Saint Andrew of Crete – Sermon on the Transfiguration of Christ our Lord.

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,” (Col 3.2) 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,” (cf John 19.23) 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, 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”; (Gen 3.19) 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.

This the angels wonder at; to this the archangels sing hymns of praise. And all the spiritual world of supra-mundane beings feasts immaterially on this wonder, offering the clearest and most indisputable witness of the Logos’ love for us, which surpasses our understanding, and whose infinite and indefinable breadth, which cannot be grasped by our contemplation – the incomprehensibility of God’s being – offers us the beginning of still greater contemplation as we ascend. We ourselves want now to praise this Mystery, too, but are not able to do it in the appropriate measure. What am I saying? Praising God in full measure is beyond even the angels, who beheld the first rays of his brilliance, and ceaselessly circle around the Godhead, which rules over all things. So it surely surpasses what the divine Jeremiah calls “the prisoners of earth,”( Lam 3.34 LXX) those on whom the darkness of this miserable and wretched and heavily burdened body bears down. Often we are not permitted to form even a vague image of those blessed intelligible visions, since our intelligence is dominated by its attraction towards sensible things, and therefore our hearts find it difficult to desire what is ultimately desirable. Nonetheless, since it pleases God when we do what lies in our power – even if we are condemned by necessity to lag far behind doing what is appropriate, because the Mystery is beyond all our powers of expression and contemplation – we must not be afraid of making the attempt, nor shrink from honoring by our words what is above all words. That would be neither praiseworthy nor holy. And this is the goal of our oration: to show by words that what we praise is beyond the powers of language, so that when our speech reveals its own powerlessness in comparison to what it honors, it will have achieved its purpose. In utter defeat, then, it would be rightly crowned, having legitimately achieved success by being conquered.

But let us move on to our subject – rather, let us eagerly move up the mountain! How long, after all, shall we delay in the foothills of our discourse, gazing in wonder at the beauty of the ascent before us, when it is possible to ascend ourselves with those who have been raised up by the Word and have been judged worthy of higher things? [When it is possible for us] to be illuminated by the cloud ourselves, and so to have our own eyes blinded, to leave the realm of what is visible and intelligible and yet to be initiated, by an excess of light, into what is above human power – provided, of course, we are first purified of all material attachments? It is now possible [for us], too, to listen to what is said, even by that blessed voice that reaches us from the Father, as it bears faithful witness to the divinity of the Only-begotten, and clearly presents to us their substantial identity. So that this may happen, come – let us examine, as far as possible, with the guidance of the Spirit, what lies beyond the powers of most of us to contemplate; for it is only with the Spirit’s help that reason gazes beyond perception. Guided by the Spirit, then, let us revel in mystical knowledge of what has come to pass in the Transfiguration of the Lord. For I know myself that the purpose of the Transfiguration has this in view, and that the Mystery invites us to sing its praises in this way. For it wants us to understand the depth of what has been accomplished here, and in knowing what is said here, to absorb the grace of the story more effectively by imitating the one who is transfigured – a grace that works this same marvelous and strange Mystery also in us.

What, then, is the Gospel story? I think it would be good to lay the foundation there of our ritual vision or festival, or whatever we are to call it – for I am overcome in tongue and mind by the greatness of this grace! Matthew introduces the Lord speaking to the disciples this way: “Amen I say to you, there are some of those standing here, who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingly power. And after six days Jesus took Peter and James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured in their sight. And his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.” (Matt 16.28-17.2) And Mark speaks more or less with the same words as Matthew, and is happy to be like him in words and ideas, since he is inspired in soul and formed in understanding by the same Spirit. Even if he seems to differ slightly on one small detail or another of the scene, this still does not amount to opposition or conflict with him or any of the other [authors]. For when they either recount the same deeds faithfully, in slightly different phrasing – if I may philosophize a bit about them in a general way – or when one or the other, or more than one, hand on what perhaps has been left out by this or that Evangelist, they may perhaps seem to disagree, but are not in the slightest real opposition to each other. So that not all of them together, nor any one of the four, has written down in order everything that the Word has done in the ineffable, fleshly plan of God – the Word who is called flesh, yet does not cease to be God; even so, the four have a single goal, which is the truth, and in a comprehensive way reveal the meaning of the whole through the parts.

