Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

For the First Nocturn

The First Reading
(from the Gospel of St. Luke 9:28-31)
AND it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance war altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.

The Second Reading
(from Mathew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible)
28 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. 29 And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. 30 And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: 31Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. 32But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. 33And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. 34While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. 35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. 36 And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
We have here the narrative of Christ's transfiguration, which was designed for a specimen of that glory of his in which he will come to judge the world, of which he had lately been speaking, and, consequently, an encouragement to his disciples to suffer for him, and never to be ashamed of him. We had this account before in Matthew and Mark, and it is well worthy to be repeated to us, and reconsidered by us, for the confirmation of our faith in the Lord Jesus, as the brightness of his Father's glory and the light of the world, for the filling of our minds with high and honourable thoughts of him, notwithstanding his being clothed with a body, and giving us some idea of the glory which he entered into at his ascension, and in which he now appears within the veil, and for the raising and encouraging of our hopes and expectations concerning the glory reserved for all believers in the future state.
I. Here is one circumstance of the narrative that seems to differ from the other two evangelists that related it. They said that it was six days after the foregoing sayings Luke says that it was about eight days after, that is, it was that day sevennight, six whole days intervening, and it was the eighth day. Some think that it was in the night that Christ was transfigured, because the disciples were sleepy, as in his agony, and in the night his appearance in splendour would be the more illustrious if in the night, the computation of the time would be the more doubtful and uncertain probably, in the night, between the seventh and eighth day, and so about eight days.
II. Here are divers circumstances added and explained, which are very material.
1. We are here told that Christ had this honour put upon him when he was praying: He went up into a mountain to pray, as he frequently did (Luke 9:28), and as he prayed he was transfigured. When Christ humbled himself to pray, he was thus exalted. He knew before that this was designed for him at this time, and therefore seeks it by prayer. Christ himself must sue out the favours that were purposed for him, and promised to him: Ask of me, and I will give thee, Psalm 2:8. And thus he intended to put an honour upon the duty of prayer, and to recommend it to us. It is a transfiguring, transforming duty if our hearts be elevated and enlarged in it, so as in it to behold the glory of the Lord, we shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory, 2 Corinthians 3:18. By prayer we fetch in the wisdom, grace, and joy, which make the face to shine.
2. Luke does not use the word transfigured--metamorphothe (which Matthew and Mark used), perhaps because it had been used so much in the Pagan theology, but makes use of a phrase equivalent, to eidos tou prosopou heteron--the fashion of his countenance was another thing from what it had been: his face shone far beyond what Moses's did when he came down from the mount and his raiment was white and glistering: it was exastrapton--bright like lightning (a word used only here), so that he seemed to be arrayed all with light, to cover himself with light as with a garment.
3. It was said in Matthew and Mark that Moses and Elias appeared to them here it is said that they appeared in glory, to teach us that saints departed are in glory, are in a glorious state they shine in glory. He being in glory, they appeared with him in glory, as all the saints shall shortly do.
4. We are here told what was the subject of the discourse between Christ and the two great prophets of the Old Testament: They spoke of his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. Elegon ten exodon autou--his exodus, his departure that is, his death. (1.) The death of Christ is here called his exit, his going out, his leaving the world. Moses and Elias spoke of it to him under that notion, to reconcile him to it, and to make the foresight of it the more easy to his human nature. The death of the saints is their exodus, their departure out of the Egypt of this world, their release out of a house of bondage. Some think that the ascension of Christ is included here in his departure for the departure of Israel out of Egypt was a departure in triumph, so was his when he went from earth to heaven. (2.) This departure of his he must accomplish for thus it was determined, the matter was immutably fixed in the counsel of God, and could not be altered. (3.) He must accomplish it at Jerusalem, though his residence was mostly in Galilee for his most spiteful enemies were at Jerusalem, and there the sanhedrim sat, that took upon them to judge of prophets. (4.) Moses and Elias spoke of this, to intimate that the sufferings of Christ, and his entrance into his glory, were what Moses and the prophets had spoken of see Luke 24:26,27,1 Peter 1:11. (5.) Our Lord Jesus, even in his transfiguration, was willing to enter into a discourse concerning his death and sufferings, to teach us that meditations on death, as it is our departure out of this world to another, are never unseasonable, but in a special manner season able when at any time we are advanced, lest we should be lifted up above measure. In our greatest glories on earth, let us remember that here we have no continuing city.
5. We are here told, which we were not before, that the disciples were heavy with sleep, Luke 9:32. When the vision first began, Peter, and James, and John were drowsy, and inclined to sleep. Either it was late, or they were weary, or had been disturbed in their rest the night before or perhaps a charming composing air, or some sweet and melodious sounds, which disposed them to soft and gentle slumbers, were a preface to the vision or perhaps it was owing to a sinful carelessness: when Christ was at prayer with them, they did not regard his prayer as they should have done, and, to punish them for that, they were left to sleep on now, when he began to be transfigured, and so lost an opportunity of seeing how that work of wonder was wrought. These three were now asleep, when Christ was in his glory, as afterwards they were, when he was in his agony see the weakness and frailty of human nature, even in the best, and what need they have of the grace of God. Nothing could be more affecting to these disciples, one would think, than the glories and the agonies of their Master, and both in the highest degree and yet neither the one nor the other would serve to keep them awake. What need have we to pray to God for quickening grace, to make us not only alive, but lively! Yet that they might be competent witnesses of this sign from heaven, to those that demanded one, after awhile they recovered themselves, and became perfectly awake and then they took an exact view of all those glories, so that they were able to give a particular account, as we find one of them does, of all that passed when they were with Christ in the holy mount, 2 Peter 1:18.
6. It is here observed that it was when Moses and Elias were now about to depart that Peter said, Lord, it is good to be here, let us make three tabernacles. Thus we are often not sensible of the worth of our mercies till we are about to lose them nor do we covet and court their continuance till they are upon the departure. Peter said this, not knowing what he said. Those know not what they say that talk of making tabernacles on earth for glorified saints in heaven, who have better mansions in the temple there, and long to return to them.
7. It is here added, concerning the cloud that overshadowed them, that they feared as they entered into the cloud. This cloud was a token of God's more peculiar presence. It was in a cloud that God of old took possession of the tabernacle and temple, and, when the cloud covered the tabernacle, Moses was not able to enter (Exodus 40:34,35), and, when it filled the temple, the priests could not stand to minister by reason of it, 2 Chronicles 5:14. Such a cloud was this, and then no wonder that the disciples were afraid to enter into it. But never let any be afraid to enter into a cloud with Jesus Christ for he will be sure to bring them safely through it.
8. The voice which came from heaven is here, and in Mark, related not so fully as in Matthew: This is my beloved Son, hear him: though those words, in whom I am well pleased, which we have both in Matthew and Peter, are not expressed, they are implied in that, This is my beloved Son for whom he loves, and in whom he is well pleased, come all to one we are accepted in the Beloved.
Lastly, The apostles are here said to have kept this vision private. They told no man in those days, reserving the discovery of it for another opportunity, when the evidences of Christ's being the Son of God were completed in the pouring out of the Spirit, and that doctrine was to be published to all the world. As there is a time to speak, so there is a time to keep silence. Every thing is beautiful and useful in its season.

