like servants, and they looked to one another: the Prophets to the Apostles
and the Apostles to the Prophets. There the authors of the old covenant saw
the authors of the new. Holy Moses saw Simon the sanctified; the steward of
the Father saw the administrator of the Son. The former divided the sea for
the people to walk in the middle of the waves; the latter raised a tent for
the building of the Church. The virgin of the old covenant saw the virgin of
the new: [Elias and John;] the one who mounted on the chariot of fire and
the one who leaned on the breast of the flame. And the mountain became a
type of the Church, and on it Jesus united the two covenants, which the
Church received, and made known to us that he is the giver of the two. The
one received his mysteries; the other revealed the glory of his works.

Šand confessor named Benjamin, when a person who had come to him for
confession was talking only about others and criticizing his brothers, would
send the ³penitent² away until he could correct himself and change his

The most simple Dionysiatan monk, Elder David, would tell his visitors about
criticism: ³Be careful; do not say one person does this and the other does
that. If you do so, you lose Christ¹s grace. Even if you see a person acting
like an ass, do not criticize. Love your neighbor as you would your own
self. This is what Christ tells us to do.²

from An Athonite Gerontikon


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