Rejoice! Be Not Afraid.

by Dea­con Andrei Psarev
Deliv­ered at Holy Trin­i­ty Monastery
Jor­danville, New York
August 6 / 19, 2020

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spir­it! Beloved broth­ers and sis­ters in the Lord!

We see that the event of the Trans­fig­u­ra­tion of the Lord is adja­cent to the last peri­od of the earth­ly min­istry of Christ the Sav­ior. A few months after the Trans­fig­u­ra­tion, Holy Week begins. In today’s Gospel read­ing1 we hear:

And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his broth­er, and bringeth them up into an high moun­tain apart,

2 And was trans­fig­ured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his rai­ment was white as the light.

3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talk­ing with him.

4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three taber­na­cles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud over­shad­owed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

6 And when the dis­ci­ples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.

8 And when they had lift­ed up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.

9 And as they came down from the moun­tain, Jesus charged them, say­ing, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.

One of the cor­ner­stone mes­sages of the Gospel is the preach­ing of joy. Hav­ing met the myrrh-bear­ing women after the res­ur­rec­tion, the Lord says to them: Rejoice!2  And now, on the path toward His suf­fer­ing on the Cross, He gives His dis­ci­ples a fore­taste of the future of the time of the res­ur­rec­tion. The dis­ci­ples on Mount Tha­bor feel, It is good…to be here, like Luke and Cleopa at the break­ing of Bread in Emmaus. The holy prophets Moses and Eli­jah tes­ti­fy that Christ is the Right­eous Mes­si­ah — thus, con­firm­ing the words of our Creed that Christ was res­ur­rect­ed “accord­ing to the Scrip­tures,” that is the prophe­cies of the Old Tes­ta­ment. The words spo­ken by God the Father make the Trans­fig­u­ra­tion a theo­phany equal to Christ’s bap­tism in the Jor­dan Riv­er, which the Church cel­e­brat­ed on this exact day eight months ago.

At the same time that dwelling with Christ on Tha­bor and in Emmaus caus­es joy among the dis­ci­ples, the words that the Son of Man should suf­fer from the High Priests and reli­gious peo­ple caus­es revul­sion with­in them. In the Gospel read­ing of this past Sun­day, we hear:

And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceed­ing sor­ry.3

There is a rea­son that in the litur­gi­cal cal­en­dar the Exal­ta­tion of the Cross fol­lows exact­ly forty days after the Feast of Transfiguration.

But with­out the cross there is no Res­ur­rec­tion, and can be no joy. It is not with­out rea­son that the Apos­tle Paul says: But we preach Christ cru­ci­fied, unto the Jews a stum­bling­block, and unto the Greeks fool­ish­ness.4 The temp­ta­tion of this stum­bling block and fool­ish­ness is our Chris­t­ian cross. While in the mod­ern world Christ is a char­ac­ter of the past, for us faith­ful­ness to His phi­los­o­phy, to the apos­tolic Tra­di­tion about Him remain vital, life-deter­min­ing, and in this we join His dis­ci­ples, the Apostles. 

Fear is not pro­duc­tive in every realm of human exis­tence. And now Christ speaks to us in the words of today’s Gospel, Be not afraid!  The same words are repeat­ed in many oth­er places in the New Tes­ta­ment5  and, espe­cial­ly remark­ably, by the apos­tle of love – St John the The­olo­gian — who was at Tha­bor today:

There is no fear in love; but per­fect love casteth out fear: because fear hath tor­ment. He that feareth is not made per­fect in love.6

We do not know how our per­son­al trans­fig­u­ra­tion, our meet­ing with Christ on Mount Tha­bor is going to hap­pen. For now, accord­ing to the Apos­tle, we see through a glass, dark­ly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.7 Let us emu­late the apos­tles’ hope in Him by whom also we have access by faith into this grace where­in we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glo­ry of God.8 And let us pray that our faith will be trans­fig­ured into true knowl­edge of Christ and per­son­al com­mu­nion with Him. 


About the author

Deacon Andrei Psarev, portrait

Dea­con Andrei Psarev is Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Canon Law and Russ­ian Church His­to­ry at Holy Trin­i­ty Ortho­dox Sem­i­nary and directs the web­site, His­tor­i­cal Stud­ies of the Russ­ian Church Abroad. He holds his Ph.D. from Queen’s Uni­ver­si­ty, Belfast.

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