The Third Reading
(from a Sermon on the Transfiguration by St. Gregory Palamas)
For an explanation of the present Feast and understanding of its truth, it is necessary for us to turn to the very start of today’s reading from the Gospel: “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up onto a high mountain by themselves” (Mt 17:1).
First of all, we might start by asking when the Evangelist Matthew began his six-day count? What kind of day was it? What does the preceding statement indicate, where the Savior, in teaching His disciples, said to them: “For the Son of Man shall come with his angels in the glory of His Father,” and further: “Again I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death, until they have seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Mt 16:27-28)? That is to say, it is the Light of His own forthcoming Transfiguration which He terms the Glory of His Father and of His Kingdom.
The Evangelist Luke points this out and reveals this more clearly saying: “Now it came to pass about eight days after these words, that He took Peter and John and James, and went up the mountain to pray. And as He prayed, His countenance was altered, and His raiment became a radiant white” (Lk 9:28-29). But how can the two be reconciled, when one of them speaks definitively about the interval of time as being eight days between the sayings and the manifestation, whereas the other (says): “after six days?”
There were eight on the mountain, but only six were visible. Three, Peter, James and John, had come up with Jesus, and they saw Moses and Elias standing there and conversing with Him, so altogether there were six of them. However, the Father and the Holy Spirit were invisibly with the Lord: the Father, with His Voice testifying that this was His Beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit shining forth with Him in the radiant cloud. Thus, the six are actually eight, and there is no contradiction regarding the eight. Similarly, there is no contradiction with the Evangelists when one says “after six days,” and the other says “eight days after these words.”
But these twofold sayings as it were present us a certain format set in mystery, and together with it that of those actually present upon the Mount. It stands to reason, and everyone rationally studying in accordance with Scripture knows that the Evangelists are in agreement one with another. Luke spoke of eight days without contradicting Matthew, who declared “after six days.” There is not another day added on to represent the day on which these sayings were uttered, nor is the day on which the Lord was transfigured added on (which a rational person might reasonably imagine to be added to the days of Matthew).
The Evangelist Luke does not say “after eight days” (like the Evangelist Matthew says “after six days”), but rather “it came to pass eight days after these words.” But where the Evangelists seem to contradict one another, they actually point out to us something great and mysterious. In actual fact, why did the one say “after six days,” but the other, in ignoring the seventh day, have in mind the eighth day? It is because the great vision of the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is the mystery of the Eighth Day, i.e., of the future age, coming to be revealed after the passing away of the world created in six days.
About the power of the Divine Spirit, through Whom the Kingdom of God is to be revealed, the Lord predicted: “There are some standing here who shall not taste death, until they have seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Mt 16:28). Everywhere and in every way the King will be present, and everywhere will be His Kingdom, since the advent of His Kingdom does not signify the passing over from one place to another, but rather the revelation of its power of the Divine Spirit. That is why it is said: “come in power.” And this power is not manifest to simple ordinary people, but to those standing with the Lord, that is to say, those who have affirmed their faith in Him like Peter, James and John, and especially those who are free of our natural abasement. Therefore, and precisely because of this, God manifests Himself upon the Mount, on the one hand coming down from His heights, and on the other, raising us up from the depths of abasement, since the Transcendent One takes on mortal nature. Certainly, such a manifest appearance by far transcends the utmost limits of the mind’s grasp, as effectualized by the power of the Divine Spirit.
Thus, the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is not something that comes to be and then vanishes, nor is it subject to the sensory faculties, although it was contemplated by corporeal eyes for a short while upon an inconsequential mountaintop. But the initiates of the Mystery, (the disciples) of the Lord at this time passed beyond mere flesh into spirit through a transformation of their senses, effectualized within them by the Spirit, and in such a way that they beheld what, and to what extent, the Divine Spirit had wrought blessedness in them to behold the Ineffable Light.
Those not grasping this point have conjectured that the chosen from among the Apostles beheld the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord by a sensual and creaturely faculty, and through this they attempt to reduce to a creaturely level (i.e., as something “created”) not only this Light, the Kingdom and the Glory of God, but also the Power of the Divine Spirit, through Whom it is meet for Divine Mysteries to be revealed. In all likelihood, such persons have not heeded the words of the Apostle Paul: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love Him. But to us God has revealed them through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Cor 2:9-10).
So, with the onset of the Eighth Day, the Lord, taking Peter, James and John, went up on the Mount to pray. He always prayed alone, withdrawing from everyone, even from the Apostles themselves, as for example when with five loaves and two fish He fed the five thousand men, besides women and children (Mt 14:19-23). Or, taking with Him those who excelled others, as at the approach of His Saving Passion, when He said to the other disciples: “Sit here while I go over there and pray” (Mt 26:36). Then He took with Him Peter, James and John. But in our instance right here and now, having taken only these same three, the Lord led them up onto a high mountain by themselves and was transfigured before them, that is to say, before their very eyes.
“What does it mean to say: He was transfigured?” asks the Golden-Mouthed Theologian (Chrysostomos). He answers this by saying: “It revealed something of His Divinity to them, as much and insofar as they were able to apprehend it, and it showed the indwelling of God within Him.” The Evangelist Luke says: “And as He prayed, His countenance was altered” (Lk 9:29); and from the Evangelist Matthew we read: “And His face shone as the sun” (Mt 17:2). But the Evangelist said this, not in the context that this Light be thought of as subsistent for the senses (let us put aside the blindness of mind of those who can conceive of nothing higher than what is known through the senses). Rather, it is to show that Christ God, for those living and contemplating by the Spirit, is the same as the sun is for those living in the flesh and contemplating by the senses. Therefore, some other Light for the knowing the Divinity is not necessary for those who are enriched by Divine gifts.