This often occurs through the agreement and harmony of the Spirit’s sayings with each other – often, too, in the manner of the limbs in a single body, which maintains the integrity of the whole undamaged, for the sake of structure and unity. A witness to the truth of what we have said is not just what is recounted by them individually, or found only in some of them, but what the great John says when he reaches the end of his Gospel: “There are many other things that Jesus did, so that, if they were written down one by one, I do not think the world itself could contain the books that would be written.”(Jn 21.25).

The same thing will be said about Luke, as well, who writes, as he narrates the grace of the Transfiguration, “lt happened that about eight days after these sayings, Jesus took Peter and James and John, and went up to the mountain to pray.” (Lk 9.28-29) “lt happened,” he says, “that about eight days after these sayings ... “What are you doing, revealer of hidden mysteries? Why do you say, “It happened that about eight days after these sayings”? And what should we do, since Mark and Matthew agree with each other as if speaking with one mouth, saying: “And after six days, Jesus took Peter and James and John his brother, and he led them to a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured in their sight”?

“Yes,” says Saint Luke, “nothing of what I and they have said is more unified and harmonious, seen as part of the whole, than this. For truly what has been expressed by us and by them is in agreement, and has the same meaning. They, after all, omitted the day on which what was soon to be accomplished was predicted by the Logos to all the disciples together; and again, they omitted the day on which the Logos would mysteriously bring to fulfillment what had been foretold. And they clearly counted six days occurring between the two – the first, I mean, and the last, or rather, day one and day eight. But if you connect the two, and join the beginning and the end to what lies between, you will incontrovertibly have what you seek, and you will see the agreement among our words, the unifying beauty of the truth shining out more brightly and more purely than the sun.”

But since I have verbally sketched out for you the attractive form and pleasing unity of Scripture, as it appears to us according to Luke’s teaching, come, now – let me dare to break into hidden places, and reveal the brilliance of mysterious sights hidden within the text, a brilliance that outshines the visible meaning as much as the intellectual realm is both more hidden from us, and more sustaining for us, than what appears before us. First, though, dear initiates of the Word, fellow lovers of all that is good, be purified along with me in ear and mind, by the Spirit who purifies and enlightens all things, so that the Logos might be one with you, as with his own, and might reveal more perfect realities to those inexperienced in the instruction of holy signs. What are we saying, brothers and sisters? What is this spiritual banquet and contemplation of words, to which we invite you today, and which we have been found worthy to enter along with the Spirit?

The number six, say the experts on these things, is the only perfect number within the first ten [integers], because it consists of and is completed by its own parts. “Christ, the Wisdom and the Power of God,”(1Cor 1.21) the Logos who is above all goodness, “the only Son, who exists turned towards the Father’s bosom,” (Jn 1.18) in six days created all that appears before us, as well as the human person, consisting of the immaterial soul and the matter of the body. And clearly we can count six forms of love, than which no good thing is higher or is even its equal; in response to them, [the Lord] takes generosity towards the needy as directed towards himself. For when he balances mercy against mercy for the merciful, and offers the reward of blessedness in the life to come, as the great giver of gifts, he says to those already judged worthy to stand at his right, “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you received me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, was in prison and you came to me.”(Mt 25:34-36) Since, then, the forms of love are so many and of such kind, as Truth himself clearly cries out to us in the Gospels, and since the love of God is confirmed by the love we show to our neighbor, that person is shown to be worthy of the blessedness we hope for, who has a genuine desire directed towards this love. “From these two commandments the whole Law and the Prophets depend,”(Mt 22.40) as Scripture ordains in the Gospels. From this it is clear that love is something that embraces all other goods, the highest of the blessings revealed in Holy Scripture; and there is no form of virtue, through which a person is made God’s own and joined to him, and inherits the glory and Kingdom above, which does not depend on love and is not included within it, joined to it and protected within it by the ineffable structure of things. So that love alone, working itself out through its own six parts, constitutes the most perfect and purest kind of practical philosophy among the human race, the goal of which, they say, is the good, which is God himself. And beyond this, it joins the human person in an incomparable way to God, by enkindling the fire of our knowledge of him.

