Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Transfiguration Divine Liturgy

On August 6, we celebrated the Transfiguration of the Lord, when Jesus Christ was glorified on Mount Tabor and shown forth His Divine, uncreated Light for the witness of the Apostles St. Peter, St. James, and St. John, the sons of Zebedee.

The icon of the Holy Transfiguration of the Lord, with the Apostles St. Peter, St. James, and St. John at his feet, and Elijah and Moses at his sides.

This is the patronal feast of Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church in McComb, Mississippi.  The patronal feast is the feast of the saint for which your parish is named.  Normally on your patronal feast day there is a procession with the Holy Cross around the Church.  However, two-thirds of those attending, including Fr. Benedict, were sick with summer colds/sinus infections, so we did not attempt it.

The Transfiguration of the Lord occurred, according to the tradition of the Church, near the end of Christ's ministry, approximately 40 days before the Crucifixion of the Lord.  John Sanidopoulos explains on his excellent blog Mystagogy the reasons for the Church's modification of the calendar, and the purpose that this feast serves in the life of the Church, as well as the parallelism of the Church calendar structure.  40 days continues to have great significance as a time period for Christians.

It is customary on the Feast of the Transfiguration to bless the first fruits of the harvest.  In modern America this has ceased to have the great significance, when we can get fresh fruits on any day of the year with relatively little cost.  But traditionally grapes are blessed, because they are usually ripe at this time, and because of the importance of wine in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The first fruits of the harvest, right at the Third Hour.

Alexis Baldwin, son of Shirlee Fager Baldwin, Esq. (close personal friend and colleague of the author), is a seminarian at St. Tikon's Orthodox Seminary, entering his final year.  He has been assigned to intern with Fr. Benedict this summer, and has been with us for the past three weeks.  He has three more weeks with us.  Here he is, reading the Epistle lesson.  Note the lovely black dress- quite slimming.

Fr. Benedict is wearing white, which is reserved for the feasts of the Lord in the Orthodox Church.  Normally, in non-fasting periods, our priests and the other clergy and altar servers wear gold; on Pascha (Easter), Christmas, the Circumcision of the Lord, and Theophany (Epiphany), our churches are decorated in white, which symbolizes the uncreated Light of God shining forth.

Fr. Benedict immediately before the reading of the Gospel.

On the Great Feasts of the Church, it is customary for the parishioners to be anointed with oil that has been blessed for this purpose.  Here at the dismissal, Fr. Benedict is anointing Alexis's youngest, while Subdeacon Jonah, Seamus, and Fr. Benedicts oldest boy Nicholas look on.

Immediately before the dismissal, Fr. Benedict blessed the first fruits of the harvest.

There's a lot more fruit on the table by the end of the Liturgy.

In short, even though we were terribly ill, it was a truly lovely feast, and a blessing to be able to celebrate this feast in peace and freedom.

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