That same Inscrutable Light shone and was mysteriously manifest to the Apostles and the foremost of the Prophets at that moment, when (the Lord) was praying. This shows that what brought forth this blessed sight was prayer, and that the radiance occurred and was manifest by uniting the mind with God, and that it is granted to all who, with constant exercise in efforts of virtue and prayer, strive with their mind towards God. True beauty, essentially, can be contemplated only with a purified mind. To gaze upon its luminance assumes a sort of participation in it, as though some bright ray etches itself upon the face.
Even the face of Moses was illumined by his association with God. Do you not know that Moses was transfigured when he went up the mountain, and there beheld the Glory of God? But he (Moses) did not effect this, but rather he underwent a transfiguration. However, our Lord Jesus Christ possessed that Light Himself. In this regard, actually, He did not need prayer for His flesh to radiate with the Divine Light; it was but to show from whence that Light descends upon the saints of God, and how to contemplate it. For it is written that even the saints “will shine forth like the sun” (Mt 13:43), which is to say, entirely permeated by Divine Light as they gaze upon Christ, divinely and inexpressibly shining forth His Radiance, issuing from His Divine Nature. On Mount Tabor it was manifest also in His Flesh, by reason of the Hypostatic Union (i.e., the union of the two perfect natures, divine and human, within the divine Person [Hypostasis] of Christ, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity). The Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon defined this Hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures, divine and human, as “without mingling, without change, without division, without separation.”
We believe that at the Transfiguration He manifested not some other sort of light, but only that which was concealed beneath His fleshly exterior. This Light was the Light of the Divine Nature, and as such, it was Uncreated and Divine. So also, in the teachings of the Fathers, Jesus Christ was transfigured on the Mount, not taking upon Himself something new nor being changed into something new, nor something which formerly He did not possess. Rather, it was to show His disciples that which He already was, opening their eyes and bringing them from blindness to sight. For do you not see that eyes that can perceive natural things would be blind to this Light?
Thus, this Light is not a light of the senses, and those contemplating it do not simply see with sensual eyes, but rather they are changed by the power of the Divine Spirit. They were transformed, and only in this way did they see the transformation taking place amidst the very assumption of our perishability, with the deification through union with the Word of God in place of this.
So also she who miraculously conceived and gave birth recognized that the One born of her is God Incarnate. So it was also for Simeon, who only received this Infant into his arms, and the aged Anna, coming out [from the Jerusalem Temple] for the Meeting, since the Divine Power illumined, as through a glass windowpane, giving light for those having pure eyes of heart.
And why did the Lord, before the beginning of the Transfiguration, choose the foremost of the Apostles and lead them up onto the Mount with Him? Certainly, it was to show them something great and mysterious. What is particularly great or mysterious in showing a sensory light, which not only the foremost, but all the other Apostles already abundantly possessed? Why would they need a transforming of their eyes by the power of the Holy Spirit for a contemplation of this Light, if it were merely sensory and created? How could the Glory and the Kingdom of the Father and the Holy Spirit project forth in some sort of sensory light? Indeed, in what sort of Glory and Kingdom would Christ the Lord come at the end of the ages, when there would not be necessary anything in the air, nor in expanse, nor anything similar, but when, in the words of the Apostle, “God will be all in all” (1 Cor 15: 28)? That is to say, will He alter everything for all? If so, then it follows that light is included.
Hence it is clear that the Light of Tabor was a Divine Light. And the Evangelist John, inspired by Divine Revelation, says clearly that the future eternal and enduring city “has no need of the sun or moon to shine upon it. For the Glory of God lights it up, and the Lamb will be its lamp” (Rev 21:23). Is it not clear, that he points out here that this [Lamb] is Jesus, Who is divinely transfigured now upon Tabor, and the flesh of Whom shines, is the lamp manifesting the Glory of divinity for those ascending the mountain with Him?
John the Theologian also says about the inhabitants of this city: “they will not need light from lamps, nor the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shed light upon them, and night shall be no more” (Rev 22:5). But how, we might ask, is there this other light, in which “there is no change, nor shadow of alteration” (Jas 1:17)? What light is there that is constant and unsetting, unless it be the Light of God? Moreover, could Moses and Elias (and particularly the former, who clearly was present only in spirit, and not in flesh [Elias having ascended bodily to Heaven on the fiery chariot]) be shining with any sort of sensory light, and be seen and known? Especially since it was written of them: “they appeared in glory, and spoke of his death, which he was about to fulfill at Jerusalem” (Lk 9:30-31). And how otherwise could the Apostles recognize those whom they had never seen before, unless through the mysterious power of the Divine Light, opening their mental eyes?
But let us not tire our attention with the furthermost interpretations of the words of the Gospel. We shall believe thus, as those same ones have taught us, who themselves were enlightened by the Lord Himself, insofar as they alone know this well: the Mysteries of God, in the words of a prophet, are known to God alone and His perpetual proximity. Let us, considering the Mystery of the Transfiguration of the Lord in accord with their teaching, strive to be illumined by this Light ourselves and encourage in ourselves love and striving towards the Unfading Glory and Beauty, purifying our spiritual eyes of worldly thoughts and refraining from perishable and quickly passing delights and beauty which darken the garb of the soul and lead to the fire of Gehenna and everlasting darkness. Let us be freed from these by the illumination and knowledge of the incorporeal and ever-existing Light of our Savior transfigured on Tabor, in His Glory, and of His Father from all eternity, and His Life-Creating Spirit, Whom are One Radiance, One Godhead, and Glory, and Kingdom, and Power now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

