“The ineffable act of divinization: the union and identity, in one real individual, of the elements that have come together, which we know has happened in a supernatural way from the very deepest structure of the Mystery”

All of you who, by taking off the cloak of irrationality because of the Word’s self-emptying, have raised up your minds from the earth and learned to think “the things that are above,” come now—if you trust me—as I spread out before you a spiritual banquet of words: let us ascend with the Word today, as he goes up the high mountain of the Transfiguration! Let us take off the material, shadowy life that we wear, and put on “the robe woven from above as a single whole,” made beautiful in every part by the rays of spiritual virtue. Christ himself, the pure goal of life, the supernatural Word of the one who begot him, the one who came down from above for our sakes and became a poor man in our flesh out of love for humanity, wishes us—who are already purified in life and mind, who have been given the spiritual wings of sincere thoughts—to make this ascent with him. This is clear from the fact that he takes with him chosen Apostles to be nearer in their relationship to him than ever, and leads them up the high mountain. What is he going to do, what is he planning to teach them? By revealing to them the glory and radiance of his own divinity, more brilliant than lightning, he had, a little earlier in a mystical way, transformed the nature which had once heard the words, “You are earth, and to earth you shall return”; now he will reveal it in full view by his transfiguration.

This is what we celebrate in our feast today, then: the divinization of nature; its change for the better; the displacement and ascent of what conforms to nature, towards what is above nature. How and from where does this great and supernatural grace come to us? Surely in that the Godhead, which incomparably surpasses all mind and reason, has overwhelmed what is human by the Word. And God has done this by making what is anointed—according to the unwavering and underived tradition of the Mystery—precisely that which the Anointer is, and sharing [with him] his very name. Only the otherness of the Unmoved is preserved immoveable in this Mystery, because of the unconfused union, according to which the more perfect element dominates. To put it more precisely, the ineffable act of divinization offers this perfectly true demonstration of itself: the union and identity, in one real individual, of the elements that have come together, which we know has happened in a supernatural way from the very deepest structure of the Mystery. I am speaking here of what touches us, about the pure synthesis and substantial presence of the Word here below, for our sakes: his second birth, without a Father, from a Virgin Mother. So, according to the infallible guidance by the theological writers into the mysteries, this great gift comes forth to us as from an ever-flowing spring, a limitless grace of unalloyed deification. . . .

But let us enter now within the cloud, and examine what the message of the cloud might be, so that by examining, as far as our powers allow, those who appear in the cloud talking to Jesus, in the meaning hidden deep within these things, we may not stay far away from the significance they all reveal. The shining cloud, then, from which the voice of the Father came forth, piercingly proclaiming who the transfigured one was and whence he came, is the dove who shortly before descended on the Jordan—the Holy Spirit, coming down from above in the form of a dove and remaining on him who was being baptized, the one who would “baptize,” according to John’s witness, “in spirit and in fire”. In him, if we may put it this way, the Spirit has his endless dwelling-place, because the hypostases abide in each other. And we are persuaded to think this about the cloud, because we have the great Apostle as our teacher even in these things, when he writes to the Corinthians, “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that all our ancestors were under the cloud, and all crossed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” He is referring figurally to the Spirit by the cloud, and to water by the sea, from which and through which the spring of baptism flows—or better, he is speaking of the great and beautiful gift of our being begotten of God. For it is not possible that the Father should be mirrored in the Son, or the Son in the Father, except in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, and who loves to dwell substantially in, and repose on, the Son—since he shares the same substance with them, and the same throne, and the same honor.

Here, then, as in the Jordan, the same Mystery of the Trinity is revealed: held together in the supremely unified, utterly single, utterly timeless reality of the Godhead, and expressed by means of the same words. And I will add, too, that it is revealed also in action here, for any­one who investigates the story in a godly way, and passes above the bounds of creation by the guidance of the Spirit. This is the reason why those chosen Apostles, who were illumi­nated by the cloud and deprived of all the activity of sight by the light of the Lord’s face, who were judged worthy to become eyewitnesses of the Transfiguration on the mountain, came to be far removed from all visible things and even from themselves: so that they might be instructed, through unseeing and unknowing, in the Mystery—super-substantial by sheer excess—that lies beyond all affirmation and negation, [instructed] by the manifestation of the Word and the overshadowing of the Spirit and the voice of the Father, borne down from the cloud above them. Moses and Elijah came to be under this cloud and were seen conversing with Jesus, and hinting in advance at his “departure” through the cross. The former, as I have said earlier, indicates the written law, the latter the law of nature. So that the Word who is proclaimed through both of them “in manifold forms and many ways,” to use the Apostle’s words, might be recognized as the maker of the one law and the fulfiller of the other; and that he might impose himself on the one law as its blessed completion, and renew the other in the Spirit, since it had already grown old and diminished, among rational creatures, by the force of unreason; and that he might gather both of them in to himself, and show that they do not differ in any respect, in him, from each other. They both become invisible, hidden in the sun of the Gospel—or rather, filled with light and lifted up to the heights by it; and, if I may speak of something still greater, they both are gathered into one with the very sun itself, exchanging their identity with what is above them, wholly overcome! And blessed is the one who, at the touch of the Word made dense in flesh, made subject to our sense-perception for our sakes, has received knowledge of what is revealed in mystical symbols, and does not despise grace, thereby proving himself unworthy of the Spirit; but who rather considers him to be the unique law—and does not simply consider him so, but makes himself, by the illumination of the Spirit, to be like Christ, as he shares our way of life in a new way, by a law which is both divine and human. For he has become human, and so shares our present life; and he has introduced into our pattern of life the gift of sharing with us a way of life above this world.

If we accept the gift, our human life is revealed as fertile in the things of the Spirit, since it has laid aside the sterility caused within it by sin. For this reason, then, humans from now on dance with the angels, praising God together with them and saying, “Glory to God in the highest places, and peace on earth, good will among men and women.”

St Andrew of Crete

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