Transfiguration and Transformation
by: Rev. Christopher Foustoukos
The Orthodox Church celebrates the great feast of the Transfiguration with great solemnity on August 6th, forty days before the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14th). The wisdom of the Church is evident in its liturgical rhythm and the choice of the date for each feast. The Transfiguration and the cross are inseparable, and the forty days between the two feasts express this link. Certainly the forty days, the same length of time as Great Lent, makes the Transfiguration a prepa-ration for the mystery of the cross.
In western tradition, the Transfiguration is commemorated on the second Sunday of Lent. It is the preparation, fol-lowing Christ’s own plan, for the passion.
It is interesting to note that the Orthodox Church has, from its perspective, dedicated the second Sunday of Great Lent to St. Gregory Palamas. This Father of the Church, through his writings, has celebrated the uncreated light, the light of Mount Tabor.
In the annual cycle of the 12 great feasts of the Lord, the Transfiguration is the last in the liturgical year. This posi-tion makes a pinnacle of the Transfiguration in the twelve feast cycle which underlines the feast as an expectation of the Second Coming of the Lord.
In Orthodox lands, we have the beautiful custom of bless-ing fruit in the church on the Transfiguration. It is, of course, because of the season, the peak of summer in our climates, that the Church has chosen this day to bless the fruits of the earth. But we can ascribe a theological mean-ing to this rite: the blessing of fruit reminds us that the divine energies penetrate into all created matter and trans-figure or transform the world in light of the age to come.
It is our job as Orthodox Christians to always bring our very lives and our world into greater harmony with God’s will. Therefore it is timely for us with the feast of the Transfiguration and the coming New Ecclesiastical Year (September 1st) to become instruments of transformative and transfiguring work.
Clergy on the North Shore (from Lynn to Gloucester) are partnering with the Essex County Community Organiza-tion (ECCO) in an effort to organize our various houses of worship to become wholesome instruments of change. In these difficult economic times, people in our congregation and our neighbors are struggling. We hear too many heart breaking stories of families that are losing homes, unem-ployed or under-employed and stressed to pay their bills and afford college tuitions. We support families in our par-ish through prayer, pastoral care and some economic re-sources. However, I along with other faith leaders believe that we need to do more to address the structural barriers that limit opportunity for our people. We are called to be prophetic, proactive and transformative in responding to the tremendous pressures facing our communities. As part of the Clergy Convocation Planning Team for nearly a year now, we have reached the point where we are building teams within each of our parishes. I hope our team will be comprised of at least 5 to 10 lay leaders. Our St. Vasilios team will meet with teams from the other 55 faith commu-nities on the North Shore on October 14th from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Our ECCO meeting on this day should have between 275 and 550 inspired people who want to create positive change on the North Shore. What sort of change will we create? It is my hope that these folks will search our vari-ous faith communities to see what is the greatest challenge that we collectively face. From the various issues that will surface, we will pick an issue and begin organizing our par-ishes to have a positive impact on this issue. ECCO will represent a voting block of some 30 to 40 thousand people who will be a stimulus for positive change on the North Shore. If you think you may be interested in being part of this positive group, please call me, Father Chris, at the church (978-531-0777) so that I can share more informa-tion or answer any questions you may have. I pray you will reflect on your role in participating in the Transfiguring work of the Paracletos (Holy Spirit) in St. Vasilios, Pea-body and the North Shore.
Have a blessed Dekapentavguousto!