But to what purpose have we said all this? I say that if one wishes to be lifted up on to the mountain of lofty contemplation with the Word, as a disciple, and to see the unapproachable glory of that Kingdom, and be counted worthy of his visible and spiritual self-manifestation as God, when one hears Christ proclaiming to us beforehand that his Kingdom will not be long in coming – for that is the Transfiguration, in which the unchangeable one has illuminated what is ours, what has been taken on for our sake, more brightly than the sun – then he will nourish and give drink to Christ, who hungers and thirsts for the salvation of all. Or to put it another way: through those in need, one receives him who dwells in all those who receive him by faith; one receives him when he is a stranger, clothes him when he is naked, cares for him when he is ill, and does not pass him by when he is shut up in prison – for one is driven on strongly by the yearning to do good for others. And through this laudable greed for virtue, one will not stop at mere appearances, nor will one limit one’s benevolence towards the benevolent Lord by a mere external kindliness. So, I dare even to say, if one considers carefully the words, “Whatever you have done to one of the least of my brethren, you have done for me,” (Mt 25.40) and goes, as well, more deeply than appearance allows to become aware of the sufferings of souls, then one would consider the appropriate remedy, and give rational beings, originally formed to reverence God, “a place of shelter in a green pasture,” and would nourish them “by the water of repose.” (Ps 22.2 LXX) And [a disciple] would surely lead with joy into his own home, however humble it might be, anyone who has left his own country to dwell in a foreign land, and who has become a vagabond by his alienation, out of reverence for the one who became a stranger for our sakes. He would lead him from an earthly and isolated life, and transport him to the festal assembly of the saints in heaven that links us together – to the “citizenship” of Paul and of all who fear the Lord. (Phil 3:20) But seeing his neighbor stripped of his father’s wealth (cf Lk 15:12-14) and taking off the robe of immortality that he might have chosen, he would take pity on his nakedness and clothe him again, putting on him a godly and blessed way of life. And what of the one who is “weak in faith,” (Rom 14:1) and still shows a childish mind concerning practical judgments? Would he pass him by silently? Surely not! He would call him back as quickly as possible to the health he yearns for, and with words of truth would put unreasonable weakness to flight, and restore his natural reason to its proper original state. And he would point out to reason the emotions and our sensuality – those twin horses of the passible part of our soul – by reasonable argument, and give them wings, and a new start in the spirit, towards what is right. (Phaedr.s 246a-254e) Going beyond this, he would approach the one who is held back by the darkness of ignorance, who is prevented from seeing the light of infallible knowledge, and taking a thoughtful stand in a dark place, he would break the bond of ignorance, letting the Word illuminate the person’s reason like an angel’s. He would lead that person to the light of a free way of life in Christ, a life no longer “held captive by the yoke of slavery,”(Gal 5:1) nor prevented from making its way towards the beauties of heaven by the power of the understanding.

And he will reveal all these ways of acting, and others like them, in the appropriate form and manner, and guide us in our souls by the beacon of love – and will do so in two ways. For since we are twofold, constituted of soul and body, the form for showing care for others is also twofold; and all of us, as human beings, need this double care – even if one person needs more, the other less – as long as our faculty of choice is subject to change, and as long as matter bears in itself a principle of disorder and inconsistency, or is subjected to attacks and misfortunes from outside sources. We must act, then, with special benevolence towards each other, so that we might benefit ourselves, in other ways, still more. For an act of kindness, directed to the person receiving the gift rather than to oneself, returns more lavishly still upon the person who performs it, and so generosity changes places through the act of generous receiving. In giving this way, the human being quite clearly imitates God; but imitation is a means of acquisition, and acquisition leads to likeness, which is the highest of blessings.