For the Second Nocturn

The Fourth Reading
(from the Gospel of St. Luke 9:32-33)
But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.

Fifth Reading
(from the Catena Aurea, of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Gospel of Luke 9:32-36)
THEOPHYL. While Christ is engaged in prayer, Peter is heavy with sleep, for he was weak, and did what was natural to man; as it is said, But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep. But when they awake, they behold His glory, and the two men with Him; as it follows, And when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.

CHRYS. Or, by the word sleep, he means that strange maze that fell upon them by reason of the vision. For it was not night time, but the exceeding brightness of the light weighed down their weak eyes.

AMBROSE; For the incomprehensible brightness of the Divine nature oppresses our bodily senses. For if the sight of the body is unable to contain the sun's ray when opposite to the eyes which behold it, how can the corruption of our fleshly members endure the glory of God? And perhaps they were oppressed with sleep, that after their rest they might behold the sight of the resurrection. Therefore when they were awake they saw His glory. For no one, except he is watching, sees the glory of Christ. Peter was delighted, and as the allurements of this world enticed him not, was carried away by the glory of the resurrection. Hence it follows, And it came to pass as they departed,& c.

CYRIL; For perhaps holy Peter imagined that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and therefore it seemed good to him to abide on the mount.

DAMAS. It were not good for you, Peter, that Christ should abide there, for if He had remained, the promise made to you would never receive its accomplishment. For neither would you have obtained the keys of the kingdom, nor the tyranny of death been abolished. Seek not bliss before its time, as Adam did to be made a God. The time shall come when you shall enjoy the sight without ceasing, and dwell together with Him who is light and life.

AMBROSE; But Peter distinguished not only by earnest feeling, but also by devout deeds, wishing like a zealous workman to build three tabernacles, offers the service of their united labor; for it follows, let us make three tabernacles, one for you, &c.

DAMAS. But the Lord ordained you not the builder of tabernacles, but of the universal Church. Your words have been brought to pass by your disciples, by your sheep, in building a tabernacle, not only for Christ, but also for His servants. But Peter said not this deliberately, but through the inspiration of the Spirit revealing things to come, as it follows, not knowing what he said.

CYRIL; He knew not what he said, for neither was the time come for the end of the world, or for the Saints' enjoyment of their promised hope. And when the dispensation was now commencing, how was it fitting that Christ should abandon His love of the world, Who was willing to suffer for it?

DAMAS. It behoved Him also not to confine the fruit of His incarnation to the service of those only who were on the mount, but to extend it to all believers, which was to be accomplished by His cross and passion.

TIT. BOST. Peter also was ignorant what he said, seeing that it was not proper to make three tabernacles for the three. For the servants are not received with their Lord, the creature is not placed beside the Creator.

AMBROSE; Nor does the condition of man in this corruptible body allow of making a tabernacle to God, whether in the soul or in the body, or in any other place; and although he knew not what he said, yet a service was offered which not by any deliberate forwardness, but its premature devotion, receives in abundance the fruits of piety. For his ignorance was part of his condition, his offer of devotion.

CHRYS. Or else Peter heard that it was necessary Christ must die, and on the third day rise again, but he saw around him a very remote and solitary place; he supposed therefore that the place had some great protection. For this reason he said, It is good for us to be here. Moses a too was present, who entered into the cloud. Elias, who on the mount brought down fire from heaven. The Evangelist then, to indicate the confusion of mind in which he utters this, added, Not knowing what he said.

AUG. Now in what Luke here says of Moses and Elias, And it came to pass as they departed from him, Peter said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here, he must not be thought contrary to Matthew and Mark, who have so connected Peter's suggestion of this, as if Moses and Elias were still speaking with our Lord. For they did not expressly state that Peter said it then, but rather were silent about what Luke added, that as they departed, Peter suggested this to our Lord.

