“As once he had gazed on the bush, speechless and entranced by the Lord’s presence, so now Moses gazed again on a bush, living and green in the analogous fire of God’s presence in ensouled flesh”


Peter, the rock of faith, speaks to Christ, the rock, on this rocky mountaintop. Along with the chief spokesmen of the New Covenant, Moses was also there, that divine steward of the Mysteries, who articulated the Old Law; along with Elijah the Thesbite, he sped through the sparkling upper air from Sinai to Thabor, as from power to power. Moses, then, entered the land of promise as if he were summoned from some exile, the receiver of the law coming up to his Lord on Mount Thabor, bearing the tablets of the law; the servant stood before his master in ecstasy, since he was gazing on divine power in human form. So he left his human consciousness behind, gazing on as those signs from heaven, which had distantly pointed to Christ, now were transformed into the actuality of truth. He was present in an exalted state, already tasting of what he had longed for from of old. He was present, standing at the right of the right hand of the Most High, a traveler arriving quickly from afar. As once he had gazed on the bush, speechless and entranced by the Lord’s presence, so now he gazed again on a bush, living and green in the analogous fire of God’s presence in ensouled flesh. So, as he comes close to it on Tabor, he no longer says, “I will cross over and see this great sight.” Now he is crossing over from bodily life, crossing from the time of the Law, crossing from types, crossing from shadows, crossing also from the letter—leaving Egypt behind, crossing the Red Sea, coming through the darkness, as well; leaving Horeb behind, crossing over the rock, too, passing through desert places, crossing the land of Amalek; crossing by the Ark, leaving even the tabernacle behind, letting go of circumcision; passing beyond the Jordan, going through Gebal, passing by Jericho; leaving behind the temple, leaving behind sacrifice, crossing through the shadows, leaving behind blood, crossing through the slaughter of a bull, crossing beyond the cherubim, passing beyond what lay before and going even beyond the second law, and the veil and covering and hanging of the prophets. “Now I see you who truly are and who eternally are, who are with the Father—you who say on the mountain, ‘I am the one who is!’ I see this great vision: you who have long lain divinely hidden from me, now revealed as God. You are no longer hiding your face, but I see you face to face and my soul is still preserved! I see you, whom I have longed to see from of old, as when I said, ‘May I see you and know you!’ For your revelation is eternal life. I see you, no longer from behind, as I bow myself down to Sinai’s rock, but clearly appearing before me on the rock of Thabor; I no longer hide myself, as a human being, in the face of the rock, but I see you as the loving God, hiding yourself in my form; your right hand no longer covers me with its shadow, for you are the right hand of the Most High, revealed to the world. For you are the mediator of old and new—God of old, yet newly human! You are the one who once revealed your name, invisibly, on Mount Sinai, and now are visibly revealed, transfigured on Mount Thabor. For you love to enlighten us, as the heavenly, exalted one from the eternal mountains: from the holy, heavenly powers, or from the mountains of the prophets and Apostles and holy churches, whose foundations are in those holy mountains of yours, from which you have heard me! Crossing over the Law’s forms of worship, now I see you in this great vision!

“You are the one who was prefigured on Sinai, and are now witnessed to and proclaimed by God on Thabor as Son. You are the one who once came down on the bush, and who swallowed up Pharaoh’s power in the abyss; you are the one who, with a word, made the Sea stand still that blushed red with restless waves—you stopped the world’s sea of blood, shed for idols. You are the one who changed a rod, lifeless by nature, into a serpent in public view, and by it destroyed the magicians’ tricks. You are the one who gave the chance to breathe freely again to a people journeying on foot across a waterless desert; you revealed a rock to be capable of changing from dry to wet and from wet to dry—for you constantly form and transform our lack of form and shape for the better, by your unchanging power of transformation. Therefore you came from above to humanize and raise to life the human nature that here had lost its humanity by sin, and to raise up the tent of Adam, who had fallen. You are the new tent, planted in truth for all humanity through incorruptibility and immortality; you are the true temple, son and God of David, the father of Solomon—you who set up and founded the temple in the heavenly Jerusalem on high; you are the genuine altar of atonement before the Father, on behalf of the sins of the world. You are the true washing-basin, the Savior whom the Law’s basin anticipated in symbol; you are the incorruptible ark of the covenant, establishing our peace with the Father; you are the bread without leaven or seed, free of the yeast of sin; you are the true paschal Lamb, who saved the people from Egypt and the hostile forces of our bitter enemy Pharaoh, and from the nations.” (So when he was waiting for you on the mountain, Moses said, “Show me your glory”—let me truly come to know you, reveal yourself to me—”if I have found favor in your sight.”) “For nothing in the world is more delightful to me than to see you, and to be filled with your glory, your beauty, your image, your light, your speech, your revealed presence–when your dwelling has been unveiled before men and women, which once you foreshadowed to me in Mystery.

