Transfiguration – 6 August 2018
The small ivory carving on the left depicts the transfiguration. Jesus stands on the top of a mountain surrounded by a mandorla – the shape which in iconography represents Christ’s majesty, glory and divinity. Jesus is speaking with Moses and Elijah, who represent the law and the prophets of the Old Testament tradition. A hand reaches out from the sky towards Jesus – this is the hand of the Father, who in the gospel of Mark speaks the words ‘This is my Son, whom I love, listen to him.’ At the bottom of the carving is the scene of the three disciples who have accompanied Jesus. They are overcome by what they see, bowed down as they respond with reverence and awe.
This little ivory panel was made in Lorraine between 870-880. It most likely comes from the front of a book, and is a pair with another ivory that was on the back. They are shown here together. The panel on the right depicts two healings, at the top the healing of a leper, at the bottom the healing of a blind man. Jesus meets the leper and is able to see beyond his appearance to what he could become, and he heals him. The blind man is brought to Jesus by friends. He cannot see until Jesus touches his eyes. Christ is the one he sees first when sight is given to him. Together these small carvings illustrate the spiritual imperative to see beyond surface appearance.
Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration, one of the twelve great feasts of the Orthodox Church, where it is understood that the transfiguration not only uncovers the divine nature of the Lord, but also uncovers what a human will become if united with Christ.
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Christianity tries to look beyond what is visible, what is beyond the earthly element, towards heaven. We are always called to start this change in our lives. It is a change in depth, and a sort of re-aiming to the target of our life; it is liberation from sins, and moving towards the Lord Jesus Christ.
Antiochian Orthodox Media Centre
Father in heaven,
whose Son Jesus Christ was wonderfully transfigured
before chosen witnesses upon the holy mountain,
and spoke of the exodus he would accomplish at Jerusalem:
give us strength so to hear his voice and bear our cross
that in the world to come we may see him as he is;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Common Worship Collect for The Transfiguration