THEOPHYL. But while Peter spoke, our Lord builds a tabernacle not made with hands, and enters into it with the Prophets. Hence it is added, While he thus spoke there came a cloud and overshadowed them, to show that He was not inferior to the Father. For as in the Old Testament it was said, the Lord dwelt in the cloud, so now also a cloud received our Lord, not a dark cloud, but bright and shining.

BASIL; For the obscurity of the Law had passed away; for as smoke is caused by the fire, so the cloud by light; but because a cloud is the sign of calmness, the rest of the future state is signified by the covering of a cloud.

AMBROSE; For it is the overshadowing of the divine Spirit which does not darken, but reveals secret things to the hearts of men.

ORIGEN; Now His disciples being unable to bear this, fell down, humbled under the mighty hand of God, greatly tom afraid since they knew what was said to Moses, No man shall see my face, and live. Hence it follows, And they feared as they entered into the cloud.

AMBROSE; Now observe, that the cloud was not black from the darkness of condensed air, and such as to overcast the sky with a horrible gloom, but a shining cloud, from which we were not moistened with rain, but as the voice of Almighty God came forth the dew of faith was shed upon the hearts of men. For it follows, And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear you him. Elias was not His Son. Moses was not. But this is the Son whom you see alone.

CYRIL; How then should men suppose Him who is really the Son to be made or created, when God the Father thundered c. from above, This is my beloved Son! as if He said, Not one of My sons, but He who is truly and by nature My Son, according to whose example the others are adopted. He ordered them then to obey Him, when He added, Hear you him. And to obey Him more than Moses and Elias, for Christ is the end of the Law and the Prophets. Hence the Evangelist adds significantly, And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone.

THEOPHYL. Lest in truth any one should suppose that these words, This is my beloved Son, were uttered about Moses or Elias.

AMBROSE; They then departed, when our Lord's manifestation had begun. There are three seen at the beginning, one at the end; for faith being made perfect, they are one. Therefore are they also received into the body of Christ, because we also shall be one in Christ Jesus; or perhaps, because the Law and the Prophets came out from the Word.

THEOPHYL. Now those things which began from the Word, end in the Word. For by this he implies that up to a certain time the Law and the Prophets appear, as here Moses and Elias; but afterwards, at their departure, Jesus is alone. For now abides the Gospel, legal things having passed away.

THEOPHYL; And mark, that as when our Lord was baptized in Jordan, so also when He was glorified on the Mount, the mystery of the whole Trinity is declared, for His glory which we confess at baptism, we shall see at the resurrection. Nor in vain does the Holy Spirit appear here in the cloud, there in the form of a dove, seeing that he who now preserves with a simple heart the faith which he receives, shall then in the light of open vision look upon those things which he believed.

ORIGEN; Now Jesus wishes not those things which relate to His glory to be spoken of before His passion. Hence it follows, And they kept it close. For men would have been offended, especially the multitude, if they saw Him crucified Who had been so glorified.

DAMAS. This also our Lord commands, since He knew His disciples to be imperfect, seeing that they had not yet received the full measure of the Spirit, lest the hearts of others who had not seen should be prostrated by sorrow, and lest the traitor should be stirred up to a frantic hatred.