Do you see how great the fruit of loving your neighbor is? In this way, thrusting aside all servile fear, along with the evil burden of the passions, through the perfect six days of the commandments, purifying oneself as far as possible for higher things, and being made perfect in love, one is blessed with the reward of virtue and the infallible knowledge of the realm of time and the natural, through the contemplation of nature made available in the Spirit. Knowing that the material and visible world, which came to be in six days, is the type of what lies far above perception, one will see the invisible clearly through the visible, transposing the beauties of perceptible things harmoniously into the luminous loveliness of the spiritual world. And so one will have creation guiding his intelligence towards its own source. As a result, through both types of activity – the ascetical, mean, and the contemplative – after one has reached perfection in them both (a perfection signified by the six divine commandments and also by the six days in which the visible world came to be), one will be able to understand clearly what is the mystery of the eight days. And that this is all laid open to us in the mystical teaching of Luke one can recognize, it seems to me, from what is contemplated and what exceeds normal perception. What I am saying is that those who share in true knowledge, free from flesh and the world as far as that is possible here in this life, will be taught the forms of the world to come by the various trials they have experienced here. But all of this serves only as a prologue to the glory and grace that will be revealed to the clear-sighted on the mountain. When they climb the mountain with Jesus and come within the cloud, then they will be found worthy of a much clearer and loftier mystical vision of all that has been spoken of before, through the garments of the Word that have been made white as snow and brilliant as the light, as symbols begin to give way to the truth.

But the garments of the Logos, according to the spiritual mode of contemplation, would be those things in which he is wrapped and by which he is revealed. And this is somewhat paradoxical! By the one form of figural explanation, it seems to me, they signify the things said and done by the Savior in this life – a life that is spotless and undefiled; a life shown forth to the world through the divine history of the incarnation, but not comprehended by it; a life incomparably free of all wickedness, which has naturally become the cause and model of all our purity and holiness. When the one who is above all substance truly came to share our substance, and became substantial in a super-substantial way, he associated with us in the flesh. He is the one who shone forth, to an overwhelming degree, on the mountain. He did not, at that point, become purer or more exalted than himself [in his human body] – far from it! But he became what he was before, for those perfected disciples who were initiated into higher things and could contemplate him in truth. And those words and deeds through which that way of life took its form, by which the depth of the Word’s divine plan concerning us is revealed as without limit, can be understood, not without good reason, in terms of the garments of the Savior. Or else those things would be signified through the garments by the purifying work of the Spirit, shining as radiantly as light, through [Jesus’] utter purity and supreme radiance.

The garments of the Logos might be understood in another way, too – a way not unworthy of the Spirit – as the magnificence and sumptuousness of the things brought forth into existence by the Word himself, and especially as Holy Scripture. The first of these [= the beauty of the world] reveals the invisible, uncontainable one as creator, the cause immaculately hidden within creation; the second [=Scripture] reveals him as loving to move and dwell in the world in symbols, ineffably revealing himself to those worthy of the Spirit. Both [= the created world and the Scriptures] are made pure and radiant by the Spirit, and continue to be revealed by their purity – for those who love divine things and are given to contemplation – as “such that no fuller on earth could whiten them.” (Mt 9:2) “For the Spirit searches all things,” Scripture says, “even the depths of God.” (1Cor 2:10) So then, through his garments, the Logos, who is hidden inside them, reveals himself, and sends forth the light of knowing him: to those, namely, who have been perfected in spirit like Peter, James and John. One person, like Peter, may be firmly anchored in the rock, the foundation that faith offers, and may carry on his back the structure of the Church; others, like the “sons of thunder,” may be entrusted by the Word with the mystical vision of God’s highest nature, because they share a hard and unshakeable foundation of immoveable rock. The one, I think, signifies the depth, the other two the breadth and height of faith, which equally surpass, in every direction, all limitlessness, by the sheer inconceivability of the Mystery.

