This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him (Matt. 17:5).
Knowing that man always weakens in spirit during times of suffering, our Savior desired before His voluntary Passion to encourage His disciples by convincing them through this mysterious wonder that He is the true Messiah, promised by the prophets.
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? (Rom. 11:33–34). On Mt. Tabor the Lord poured into the hearts of His disciples a drop of joy before the abyss of suffering. He lit in their hearts the lamp of hope before the wall of darkness. He gave them to taste of the heavenly light, so that they might not have doubts while He was being crucified.
O Apostle Peter, rejoice not before you have suffered and announced to us the Gospel of salvation. If you remain with the Lord on Tabor, then who will be saved, will teach us, who will be crucified for us? Who will die and be resurrected for us? And who more boldly than you will teach, suffer, and be crucified upside down? Who will witness to Christ before the caesars of Rome?
Come to us again, O Jesus—do not listen to Peter! Come down from Tabor and come into our homes, into our souls! Come here, where we are suffering and laboring for our crust of bread! Come here, where we are being crucified by people, demons, and passions! If Peter does not want to come down, let him stay on the mountain, but do Thou come to us, into our hearts!
Teach us how to be saved; show us how to endure. Teach us to carry our life’s cross. Teach us how to be crucified. Come and suffer for us, be Thou crucified instead of us, taste first of the cup of death, show us the new path of salvation through suffering.
O, how we would like to delight with Peter there, on Mount Tabor! But we see ourselves surrounded by fog, by sin. Do not abandon us, O Jesus, but come down to us in a sharp wind, to the foot of the mount. Here we are waiting for Thee, along with the other disciples: Thomas and Andrew, James and Matthew, Jude and Bartholomew, Simon and Thaddeus. Hungry and naked, wanderers and orphans, the young and the old, widows and beggars, the sick and the suffering—we are all waiting for Thee, thirsting for Thee. Come and make peace with us.
Come down even further, to the shore of the sea, where life is tossed about in the waves, where ships are wrecked against the rocks and so many sails are torn, so many oars are broken, so many souls are carried down to the bottom by the rebellious force of the waves. We know that the mount with its quiet and solitude call Thee to prayer, but nevertheless look down to the sea with pity. There, in the distance, the waves cast up their mist, tearing at the shores with such fury… And this, is the world. But on the waves the ships battle with the sea, wind, and night. And this, is man.
Come down to that place, to the sea’s abyss, to the heart of man, to the hearth of the family. Come there, where the light is mixed with the darkness, life with death, joy with sighing, bread with dust, truth with lies, honey with poison, love with hate, wine with vinegar, time with eternity. Come here, where we people are suffering; make peace with us, transform the face of the world, calm the sea, assuage our hearts, and unite the thoughts of our souls into one.
And truly, Jesus Christ came down without delay to people; after all, it was for their sakes that He came into the world. The mystery was completed, and the cloud was again carried off to the heavens, Moses and Elias became no longer visible, the light disappeared, and Jesus walked down to the foot of the mountain, to the shore of the sea, to the din of the crowd, to the grumbling of the world, on the way of Samaria, along the paths of Judea, to the roiling hatred, to the hands of the high priests, to the Cross on Golgotha.
There the people awaited Him—some bearing palm branches, others bearing stones in their hands; there the crowds sought Him—some in order to see Him and be healed, others to tempt, seize, and crucify Him. And Jesus Christ gave Himself over to death; He crucified Himself for our souls.
Let not Tabor rejoice more than Golgotha, and may that joy be not stronger than sorrow. But let Tabor and Golgotha be glad together, and let joy and suffering be united by Christ. Through the cross of suffering let Golgotha redeem the sins of people on earth. With the flame of eternal light, Tabor shall reward Christians in the next world for their virtues. For on the earth there are many temptations, falls, labors and trials, crucifixions, deaths, and resurrections—in that world is a place of repose, glory, and eternal life.
But Peter did not understand this, and just like him we people also do not understand it. However, blessedness not founded on suffering cannot continue more than one day. Thirsting for such blessedness, man rushes to create it for himself with his own hands. He fills potholes on his path, plants flowers instead of thorns, levels the graves with earth, sprinkles fragrances around himself, puts on seductive clothing, sets his table plenteously, and his eyes, lips, and heart are filled with all manner of evil pleasures. And having stepped upon the threshold of his home, he says quickly to himself, “I am happy.”
But through the cracks seep sickness, suffering, poverty and death, and in one hour man’s palace of happiness crumbles and falls like the tower of Babylon.
Jesus Christ showed us another way to follow that leads to eternal blessedness on the other side of the grave. And this is the path of leading a true Christian life, which can only be achieved by completely changing our behavior. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to transfigure the face of the world; let us also transfigure our lives. Let us cast away hatred, anger, malice, fornication, falsehood, drunkenness, sloth, and all the other passions. Let us become new people, filled with love, kindness, and mercy; filled with the peace of a true Christian life.
And do we need to travel far for such a transfiguration of soul, to Mount Tabor in Galilee? Oh, no! That is too hard for us. Nevertheless the Savior has erected spiritual Tabors for us everywhere. These are the churches, and our own hearts. On these two divine altars, Jesus Christ always offers Himself as a sacrifice, is crucified, grants us Himself, overflowing with kindness, love, and divine light.
But God the Father has commanded us on Mount Tabor: This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him (cf. Matt. 17:5). In this way, if we want God to hear us, we have to hear Him. If we want God to change to mercy, let us also change to love and obedience… If we want Jesus Christ to hear us, let us hear Him also, when He teaches us.
A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. A little effort makes us partakers of grace. And it is hardest of all to change a man. Neither love, nor beatings, nor fear of death can make a man resolve to break forever with sin. All creatures obey their Creator with exactitude. They know the time of their coming in and going out, the time for food, the time for song and for silence. Only man wishes to live disobediently. The birds of the heavens understand each other without human voice. Without knowing how to read and without calendars, they know when they have to fly to warm countries. They gather together in good season, counsel amongst themselves, then say goodbye to their nests and are lost away in the azure distance.
A corn of wheat also knows its time. It begins to yellow in good season under the sun’s rays, then humbly bows its ears weighted with grain, and waits to be cut at the harvest. The forests even know when it is autumn and timely exchanges its green array for another, concentrated within itself. And only we, people, do not want to be transformed from our state, from our sinful life.
Jesus Christ is ready to give us everything we want, everything we need. But first He answers us thus: “Change yourselves, and I will change.” Let us put away anger, hatred and revenge, and He will also put away His anger against us. Live in oneness of mind and true love, and He will receive you in His love. Let us be merciful to the poor and wretched, and he will also work mercy with our souls. Let us reject all fornication and infanticide, and He will take away our sicknesses, poverty, and every tear from our eyes. Let us cast out of our hearts envy, falsehood, lust, drunkenness, and all sin, and He will give us rain in good season, sources of water, calm winds, peace in our homes, and bread on the table. And thus, put it aside, and I will put it aside; change, and I will change. Thus says the greatly merciful God to us.
Let us heed these words. Let us run to the holy church while we still have time. Let us pray in it with total faith and love. Let us change the garments of our souls through pure confession, the Holy Mysteries, and with much—as much as we can—mercy and love.
And if we shall live this way, then we can overcome all of life’s difficulties, all temptations of the flesh, all the devil’s suggestive whisperings. Then our prayer will be good and acceptable, our lives peaceful, and the end of our lives will be bright. And coming to church we will no longer return from it empty, but grace will come and abide in the chamber of our hearts, and we will be able then, filled with joy, to say together with Peter, Lord, it is good for us to be here! (Matt. 17:4).