The Sixth Reading
(From a sermon by George Whitfield)
When the angel was sent to the Redeemer's beloved disciple John, we are told that the angel said unto him, “Come up hither.” He was to be exalted, to be brought nearer heaven, that his mind might be better prepared for those great manifestations, which an infinitely great and condescending God intended to vouchsafe him. And on reading the verse that you have just now heard, when I also see such a great and serious assembly convened in the presence of God, I think I must address you, as the angel addressed John, and say unto you, “Come up hither;” leave your worldly thoughts, for a time forget the earth. And as it is the Lord's day, a time in which we ought more particularly to think of heaven, I must desire you to pray to God, that ye may get up on Pisgah's mount, and take a view of the promised land. It is true, indeed, eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of any man to conceive the great and good things, which God hath prepared for his people here; much less, those infinitely greater and more glorious things, that he hath laid up for them that fear him, in the eternal world: but, blessed be God! Though we are not yet in heaven, unless to be in Christ may properly be termed heaven, and then all real Christians are there already; yet, but blessed Jesus has been pleased to leave upon record some account of himself, of what happened to him in the days of his flesh, and of some manifestations he was pleased to grant to a few of his disciples; that from what happened to them here below, we may form some faint, though but a faint idea of that happiness that awaits his people in his kingdom above. If any of you inquire, in what part of our Lord's life those instances are recorded, I have an answer ready: One of these instances, and that a very remarkable one, is recorded in the verses that I have now chosen for the subject of your meditation.
The verses give us an account of what is generally called our Lord's Transfiguration; his being wonderfully changed, and his being wonderfully owned by his Father upon the mount. Some think that this was done upon a Sabbath-day; and the particular occasion of our blessed Lord's condescending to let his servants have such a sight as this, we may gather from the 27th verse. It seems our blessed Lord had been promising a great reward to those who should not be ashamed of him: “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and of his Father, and of the holy angels.” In this threatening is implied, a reward to those who should not be ashamed of him: “But, (adds he) I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.” As much as to say, There will be a day, when I will come in the glory of my Father and of his holy angels; but I tell you there are some of my favorites; I tell you of a truth, though you may think it too good news, there are some of you that shall not taste of death, till ye shall see the kingdom of God. Some divines think, that this promise has reference to our Lord's creating a gospel church; and if we take it in this sense, it means that the Apostles, who were then present, some of them at least, should not die, till they saw Satan's kingdom in a great measure pulled down, and the Redeemer's gospel kingdom erected. Some think it has a peculiar reference to John, who it seems survived all the other Apostles, and lived till Christ came; that is, till he came to destroy Jerusalem. But it is the opinion of Mr. Henry, of Bishop Hall, of Burkit, and others, who have written upon this passage, that our blessed Lord has a peculiar reference to the transfiguration upon the mount: “There be some of you here, that shall not taste of death, till ye see my transfiguration upon the mount; till ye see some glorified saint come down from heaven and pay me a visit, and consequently see a little of that kingdom of God, which ye shall have a full sight of when ye come to glory.” This seems to be the right interpretation. If you will look to the margin of your Bibles, you will see the parallel place in Matthew, where the account of our Lord's transfiguration is given, and there you will find it immediately follows upon this promise of our Lord.
Well, as Christ had told them, that they should not taste of death, till they had seen the kingdom of God, why the Evangelist, at the 28th verse, tells us, “It came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter, and John, and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.” About an eight days; that is, as Bishop Hall thinks, upon the Sabbath-day; or, according to some, the first day of the week, which was hereafter to be the Christian Sabbath; our blessed Lord takes Peter, John, and James: Why did not the Lord Jesus Christ take more of his disciples? Why three, and these three? And why three only? Our blessed Lord was pleased to take three and no more, to show us that he is a sovereign agent; to show us, that though he loved all his disciples, yet there are some to whom he is pleased to allow peculiar visits. He loved Peter, and all the other disciples; yet John was the disciple that he peculiarly loved. And he took three rather than one, because three were sufficient to testify the truth of his being transfigured: “Out of the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.” And he took no more than three, because these three were enough. And he took these three, Peter, John, and James, in particular, because these very persons that were not to see Christ transfigured, were hereafter to see him agonizing in the garden, sweating great drops of blood falling unto the ground. And had not these three disciples seen Christ upon the mount, the seeing him afterwards in the garden, might have staggered them exceedingly: they might have doubted whether it was possible for the Son of God to be in such doleful circumstances. Well, our Lord takes these three “up into a mountain.” Why so? Because Christ Jesus was to be like Moses, who was taken up into a mountain, when God intended to deliver unto him the moral law: And our blessed Lord went up into a mountain, because a mountain befriended devotion. When he had a mind to retire to pray to his Father, he went to such places where he could be most secret, and give the greatest vent to his heart. Thus we are told, that once when Peter prayed, it was upon the house-top. And if we have a mind to be near God, we should choose such places as are freest from ostentation, and that most befriend our communion with God. And what doth Christ, when he got up into a mountain? We are told, he went up into a mountain “to pray.” Christ had no corruption to confess, and he had but few wants of his own to be relieved; yet we hear of Christ being much in prayer; we hear of his going up to a mountain to pray; of his rising up a great while before it was day to pray; and of his spending a whole night in prayer to God.
In the 20th verse, you have an account of the effect of our Lord's praying: “As he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glittering.” I would have you take notice, that our Lord was not changed in respect of his body, while he was going up to the mount, but when he got upon the mount, and while engaged in prayer. It is sufficient that way for our souls to be transformed: the time we are more particularly to expect the influences of God's Spirit, is, when we are engaged in prayer. There seems to be a very great propriety in our Lord's being transfigured or changed upon the mount. I hope I need inform none of you, that when Moses went up to the mount of God, God was pleased to speak to him face to face; and when he came down from the mount, the people of Israel observed that Moses' face shone so, that he was obliged to have a veil put upon his face. Now the shining of Moses' face, was a proof to the people, that Moses had been conversing with God. And Moses told the people, “That the Lord would raise up unto them a prophet like unto him, whom the people were to hear.” God the Father, in order to give his Son (considering him as man) a testimony that he was a prophet, was pleased not only to let his face glitter or shine; but to show that he was a prophet far superior to Moses, he was pleased to let his garment be white and glittering, and “his countenance (as we are told by another Evangelist) did shine as the sun.” What change was here! What a sight! Methinks I see Peter, James, and John surprised; and, indeed, well might the Evangelist, considering what happened, usher in the following part of the story with the word Behold; “Behold, there talked with him two men, Moses and Elias:” And in the 31st verse, you have an account of their dress, “They appeared in glory;” and of their discourse, “They spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.”
“Behold, two men, which were Moses and Elias;” these were two very proper persons to come upon this embassy to the Son of God. Moses was the great lawgiver, Elias was the great restorer of the law: The body of Moses was hidden and never found, Elias' body was translated immediately, and carried up in a fiery chariot to heaven: And it may be that this was done particularly, because these two were hereafter to have the honor of waiting upon the Son of God. “They appeared in glory;” that is, their bodies were not in that glorious habit, in which the bodies of believers are to be at the morning of the resurrection. Christ was, as it were, now fitting in his royal robes; and as it is usual for ambassadors, when they are to be admitted into the king's presence, on bringing a message from one king to another, to appear in all their grandeur, to make the message more solemn; so here, these heavenly messengers being to wait upon the Lord Jesus Christ, are invested as with royal dignity, they appeared in glory, and “they spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem,” they came to tell the Redeemer of his sufferings, and of the place of his sufferings, and to acquaint him, that his sufferings, however great, however bitter, were to be accomplished; that there was o be an end put to them, as our Lord himself speaks, “The things concerning me are to have an end.”

For the Third Nocturn

Seventh Reading
(from the Gospel of St. Luke 9:34-36)
While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.

