The Transfiguration: The Voice of God the Father

                  The Transfiguration of  Jesus (Matt. 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-9, Luke 9:28-36)
“Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and brought them up to a high mountain by themselves…

Transfiguration of Jesus“While he [Peter] was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice from the cloud said, This is My Beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased; listen to Him. When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were very much afraid. And Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Arise, and do not be afraid.’ And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one, except Jesus alone (Matt. 17:5-8).”

St. Leo the Great:  “…as a bright cloud overshadowed them, behold a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased, listen to Him (Matt. 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35).” The Father was indeed present in the Son, and in the Lord’s brightness, which He had tempered to the disciples’ sight; the Father’s Essence was not separated from the Only-begotten. As the effulgence of the Son’s body was displayed to their sight, so the Father’s voice from out of the cloud was heard by their ears. And when this Voice was heard, “the disciples fell upon their faces, and were sore afraid (Matt. 17:6, Luke 9:34),” trembling at the Majesty…. For when the Father said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in Whom, I am well pleased; listen to Him,’ was it not clearly meant, This is My Son, Who is eternally from Me and with Me (John 8:42)? This is My Son, not adopted but true-born, not created from another source but begotten of Me, nor made like Me from another nature, but born equal to Me of My nature (John 1:14). This is My Son, “through Whom all things were made, and without Whom was nothing made (John 1:3).” All things that I do He does in like manner, and whatever I perform, He performs with Me inseparably (John 5:19) and without difference: for the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son (John 14:11) and Our Unity is never divided. [John 10:30: “I and the Father are one“].

Listen to Him, therefore, unhesitatingly, in Whom I am well pleased, and by Whose preaching I am manifested, by Whose humiliation I am glorified; because He is “the Truth and the Life (John 14:6),” He is My “Power and Wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24).” Listen to Him, Whom the mysteries of the Law have foretold [represented by Moses], Whom the mouths of prophets have sung [represented by Elijah]. Listen to Him, Who redeems the world by His blood (Eph. 1:7), Who binds the devil and carries off his captives (Matt. 12:28-29), Who destroys the bond of sin and the compact of the transgression (John 8:34-36, Rom. 5:15-18). Listen to Him, Who opens the way to heaven, and by the… cross prepares for you the steps of ascent to the Kingdom. Why do you tremble at being redeemed? Why do you fear to be healed of your wounds? Let that happen which Christ wills and I will. Cast away all fleshly fear and arm yourselves with faithful constancy; for it is unworthy that you should fear in the Savior’s Passion what, by His good gift, you shall not have to fear even at your own end.

“These things, dearly-beloved, were said not only for those who heard them with their own ears, but in these three Apostles the whole Church has learned all that their eyes saw and their ears heard. Let all men’s faith be established according to the preaching of the most holy Gospel, and let no one be ashamed of Christ’s cross through which the world was redeemed. Let no one fear to suffer for righteousness’ sake, or doubt of the fulfilment of the promises…since all the weakness of our humanity was assumed by Him, in Whom, if we abide in the acknowledgment and love of Him, we conquer as He conquered and receive what he promised. Whether to the performance of His commands or to the endurance of adversities, the Father’s Voice should always be sounding in our ears, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Pope St. Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome 440-461 A.D., excerpts of Homily 51, given on the Saturday before the 2nd Sunday in Lent – On the Transfiguration.)

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Glory in the Cross of our Savior, Jesus Christ

The following is part of a lecture given by St. Cyril of Jerusalem to the catechumens during Lent of 347 A.D.. Presented here for the first Friday of the Lenten stations of the cross.

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Crucifix, Cross of Christ JesusSt. Cyril of Jerusalem: “Every deed of Christ is a cause of glorying to the Catholic Church, but Her greatest of all glorying is in the Cross; and knowing this, Paul says, But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of Christ (Gal. 6:14). For it was indeed wondrous that one who was blind from his birth should receive sight in Siloam (John 9:1-7); but what is this compared with the blind of the whole world? It was a great thing, surpassing nature, for Lazarus to rise again on the fourth day (John 11:1-44); but the grace extended to him alone, and what was it compared with the dead in sins throughout the world? It was marvelous that five loaves should pour forth food for the five thousand (Matt. 14:14-21, Mark 6:34-44, Luke 9:11-17, John 6:5-13); but what is that to those who are famishing in ignorance throughout all the world? It was marvelous that she should have been loosed who had been bound by Satan eighteen years (Luke 13:10-16); yet what is this to all of us, who were bound fast in the chains of our sins? But the glory of the Cross led those who were blind through ignorance into light, loosed all who were held fast by sin and ransomed the whole world of mankind (Matt. 20:28, Mark 10:45, 1 Tim 2:6).

“Let us then not be ashamed of the Cross of our Saviour, but rather glory in it. For the word of the Cross is to Jews a stumbling-block, and to Gentiles foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23), but to us salvation, and to them that are perishing it is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18). For it was not a mere man who died for us, as I said before, but the Son of God, God made Man. Further, if the lamb under Moses drove the destroyer far away [Passover Lamb, Ex 12:21-23], did not much rather the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29), deliver us from our sins? The blood of a silly sheep gave salvation; shall not the Blood of the Only-begotten much rather save….”

“Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion, otherwise our redemption is an illusion also. His death was not a mere show, for then our salvation is also without reality [imaginary, mythical]. If His death was but a show, they were true who said, We remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, After three days I rise again (Matt. 27:63). His Passion then was real: for He was really crucified and we are not ashamed of that; He was crucified and we do not deny it, no, I rather glory to speak of it.

“I confess the Cross because I know of the Resurrection; for if, after being crucified, He had remained as He was, I might not have confessed it. I might have concealed both it and my Master, but now that the Resurrection has followed the Cross, I am not ashamed to declare it.” (St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, Excerpts from his Catechesis (Lecture 13) during lent of 347 A.D. when Cyril was still a Priest).

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The Unconquered Master of Christian Warfare

Temptations of Jesus, Jesus Conquers Satan“…the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Begone, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve’ (Matt. 4:8-10, Deut. 6:13).”

St. Leo the Great:  “Dearly-beloved, as we approach the beginning of Lent, which is a time for the more careful serving of the Lord… let us prepare our souls for fighting with temptations, and understand that the more zealous we are for our salvation, the more determined must be the assaults of our opponents. But “stronger is He that is in us than He that is against us (1 John 4:4),” and we are powerful through Him in Whose strength we rely (Eph. 6:10): because it was for this that the Lord allowed Himself to be tempted by the tempter, that we might be taught by His example as well as fortified by His aid. For He conquered the adversary, as you have heard (Matt. 4:1-11), by quotations from the Scripture, not by actual strength, that by this very thing He might do greater honor to man, and inflict a greater punishment on the adversary by conquering the enemy of the human race not now as God but as Man. Therefore, He fought that we too might fight thereafter: He conquered that we too might likewise conquer. For there are no works of power, dearly-beloved, without the trials of temptations, there is no faith without proof, no contest without a foe, no victory without conflict. This life of ours is in the midst of snares, in the midst of battles; if we do not wish to be deceived, we must watch: if we want to overcome, we must fight. And therefore the most wise Solomon says, “My son, in approaching the service of God prepare thy soul for temptation (Sirach 2:1).” For he, being a man full of the wisdom of God, and knowing that the pursuit of religion involves laborious struggles, foreseeing too the danger of the fight, forewarned the intending combatant; for fear that if the tempter came upon him in his ignorance, he might find him unready and wound him unawares.

“So, dearly-beloved, let us, who instructed in Divine learning come wittingly to the present contest and strife, hear the Apostle when he says, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this dark world, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly things (Eph. 6:12),” and let us not forget that these our enemies feel that all we strive to do for our salvation is done against them all, and that by the very fact of our seeking after some good thing we are challenging our foes. For this is an old-standing quarrel between us and them fostered by the devil’s ill-will, so that they are tortured by our being justified, because they have fallen from those good things to which we, God helping us, are advancing. If, therefore, we are raised, they are prostrated: if we are strengthened, they are weakened. Our cures are their blows, because they are wounded by the cure of our wounds. “Stand, therefore,” dearly-beloved, as the Apostle says, “having girded your mind in truth, and your feet shod in the preparation of the gospel of peace, in all things taking the shield of faith in which you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one, and put on the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:14-17).” See, dearly-beloved, with what mighty weapons, with what impregnable defenses we are armed by our Leader, who is famous for His many triumphs, the unconquered Master of the Christian warfare.” (St. Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome 440-461 A.D., excerpt of Sermon 39, On Lent)

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Unity of Faith in the Church Throughout the World

“Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven and said…Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are. I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me (John 17:1, 11, 23).”

Saint Irenaeus of LyonsSt. Irenaeus of Lyons: “The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: She believes in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, Who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, Who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations* of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin (Isa. 7:14), and the passion (Ps. 22, Isa. 53:3), and the resurrection from the dead (Ps. 16:10, Dan 12:2), and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord (Ps. 68:18) and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father (Dan. 7:13) “to gather all things in one (Eph. 1:10),” and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess (Phil. 2:10-11)” to Him. Also that, “He should execute just judgment towards all (John 5:27-29); that He may send “spiritual wickednesses (Eph. 6:12),” and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire (Matt. 25:41); but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous and holy, and those who have kept His commandments (John 14:15ff), and have persevered in His love (John 15:9ff), some from the beginning, and others from their repentance [conversion], and may surround them with everlasting glory (1 Pet. 1:4, 5:4).

“As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points of doctrine just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth [deposit of faith]. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shines everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these, for no one is greater than the Master; nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it. …the Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said.” (St. Irenaeus (120-202 A.D) Bishop of Lyons, France (177-202). Against heresies, (182-188 A.D) , book 1, ch. 10)

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* dispensations: a divinely ordained order prevailing at a particular period of history