These, then, are the Savior’s garments; this is how they radiate light. But what of his face, which shone so brightly? What of the impossible beauty, higher and more precious than all things loveable, which for those who gaze on it is established as a pledge of ceaseless rejoicing – to the degree that what is revealed seems to be comprehended? What mind or reason can see or express the hidden, more divine mystery, always incomparably new? For if his garments are such because of the brilliance that gushes forth from within, what must the glory be that is wrapped and hidden by these garments, something beyond our powers to see and know? If, then, this were to happen by itself, if he were to take all covering away, how should describe it? But that which was revealed through his holy robe alone, the robe he had prepared for himself from a Virgin’s blood and mystically wrapped around himself through the Spirit, which is how they saw his glory revealed – who will gaze upon it? There is nothing, nothing at all, of the things we can contemplate in creation that will grasp the excess of its brilliance! For even if nothing in the world is without a share in the Good, still not all of it is shared in an absolute way. Rather, as much as is accessible to the participants comes into their possession, in whatever way it can; and this comes about, through the highest Goodness, by flashes of unlimited grace and brilliance, coming forth and being poured out on all things. A demonstration of what I am saying would be that blessed, much celebrated feeling that came upon the Apostles on the mountain, when the inaccessible, primordial light transfigured its own flesh, and radiated, beyond the power of any substance, its own excess of surging light.

They could not endure the radiance coming forth from that spotless flesh – brilliance that welled up from the divinity of the Word, which had hypostatically united himself to the flesh and shone through it in a way beyond nature – but fell on their faces. O marvel! In a complete departure from their natural functioning, they were overcome by heavy sleep and by fear, and shut off their senses; they ceased from all intellectual movement, and completely lost all awareness of themselves. So, in that divine and invisible darkness, above all light, they mingled with God. By not seeing at all, they received the true gift of vision, and made progress in experiencing, without knowledge, an excess of knowledge; so they were led to share in a wakefulness higher than all intellectual attention. Strangely, in the strangeness of the event itself, wakefulness turned into sleep – or rather, sleep became wakefulness; this very absence of cognitive perception made credible a knowledge that lies above nature.

Who might be able to give me words as powerful as I wish? Who can be exalted in a way worthy of this mystery? What mental movement can look simply at this sight and not immediately be smothered as a result, drawing back before such an inaccessible wonder? David, that royal and prophetic instrument, recognized this by the Spirit, I think, from afar, and cried out with inspired voice to the God of all things, “Thabor and Hermon will rejoice in your name!” (Ps 88:13 lxx) That they would rejoice, he foretold. But what, and of what kind and greatness, the Mystery of the Transfiguration actually would be, at which Thabor and Hermon would rejoice, he honored by silence as something unspeakable and inconceivable, something that would be known in its time by experience itself – God willing – to those worthy of it.

Since our words have come this far, it seems to me – as I grope for words – that I should try also to explain in my discourse what Peter said, when he had nothing of his own to say, but – being seized upon by the Spirit – spoke from an excess of joy. For in his joy, and under the spell of the revelation of light and the vision of divine things that had supernaturally filled his soul, Peter became completely inspired. He could not explain his feeling in words, yet he could not endure that this grace should simply flow away in silence; so he spoke words that were not – as some might suppose – words of ignorance or foolishness. Rather, he found words to express the effects and fruits of that ineffable guidance, the work of God within him. What did he say? “Lord,” he said, “it is good for us to be here.”(Mt 17:4) Why do you say that, Peter? “Because, freed from the disturbance of public pressure, and purified in soul and sense by distance from the crowds, who move and speak in every possible way, we are able here, Lord, to share the unbroken enjoyment of your ineffable divine appearance. And what could be better than this? What could be more desirable, what could be lovelier, for anyone with sense? And therefore, if you are willing, Lord, let us build three tabernacles here: one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah! For it is good that both the dead letter of the Law, which is signified by Moses, and the living law of [created] nature, which is represented by the living prophet, here be brought into their resting place next to you, the Word who have become human and made your resting place among humans: the true source of rest; the Lord of life and death, for whom all the saints are alive – even though they suffer natural death, in the separation of the parts that make up the human person; the King of all things, the one who holds them together, their cause. And our purpose is that, filled with the light of that inaccessible source from which you have enlightened them, they might themselves make you visible to the world: the Word who dwells in them and walks in them. They will put off their former life, and receive only your grace, which comes to fullness in your Spirit and your divine fire, according to the Gospel’s exclusionary decision; grace that is exalted, immaterial; grace that never ends or grows old or decays, but that, in the limitless way grace acts, always advances, and is lifted up to what is greater and more divine, by the burning heat of the Spirit.”