Eighth Reading
(from the Rt. Rev. J. C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels Luke 9:28-36)
The event described in these verses, commonly called "the transfiguration," is one of the most remarkable in the history of our Lord's earthly ministry. It is one of those passages which we should always read with peculiar thankfulness. It lifts a corner of the veil which hangs over the world to come, and throws light on some of the deepest truths of our religion.
In the first place, this passage shows us something of the glory which Christ will have at His second coming. We read that "the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His clothing was white and glistering," and that the disciples who were with Him "saw His glory."
We need not doubt that this marvelous vision was meant to encourage and strengthen our Lord's disciples. They had just been hearing of the cross and passion, and the self-denial and sufferings to which they must submit themselves, if they would be saved. They were now cheered by a glimpse of the "glory that should follow," and the reward which all faithful servants of their Master would one day receive. They had seen their Master's day of weakness. They now saw, for a few minutes, a pattern and specimen of His future power.
Let us take comfort in the thought, that there are good things laid up in store for all true Christians, which shall make ample amends for the afflictions of this present time. Now is the season for carrying the cross, and sharing in our Savior's humiliation. The crown, the kingdom, the glory, are all yet to come. Christ and His people are now, like David in the cave of Adullam, despised, and lightly esteemed by the world. There seems no form or loveliness in Him, or in His service. But the hour comes, and will soon be here, when Christ shall take to Himself His great power and reign, and put down every enemy under His feet. And then the glory which was first seen for a few minutes, by three witnesses on the Mount of Transfiguration, shall be seen by all the world, and never hidden to all eternity.
In the second place, this passage shows us the safety of all true believers who have been removed from this world. We are told that when our Lord appeared in glory, Moses and Elijah were seen with Him, standing and speaking with Him. Moses had been dead nearly fifteen hundred years. Elijah had been taken up by a whirlwind from the earth more than nine hundred years before this time. Yet here these holy men were seen once more alive, and not only alive, but in glory!
Let us take comfort in the blessed thought that there is a resurrection and a life to come. All is not over, when the last breath is drawn. There is another world beyond the grave. But, above all, let us take comfort in the thought, that until the day dawns, and the resurrection begins, the people of God are safe with Christ. There is much about their present condition, no doubt, which is deeply mysterious. Where is their local habitation? What knowledge have they of things on earth? These are questions we cannot answer. But let it suffice us to know that Jesus is taking care of them, and will bring them with Him at the last day. He showed Moses and Elijah to His disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, and He will show us all who have fallen asleep in Him, at His second advent. Our brethren and sisters in Christ are in good keeping. They are not lost, but gone before us.
In the third place, this passage shows us that the Old Testament saints in glory take a deep interest in Christ's atoning death. We are told that when Moses and Elijah appeared in glory with our Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration, they "talked with Him." And what was the subject of their conversation? We are not obliged to make conjectures and guesses about this. Luke tells us, "they spoke of His decease, which He should accomplish at Jerusalem." They knew the meaning of that death. They knew how much depended on it. Therefore they "talked" about it.
It is a grave mistake to suppose that holy men and women under the Old Testament knew nothing about the sacrifice which Christ was to offer up for the sin of the word. Their light, no doubt, was far less clear than ours. They saw things afar off and indistinctly, which we see, as it were, close at hand. But there is not the slightest proof that any Old Testament saint ever looked to any other satisfaction for sin, but that which God promised to make by sending Messiah. From Abel downwards the whole company of old believers appear to have been ever resting on a promised sacrifice, and a blood of almighty efficacy yet to be revealed. From the beginning of the world there has never been but one foundation of hope and peace for sinners--the death of an Almighty Mediator between God and man. That foundation is the center truth of all revealed religion. It was the subject of which Moses and Elijah were seen speaking when they appeared in glory. They spoke of the atoning death of Christ.
Let us take heed that this death of Christ is the ground of all our confidence. Nothing else will give us comfort in the hour of death and the day of judgment. Our own works are all defective and imperfect. Our sins are more in number than the hairs of our heads. (Psalm 40:12.) Christ dying for our sins, and rising again for our justification, must be our only plea, if we wish to be saved. Happy is that man who has learned to cease from his own works, and to glory in nothing but the cross of Christ! If saints in glory see in Christ's death so much beauty, that they must needs talk of it, how much more ought sinners on earth!
In the last place, the passage shows us the immense distance between Christ and all other teachers whom God has given to man. We are told that when Peter, "not knowing what he said," proposed to make three tabernacles on the mount, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, as if all three deserved equal honor, this proposal was at once rebuked in a remarkable way--"There came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, hear Him." That voice was the voice of God the Father, conveying both reproof and instruction. That voice proclaimed to Peter's ear that however great Moses and Elijah might be, there stood One before him far greater than they. They were but servants; He was the King's Son. They were but stars; He was the Sun. They were but witnesses; He was the Truth.
Forever let that solemn word of the Father ring in our ears, and give the key-note to our religion. Let us honor ministers for their Master's sake. Let us follow them so long as they follow Christ. But let it be our principal aim to hear Christ's voice, and follow Him wherever He goes. Let some talk, if they will, of the voice of the Church. Let others be content to say, "I hear this preacher, or that clergyman." Let us never be satisfied unless the Spirit witnesses within us that we hear Christ Himself, and are His disciples.

