“We should think of the cloud as a knowledge of the divine nature, made accessible to us and reaching down to us, which it is more appropriate to call, as David does, God’s ‘splendor'”

“He was transfigured,” then, “and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as snow. And there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, speaking with him.” The Apostles became more clear-sighted, since they had been led with Jesus up the mountain, and gradually recognized that Moses and Elijah were then talking with Jesus, having been transfigured along with him. For if they had not been transfigured with him, they would not be talking to him. But “they were speaking with Jesus,” according to Luke, “about the exodus that he was to accomplish in Jerusalem.” And the disciples heard from them things that they had failed to understand, when Jesus had formerly told them—as when Peter, thinking in a human way, rebuked Jesus for saying that he was going to be killed by men, and on the third day be raised from the dead. Moses and Elijah, then, as I have said, were speaking with Jesus: that is, the Law and the Prophets! When their words come to be transfigured, and the shadows of the Law are removed, then Moses will be believed as the faithful servant who wrote all of this about Christ, and he will present [Christ’s] exodus clearly on the basis of his own words—the exodus that he was to fulfill in Jerusalem. But that some people inquire on what grounds, or how and from what signs, the disciples recognized the prophets, does not seem to me to be an appropriate question, or one worthy of investigation. For if they had advanced to such a height as to be thought worthy of a vision like this—a vision that the one who revealed himself to them, transfigured with the prophets, called the Kingdom of heaven—how could they be unable to recognize those who shared that Kingdom with him? Surely, too, the Apostles were prophets; and when prophets associate with prophets, they share one and the same knowledge—especially when Jesus is there, and enlightens the guiding core of their intellects, and forms their minds according to his own divine form.

“And Peter answered Jesus, and said, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you will, let us make three tabernacles here—one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.'” Peter perceived what a difference lies between intelligible and sensible things, and he chose the better over the worse. Still, his knowledge of what he saw had not yet become perfect; otherwise he would not have thought about tabernacles in the intelligible world. And perhaps he was still worrying about his teacher, because of the death he had predicted, and the fact that those who had appeared were speaking about it with Jesus. For with one voice they spoke of that “exodus that was to occur in Jerusalem.” Perhaps for this reason, [Peter] begged the teacher to remain there instead, and never to give himself to the Pharisees and Scribes who harbored envious thoughts against him. For perhaps he thought that no one who was plotting against him would come up to them on the mountain, and in any case it was impossible to be both in Jerusalem and somewhere else. “It is good, then, for us to be here with Moses and Elijah, rather than to go towards the unholy priests, the murderers of God.” But that he was unaware that by sparing the master he would become a block for the salvation of the world, Luke recognizes when he says, “He did not know what he was saying.” And Mark says, “For he did not know what he was saying,” nor what he was thinking. Those who had gone up with Jesus took their stand in that high place.

“And while he was still speaking, behold, a luminous cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.’ And when the disciples heard, they fell on their face and were much afraid. And Jesus came forward and touched them, saying, ‘Awake, and do not be afraid.’ And when they opened their eyes, they saw no one, except only Jesus.” While Peter was still speaking words of affection towards his teacher, a luminous cloud from above overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, correcting Peter, and perhaps also his fellow disciples, who wanted the same thing as he did, and were asking to remain on the mountain, that they might not think any thoughts opposed to the beloved Son, but might listen to him and follow his will. For that is what works the salvation of all people. But we must investigate from similar sayings in Scripture how we must understand this cloud. For we find Moses, too, entering into the cloud, when it covered the mountain in the desert of Horeb; and it is attested that he entered into the darkness where God was. Then also, at various times, when the cloud again covered the tent of meeting, God was heard speaking to Moses also there. And further, a pillar of cloud went ahead of the people, dewy by day and lit by fire at night. Isaiah, too, prophesies that the Lord would come to Egypt on a light cloud. Again, we hear also of Solomon that when he had built the temple and consecrated it, a cloud filled the building, and the priests were unable to enter and carry out their sacred ministries, because of the appearance of the cloud. It is possible to gather these texts and more from the whole Scripture, to establish and clarify this idea before us, and to know what the cloud was that overshadowed those who had appeared, along with the visionaries, when the voice was heard that said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