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”. (Mt 3:11) In him [= Jesus], 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.” (1Cor 10:1-2) 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,” (Heb 1:1) 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 (Christ) 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.” (Lk 2.14).

Here you have, my beloved, the message of the Mystery; even if much that we hope for is still missing, still it is not outside what lies in our power. And you may hope for a still higher and more mystical promise from the Word himself, who for your sake bore flesh and endured the cross. If you accept it, you can treasure it up within yourself with all eagerness, as an inexplicable, unspeakable word, trusting in the Word until he himself, the Lord who suffered in flesh, conquers death in you and raises you from the dead; and by raising you, as one who had been killed by sin, he will make you divine in the Spirit. “There is a time for everything,” (Eccl 3:1) we are told by both Solomon and the Truth!

Knowing this, my fellow human, never convict yourself of being unworthy of grace, or forfeit the heavenly life, which is free from all strife, through laziness in how you live here. Rather, drive out all laziness from your soul and shake off your attraction to material things; become, in every fiber of your being, the pure devotee of better, heavenly things, and receive in the Spirit the pure and blessed gift of sharing the life of the Word, whose outcome is divinization and the enjoyment of ineffable blessings. As a result, true virtue, shaped and stamped by all the virtues, will be revealed in you; and in your steady contemplation of what is, truth will be unveiled. Through your wisdom, Wisdom itself will become known, in which “all things have come into being”; (Col 1:17) it is the cause of all things, and is hymned and honored as the bond that holds together everything in the realm of becoming. To put it simply, may God be glorified in you through both these things, virtue and contemplation: God, who is contemplated and adored as Trinity, and who is the chief and purest goal of virtue and contemplation.

Because of him, all other things exist; the goal itself has no cause!

The things that have been given to you, then, my fellow human, are great; so are those that are yet to be given, as you walk on your way to God. The things that the mysterious God has worked for your sake surpass all mind and reason. Do not collapse, then, under the power of laziness; do not be unaware of yourself, or thrust aside the gift that has been given. Show reverence to your call, and do not appear to be unmindful of how much you have been blessed, or complain when you discover that salvation is sheer gift. Leave the things of earth to the earth. For what do you have in common with earth? “Let the dead bury their dead,” (Mt 8:22) the Scripture commands. Quite clearly, all things corruptible and passing are dead, and cause death in those who honor them. Therefore “the dead bury their dead,” if through their relationship to what is corruptible they are deprived of true life, and if they gain this reward from their relationship to passing things: to be named as those who have become dead – and what could be more wretched than this? Stripping yourself, then, of all that flows and passes away – or rather, yourself thrusting aside, by deliberate choice, all the things that will be extinguished along with this fleshly life – accompany the Word and do not turn aside; he has emptied himself for your sake, after all, and put on a form alien to himself, and bears you completely, along with all that is yours, that he might consume in himself what there is in you that is inferior, and completely free you from sin.

Walk with Christ, who walked the world for your sake; do not give up, do not stand still in your journey, overpowered in your mind by any thought. But go up with him who ascends into heaven; there transplant your heart and your life.

It is good for you to come to be with God. There will be the festival of the saints, there the surpassingly brilliant sound of people in celebration. Above all, as you fight the good fight, hold on to fear and longing, so that you may be helped by the one not to fall into arrogance, when you glory in the greatness and beauty of virtue, and be inflamed and moved upwards by the other, lest you look down – by some inner weariness – on progress and advancement towards what is truly good. Rather, preserve this divine love for what is beyond this world, unyielding and unsullied forever. For that beloved object, which all your longing reaches out to grasp, is without beginning and without end. This is its limit: to be completely unlimited and boundless. May we now be judged worthy to have its breeze always in our sails, moving us onwards. And when we pass on from here, may we mingle purely with the very object of our longing, by the grace and kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom be glory, honor and strength to the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and for the ages of ages. Amen.