Ninth Reading
(from a sermon on the Transfiguration by John Mason Neale)
SUCH an evening as this should teach us something of the glorious sight we keep in mind this day. When we were looking at those long lines of dark-brown gold that lay so quietly in the west, and at the intense brightness beneath them, where the sun had gone down, we might have remembered Him Who was as at this time transfigured before His disciples; when His Face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light. And we might have looked on to that day when, if by GOD'S grace we are counted worthy to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, our own bodies will be as His Body was, glorious beyond the power of our hearts now to imagine.
How much there is that we might think of again and again in the mystery of to-day! Moses, and Elias, and the three disciples were there. The body of Moses, about which S. Michael the Archangel had contended with Satan, that body which had been buried by GOD in a valley over against Beth-peor, no man knowing its resting-place, appeared in glory. The body of Elias, which had been taken up by a chariot of fire and horses of fire, returned once more to earth. The giver of the Law, and the greatest of Prophets, came to bear witness to Him that was Maker of the Law, and the inspirer of the Prophets. Now was fulfilled that which was written by Isaiah,--"Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of Hosts shall reign in Mount Sion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously."
And what did they talk of? If we had not been told, how different a conversation we should have imagined! We should perhaps have thought that they would speak of that kingdom which the LORD had come on earth to establish; that kingdom which shall never be destroyed, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail; that kingdom which shall be from sea to sea, and from the flood unto the world's end. Nothing less. "They appeared in glory, and spake of His decease." To talk of death in the height of this glory! To talk of a shameful death,--a death of agony,--amidst such brightness as the world had never before seen! Yes: but the text does not end so. They "spake of His decease which He should accomplish." What a wonderful word! When do we speak thus? We say that a man accomplishes deliverance from death, but to accomplish death itself, who would thus talk? It tells us how freely, how earnestly, our LORD set about His Passion, according to that saying of His: "I have a Baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished." And still further: "they spake of His decease which He should accomplish in Jerusalem." Now Jerusalem means the Vision of Peace. For it was by His death that He reconciled man to GOD. And that indeed was a glorious subject for a season of glory. This was a brighter and better vision than Moses had, when he gat him to the top of Pisgah, and beheld all the land which GOD had promised to His people. This was a nobler prospect than Elijah had, when the chariot was bearing him up above the clouds, and his mantle fell from off him. "They appeared in glory, and spake of His decease which He should accomplish in Jerusalem."
S. Peter would speak: "It is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles, one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias." No, good Peter. This is not what we want. We want not three tabernacles, but one mansion. We want no tabernacles that can be taken down and removed; we want a house, not made with hands, that can never be shaken. And we only want one. There is but one hiding-place from the wind, one covert from the tempest, one Ark. Our LORD JESUS CHRIST is all this; and He is one.
Now notice that in our LORD'S life on earth the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity were twice manifested together. At His Baptism once. There was the FATHER in the Voice: the SON in human flesh: the HOLY GHOST in a bodily shape like a Dove. At His Transfiguration again. The FATHER, as before, in the Voice: the SON in a glorified Body: the HOLY GHOST in the Cloud. And why was this?
Our LORD'S Baptism was a type of our own regeneration; and that is brought to pass by all the Persons of the Godhead: by the FATHER That made; by the SON That redeemed; by the HOLY GHOST That sanctifies. Our LORD'S Transfiguration was a type of our own Resurrection; and there we also have the act of each Person of the Trinity. These bodies were the work of GOD'S Hands; they were fed with the Body, and Blood of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, (according to that saying, "Whoso eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up again at the last day") and they were the temples of the HOLY GHOST. Therefore the Trinity was manifested at CHRIST'S Baptism and Transfiguration, because each of Its Three Blessed Persons is concerned in the work of our Baptism and Resurrection.
"This is My Beloved SON; hear Him." Moses speaks; but hear Him. Elias speaks; but hear Him. The Prophets and the Law tell of Him: unless we see Him in all, they are useless to us. Moses and Elias were as it were the vessels: He was the fountain. He gave them their fulness, and of that fulness they ministered to others.
But now what is this? "The Disciples fell on their faces: JESUS touched them, and said, Arise! And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save JESUS only." Here is a great mystery. They fell on their faces to the ground: there the time is signified when we must lie down in the grave. "JESUS touched them, and said, Arise!"--there is set forth that day when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the SON of GOD, and they that hear shall live. And in that they saw no man save JESUS after they were raised, we are taught that, after our own resurrection, He will be All in all. There will be no Law then,--no Prophecy then: we shall see JESUS face to face, beholding Him as He is. He will remain, when all else is passed away.
Now, O Peter, it is time for thee to go down from the mountain. Thou must yet for some short years bear the burden and heat of the day. Thou must preach the Word, must be instant in season and out of season, must reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine. The time will come when thou shalt have, not a tabernacle on Mount Tabor, but a mansion--one of the many mansions--in the Kingdom of Heaven.
And we, if we now desire to see His glory, must do as the Disciples did. They went up into a high mountain apart. We must try and get above this world, apart by ourselves, at a distance from the troubles and cares of the earth, and fix our hearts on that land where He now is. I saw this morning, soon after sunrise, that all the hollows and valleys of the country round were filled with thick white mist, but the hills were clear and bright in the sunlight. We are too much like men living in such valleys, surrounded with the fog of this world, unable to lift up our eyes to the brightness of the everlasting hills. It ought not to be so: above all, it ought not to be so with you, who cannot have much longer, in the very nature of things, to dwell in this world. Rather, let that be true, by the grace of the HOLY GHOST, of which S. Paul writes:--"But we all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the LORD, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the SPIRIT of the LORD:" that so, as He was transfigured, while He dwelt here, in heavenly glory, we, while we are yet in the flesh, may be transfigured to His image!

And now to GOD the FATHER, GOD the SON, and GOD the HOLY GHOST, be all honour and glory for ever. Amen.

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