We are to understand that these clouds mentioned in Scripture are related to each other—or rather, we must not hesitate to say that they are all one thing. We should not think that the cloud is some vaporous exhalation from the earth, or an evaporation of water, or some condensation from the air, or anything airy at all, which is produced from bodily substance; rather, we should think of it as a knowledge of the divine nature, made accessible to us and reaching down to us, which it is more appropriate to call, as David does, [God’s] “splendor.” For since a grasp of the divine substance is beyond the power of those creatures who come to be and decay, it appears to us in ways that are possible, and in things that are less than divine but are close to it, just as God has spoken to us also through the prophets. So when we hear a man saying, “I am the Lord your God,” we do not believe that the man—let us say, Isaiah—is God, but that the one speaking in him is God. Therefore, even if the voice, when it was heard, was the sound of a cloud, still it is clear that it was principally the Father’s voice, who was bearing witness to [Jesus’] sonship, through a rational nature that was close to him, and that had sounded out like thunder. For there are also clouds of a lower kind, which put forth a sound and are willing speakers of the Word, as in the text, “The clouds gave forth a voice.” And they are enjoined not to pour rain down on the vines bearing clusters of grapes—the bodily house of Israel. I say these clouds are the prophets, who rain down the word, and who water those who need something to drink. But this cloud surpasses all of them, and puts them all in its shadow—we might almost say, it takes provident care of them all.

“This,” then, the voice says, “is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” It does not say, “my Son, who is well loved,” but rather: “the Beloved.” The one who is the Beloved is also loved; for the Beloved, surely, is this way by nature, but what is [simply] loved, is not so by nature, it seems, but in virtue of someone’s good pleasure. The Son, then, being one individual, is both: Beloved Son and (if I may put it this way) a son loved by good pleasure, since he took on himself something of a different substance from what he was, and that which was not of the same substance was taken up in order to reveal a single hypostasis. The Father, then, revealed the otherness of the Son to us in his testimony: not separating what had been united (for how shall what God has unified be split apart?), but teaching the union of things that are different in nature, and pointing to him who is composed into one from these—his Son Christ the Lord, one Beloved Son, whom all creation finds pleasure in worshipping, and to whom [it delights] to listen.

When the Apostles heard this magnificent sound, “they fell on their faces,” submitting to the voice that had sounded from on high, “and they were extremely afraid.” Perhaps it was because of their previous unbelief, when they realized that they were thinking in a way opposed to the good pleasure of the Father, by trying to prevent the death of the Son, through which salvation was being prepared for all people, according to the ancient plan of the Father. But when they had become terrified, and were lying on the ground, “Jesus drew near, touched them, and said: ‘Get up, and do not be afraid.'” For it belonged to no one else to put that panic and fear to flight, but only to the Son, who always commands those who draw near to him to take courage.

In obedience to his word, they raised their eyes, which had been bleared, perhaps, by fear. “And raising their eyes, they saw only Jesus.” This was as far as the mysterious revelation of the Kingdom of Heaven had advanced. “And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, ‘Do not tell the vision to anyone, until the Son of Man has risen.'” But why did he prevent them from disclosing what they had seen, and tell them not to reveal the mystery of the resurrection to anyone? Because it was necessary, first, that “the firstborn from the dead” should rise, making the resurrection credible by his action; after that, the common resurrection of all would be made known through witnesses. For who would have believed what was said, if those recognized as Apostles did not believe it? Peter, after all, thought what was being said about the death of the Savior to be blasphemy, until he heard the voice sounding from above, bearing witness to the “Beloved Son” and commanding obedience to him. For the voice said “Listen to him”—consider everything said by him to be a firm law! It was necessary, then, for him to command the disciples to keep what they had seen to themselves, until the time when he should go ahead of them to defeat death in hand-to-hand combat, so that those who heard might not form a habit of disbelieving what was told them [by the Apostles]. For after the resurrection of the first-born [from the dead], they spoke out boldly, making public the resurrection of all people, and their transformation from clumsy bodies into spiritual ones: teaching everyone that just as “Christ, risen from the dead, will not die again, and death has no power over him,” so he will configure us to his glory, and transform our bodies into something spiritual and incorruptible. And if “we walk in newness of life,” “we shall be taken up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall always be with the Lord,” to whom be glory and strength, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

St Anastasius of Antioch

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1 Response to “We should think of the cloud as a knowledge of the divine nature, made accessible to us and reaching down to us, which it is more appropriate to call, as David does, God’s ‘splendor'”

  1. Thank you so much for posting this great illumination


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