Reflections on the Orthodox faith and life in this crazy 21st century world by an Orthodox priest and a few of his friends.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
The Connection Between the Transfiguration and Pascha -Part 3
This is the final installment. Part one can be read here. Part two can be read here.
Furthermore, Christians are challenged to “Come ye, take light from the LIGHT that is never overtaken by night. Come, glorify the Christ, risen from the dead” (Nassar 920). So it is apparent that the promise of The Transfiguration is bestowed at Pascha. It is the resurrection of Christ that allows humanity to be transfigured.
As the first man, Adam is an important figure in the hymnography of both feasts. Adam was the first sinner. Yet it is the very humanity of Adam that Christ took on. “Thou has put Adam on entire, O Christ, and changing the nature grown dark in past times, Thou hast filled it with glory and made it godlike by the alteration of Thy form” (The Festal Menaion 483). The sin of Adam had consumed the world and all were doomed to hades. Yet Christ overcame that sin. “O my Saviour, O thou living and unsacrificed offering, as thou art God, thou didst of they free will offer thyself an offering to the Father. And when thou didst rise from the tomb, thou didst raise Adam and all his race with thee” (Nassar 924). St. John Chrysostom provides a succinct description: “Adam is the image of Christ…as the man for those who came from him, even though they did not eat of the tree, became the cause of death, then Christ for those who are born of Him, although they have done no good, became the bearer of righteousness, which he gave to all of us through the Cross."
Pascha is the fulfillment of The Transfiguration. Just as the voice from heaven commanded, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (NKJV; Matthew 17: 5) at The Transiguration, so Pascha can be described as the day in which “…these thy children have followed thee as God-lighted stars, from the west and from the north, from the sea and from the east, blessing the Christ in thee for evermore” (Nassar 927), indicating that these are the ones who have hear Him. Another consideration regarding this Paschal fulfillment has to do with grapes. Grapes are commonly blessed at The Transfiguration feast. “Bless, O Lord, this new fruit of the vine, which thou has been pleased to bring to full ripeness…May we who partake thereof be filled with joy; and upon those who offer this fruit of the vine for use at Thy Holy Table, may it confer forgiveness of sins, through the sacred and holy Body and Blood of Thy Christ” (The Festal Menaion 502). This is a clear reference to the Paschal sacrifice of Christ and the Eucharist in which Christians partake at each Divine Liturgy. “Come, let us drink a new drink, not wondrously produced from a barren rock, but from the fount of incorruption, that hath come to us with the overflowing of Christ from the tomb, in whom we are strengthened” (Nassar 922). This drink is the “blood of the new covenant,” the blood of Christ (Liturgikon 281).
The Transfiguration and Pascha are intricately tied together. The transformational nature of both feasts is evident. Both call mankind to hear and follow Christ, receiving forgiveness, salvation, and glory. Both feasts clearly point to the ultimate transfiguration of both Christ and his followers. Mankind’s sin is overcome, death is defeated, and Christ leads his Church to eternal life. The glory of the divinity of Christ is manifest in both feasts, as he shone brilliantly at the transfiguration, and he destroyed death by death at Pascha. Because of this, death is shown to be a beginning, not an end. The particular components of the hymnology of the feasts demonstrate that they are closely related. Death figures predominantly in the feasts, yet both are defined by brightness and light. The blood of Christ is foreshadowed by the blessing of grapes. Christians can take heart that blessings are bestowed at both feasts. Christ who “coverest [himself] with light as with a garment” (Psalm 103:1-2; cf. The Festal Menaion 497) shares that light with his followers, allowing them to receive that same light at Pascha: “Then on us the Sun of righteousness from the tomb did shine, brilliant, resplendent…Let us, therefore, the holy people, seeing the fulfillment of those symbols, rejoice with divine rejoicing; for Christ the Almighty is risen” (Nassar 923).