On August 7th, we begin a seven-day “Afterfeast” for the Transfiguration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. By definition, an “afterfeast” or “postfeast” is not so much the actual continuation of a feast — such as a week-long birthday party — but a continued acknowledgment of the themes and wisdom presented during the feast itself.
One of those major themes found in the afterfeast of the Transfiguration of our Lord is the “identity” of Christ’s nature. Since the beginning of the Church, Christology (the study of Christ’s person) has been a point of friction and unity. During the 5th-7th centuries, Christ’s nature became the center of attention: was He God and man separately? was He God and man together? could God actually assume flesh or was Christ a mirage?
After much toil, debate, and quite a few councils, people have come to rest in the theological arms of the Nicene Creed to find an answer for Christ’s nature. We believe that He is the “… Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father through Whom all things were made…” and so on.
In the event of Christ’s Transfiguration, we actually see Christ’s nature as it is presented to us in the Creed.
In the Creed, we say, “… Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages.” In Matthew 17:5, God says to the disciples watching, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” In both the Creed and in this verse, Christ’s nature as the Son of God and a member of the Trinity is made manifest. He is both surrounded by the light of the Holy Spirit and addressed by His Father. We also see that Christ is both God and man, because His human body is transfigured into a glorified state. The simultaneous distinctions and unions made in this event are vital to understanding Christ’s nature. In addition to this, God is well pleased with His Son. As children of God, we must also strive toward becoming pleasing to God, accepting of His Grace and diligent in our spiritual struggle so that we, too, may enter a glorified state.
Matthew 17 goes on to resemble the Creed even more as Christ speaks of His coming death, resurrection and glory. When we acknowledge “the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke through the prophets,” we are doing the same as Peter, James, and John, who saw Christ in His glory, along with His Father and the Holy Spirit, standing with the prophets.
The comparisons are many and sometimes complex, but the simple message of the wisdom found in the Transfiguration of our Lord is that God manifested Himself in that event, revealing both His Son’s glory and His nature at the same time so that we, the Church, may gain a greater understanding of Who He is in relationship to Him, rather than What He is in the study of Him.
“Matthew 17 and The Transfiguration.” The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008. Print.
“Afterfeast.” OrthodoxWiki. Web. 7 Aug. 2014.
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