Posts tagged ‘hymnography’

Transfiguration of our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ

Me serving Liturgy for the Feast of the Transfiguration at Christ the Saviour parish in McComb, MS

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In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

This evening we begin our celebration of the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. To spend a few moments thinking about this Feast – my personal favorite Feast – I thought tonight that we could look at the Troparion and Kontakion of the Feast and see what aspects of the Feast the Church brings to the front of our minds in the services.

In the Troparion for Feast we sing:
Thou wast transfigured upon the mount, O Christ God,
Revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as far as they could bear it.
Let Thine everlasting light shine upon us sinners,
Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Giver of Light, glory to Thee

The first two lines of the Troparion essentially remind us of what we read in the Gospels about the Transfiguration. At the top of Mt Tabor, our Lord reveals His divinity to 3 of His disciples (Peter, James, John) by allowing them to glimpse His divine glory “as far as they could bear it.” His face shines like the sun and His garments shine brightly like light as He stands atop the mountain talking with Moses and Elijah. This is an experience beyond the comprehension of most Christians – being allowed to glimpse the glory of God. If we remember the Old Testament, Moses was allowed only to see the backparts of God, and his face shined so brightly afterward that the people were afraid and his head was covered with a bag until the effect of the glory of God on his face had gone down. The mountain is then covered by a cloud, and the Apostles again hear the voice of the Father (having heard it the first time at our Lord’s baptism) saying “This is My Beloved Son, in Him I am well pleased, hear Him.” This experience of the Apostles seeing the divine light of Christ is not an isolated incident – St. Paul on the road to Damascus has the same experience, as do a great many of our Saints – the experience of seeing the glory of God. So the troparion then makes a request – Let Thine everlasting light shine upon us sinners. We acknowledge ourselves to be sinful and therefore unworthy of seeing the divine light of our Saviour. Yet at the same time we beseech Him that He would bathe us in His light, just as He did the 3 Apostles on Mt. Tabor, St. Paul and so many of the Saints. This request assumes that we are fellow followers of Christ, along with the Apostles. They were able to see the divine light because of their relationship with Christ. We then end the troparion by offering praise unto God for this manifestation of His glory – Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Giver of Light, glory to Thee.

In the Kontakion for the Feast we sing:
Thou wast transfigured upon the mount, O Christ God,
Revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as far as they could bear it.
So that when they saw Thee crucified,
They would know that Thy suffering was voluntary,
And would proclaim to the world that Thou art the Light of the Father.

The first two lines of the Kontakion mirror those of the Troparion, reminding us of the actual Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor. We then we go on to sing these two very important lines – So that when they saw Thee crucified, they would know that Thy suffering was voluntary. The first word, “so,” tells us that in this kontakion we’re hearing one of the deeper purposes and meanings of the Transfiguration. Christ revealed His glory to the disciples to negate the scandal of the crucifixion before it even happened. The disciples were to see the glory of God in Christ on top of the mountain, and then they were to understand that anything that happened to Him was by His own will. They were to know that His sufferings on the Cross were accepted willingly. Of course, we know how this actually played out. As with so many other things that Christ revealed to the Apostles, once the soldiers came to take Him, they forgot the revelation of His glory and fled. The Transfiguration was only seen to be what it truly was after the Resurrection. After Christ crushed death with His Resurrection, then the Apostles realized that they had known His glory all along, especially as revealed on Mt. Tabor. So now, Christians today can look back and know that this is truly a great feast, the clearest revelation of the divinity of Christ during His earthly ministry outside of the Resurrection. And as we all know, once the disciples understood, once they saw the glory of Christ in the Resurrection, they were able to fulfill the last line of the kontakion – And would proclaim to the world that Thou art the Light of the Father. Since the time of the Transfiguration and the Resurrection, the Church has proclaimed the deity of Christ, of one essence with the Father and Holy Spirit. We proclaim that God has has become man, and offers us life with Him and salvation.

May we also witness this great feast of our Lord, and join the Apostles in proclaiming the Gospel to the world. The world is desperately in need of Christ, the world desperately needs the divine light of our Saviour. May God guide and help us to show the world this light. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

Of Thy Mystical Supper…

“Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant. For I will not speak of Thy Mysteries to Thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss. But like the thief will I confess Thee: remember me O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.”

We hear this hymn on Sundays before approaching the chalice to receive Holy Communion, so I thought it would be nice to look at the words of the hymn a little more closely.

We begin by singing – “Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant.” This is rather straightforward – we are offering a prayer that we be accepted, county worthy, of receiving the very Body and Blood of our God. Though a simple sentence, it carries great power. St. Paul says that receiving unworthily – not being accepted – is not unto our salvation , but unto our condemnation. So we begin by praying that we be made worthy and accepted as communicants of the Supper of the Son.

Then we make 3 statements:

“For I will not speak of Thy Mysteries to Thine enemies” – this has always been something that the Church held dear. It’s related to our Lord’s statement one time about not throwing pearls before swine. The Church is not a gnostic group with secret teachings only for the initiated, but the reality of life in God is that the works and ways of God are hidden and incomprehensible for those who are not close to Him. Even when speaking about Christians, St. Paul says that we grow, beginning on milk, and slowly maturing to being fed meat. We grow in God. And so this first statement is our participation in the reality that the Mysteries of God are only knowable to those who choose to follow Him. For those outside of the Church, we preach the Gospel, just like the Apostles and all the Saints have done.

“Neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss.” – we go on to state, to pledge really, that we will not turn our back on our Lord. For money, Judas betrayed the Lord with a kiss. There are so many temptations we face and our options are really to cling to our God or to betray Him. The Fathers speak in this way concerning all sin, that all sin is a betrayal of our Saviour. So here we promise not to betray our God, which includes our daily struggle to put sin in all of its forms behind us and to cling to following Christ.

“But like the thief will I confess Thee: remember me O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.” – to be in the memory of God is to participate in His salvation. The thief didn’t ask for salvation, he asked to be remembered in the Kingdom, and Christ responded “today you will be with Me in Paradise.” No matter what our circumstances, even if we’re hanging on a cross, in our love for God our response is to confess Him. When we face difficulty it’s very tempting to turn our backs on God and to attempt to handle things on our own. So here we link a constant confession of the True God, a confession which makes us worthy of the Kingdom, with our partaking of the broken Body and the spilled Blood of the Lord. We will all have opportunities to be broken and spilled, and may God give us the grace to confess Him even in these times.

So perhaps as we hear the words of this beautiful hymn at tomorrow’s Holy Liturgy, and at others as well, we can look into our own lives and make sure that we’re living all three of these statements, all three of which are necessary (according to the hymn) for our acceptance as communicants of the Holy Mysteries of our Christ.

Author Matthew Jackson