“Therefore I adore you, I praise you, I sing to your name, because, crossing now over the darkness of the Law, I have seen this great, truly great vision. How is it that you, who said to me on Sinai, ‘No human being can see my face and live,’ have now appeared on earth in flesh, face to face, and have associated with human beings? How is it that you, who are by your nature life and life-giver, are moving resolutely towards death? How is it that you, who are higher than the highest beings, are moving lower than the lowest, and making your way straight towards the dying? And what then, O Master, can the great mystery of your death really be? Surely you are eager to appear even to those who have been dead for ages; surely you wish to take charge even of our ancestors in Hades; surely you are hastening to loose Adam from his troubles. All of these things, Lord, you prefigured for me in the worship prescribed by the Law. Therefore I now eagerly loose the sandal—the inner intention—from the Law’s feet: ‘for the place where I am standing is holy ground,’ holy land and land of promise. You spoke to me about them in promise long ago, O Master, at the bush: ‘”Loosen the sandals from your feet”—the law—and cease walking and moving forward; “for the place in which you are standing still” and have ceased your movement “is holy ground”: my presence on earth, originating in heaven, and my way towards Hades through death on the cross.'”

According to Luke, Moses and Elijah spoke with Christ about all of this on the mountain, discussing “the exodus” of his soul from his body, “which he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem” in the suffering of the Cross. And Elijah and Moses paid attention, the Lord taught, the disciples listened, the Father spoke from above, the cloud covered them, the mountain flashed forth light, the peak was wreathed in smoke, the rocks glowed with fire, the mountaintop was shaken, angels circulated around them, and portrayed on the spot, in symbolic anticipation, all the events of his second coming. And just as one, peering down from heaven, might survey all at once, in a single blink of the eye, everything on earth: I mean the lands, the mountains, the fields, the seas, the rivers, the springs, human beings, cities, villages, plants, animals, creeping things—in a word, every creature on earth—so also at that moment on the mountain, as their spiritual eyes were opened, the disciples saw, in a single vision, as much as they were able to see (or rather, even more than they could see) of the coming Kingdom of heaven. So that just as if they were seeing heaven spinning around and the sun darkened, the moon eclipsed and the stars falling, the earth shaken and the graves opened, angels issuing forth and archangels blowing trumpets and thrones set out and a river of fire drawing us away, the books opened and everyone standing together in terror and confessing their sins, the Apostles at that moment were terrified by their vision. And not being able to bear it, they fell on their faces, as Luke tells us, so that they were overcome by amazement and sleep—the perishable nature of their bodies not being able to gaze on incorruptibility, nor their mortal bodies able to bear, as they needed to do, the contemplation of immortality. That is why I think, myself, that perhaps Moses and Elijah, at that time, were already there in some better kind of body. They were in glory, as Scripture says, on the mountain without fear or disturbance; but the disciples fell down, overcome by some sort of heavy sleep or fainting. For Luke says, once again: “Peter and the disciples were weighed down by sleep.” And again, Matthew says, “When they came down from the mountain, Jesus gave them a command, ‘Do not tell of the vision to anyone, until the Son of Man has risen rom the dead'”—do not tell of the vision to anyone, until you can say on Mount Thabor, as Moses fittingly declared, “I will cross over and see this great vision for myself!”

For what is greater or more awe-inspiring than this: to see God in human form, his face shining like the sun and even more brightly than the sun, flashing with light, ceaselessly sending forth rays, radiating splendor? To see him raising his immaculate finger in the direction of his own face, pointing with it, and saying to those with him there: “So shall the just shine in the resurrection; so shall they be glorified, changed to reveal this form of mine, transfigured to this level of glory, stamped with this form, made like to this image, to this impress, to this light, to this blessedness, and becoming enthroned with me, the Son of God.” And when the angels then on the mountain heard what Christ had said, they trembled; the prophets were struck with wonder; the disciples fell faint; creation rejoiced when it heard of its transformation from corruption to incorruptibility; the mountain was filled with delight, the fields were joyful, the villages sang songs of praise; the nations came together, the peoples were exalted; the seas chanted hymns, the rivers clapped their hands; Nazareth cried out, Babylon sang a hymn, Naphthali celebrated a festival; the hills leapt, the deserts bloomed, the roads helped travelers along; all things were unified, all things were filled with joy.

St Anastasius of Sinai

This entry was posted in Citations. Bookmark the permalink.