Saturday, August 6, 2016

Maximos The Confessor on the Transfiguration

Maximos here gives a beautiful explanation of the event and theological significance of the Transfiguration. Interesting enough, St Maximos gives a similar exegesis with Origen, both explaining that the garments of Christ became dazzling white, symbolising the words of Holy Scripture, showing thus the importance of the logos and Logos.

‘Thus…it happened that certain of Christ’s disciples, through diligence in virtue, ascended and were raised aloft with Him on the mountain of His manifestation, where they beheld Him transfigured, unapproachable by reason of the light of His face, and astonishing in the brightness of his garments; and having observed His appearance made more august by the honour of Moses and Elijah standing at either side of Him, they crossed over from the flesh to the spirit, prior to having cast off carnal life, through the substitution of their powers of sense perception by the activity of the Spirit, who removed the veils of the passions that had covered the intellective capacity within them. With the sensory organs of their souls and bodies purified through the Spirit, they were initiated into the spiritual principles of the mysteries that had been disclosed to them.
They were taught, in a hidden way, that the wholly blessed radiance that shone with dazzling rays of light from the Lord’s face, completely overwhelming the power of their eyes, was a symbol of His divinity, which transcends intellect, sensation, being, and knowledge. From the observation that He had neither form nor beauty (Is 53:2), and from the knowledge that the Word had become flesh (Jn 1:14) they were led to the understanding of Him as one more beautiful that the sons of men (Ps 44(45): 2), who was in the beginning and was with God, and was God (Jn 1:1) and, by means of theological negation that extols Him as being beyond all human comprehension, they were raised up cognitively to the glory of the only-begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14). They were also taught that the garments, which became dazzling white (cf. Mt 17:2; Mk 9:3; Lk 9:29) convey a symbol: first of the words of Holy Scripture, which at the moment became bright, clear, and transparent to them, grasped by the intellect without any dark riddles or symbolic shadows, and pointing to the meaning (logos) that lay concealed within them (at which point the disciples received the perfect and correct knowledge of God, and were set free from every attachment to the world and the flesh); and, second, of creation itself – stripped of the soiled preconceptions of those who till then believed they saw it clearly, but who in fact were deceived and bound to sense perception alone – now appearing in the variety of the different forms that constitute it, all declaring the power of the Creator Word, in the same way that a garment makes known the dignity of the one who wears it.
For both of these interpretations are appropriate for the Word, because in both cases He has been rightly covered with obscurity for our sake, so that we should not dare to approach unworthily what is beyond our comprehension, namely, the words of Holy Scripture, for He is the Word; or creation, for He is the creator, fashioner, and artisan. From this it follows that whoever wishes blamelessly to walk the straight road to God, stands in need of both the inherent spiritual knowledge of Scripture, and the natural contemplation of beings according to the spirit. In this way, anyone who desires to become a perfect lover of perfect wisdom will be able to show what is only reasonable, namely, that the two laws – the natural and the written – are of equal value and equal dignity, that both of them reciprocally teach the same things, and that neither is superior or inferior to the other.’[1]

[1] Maximos the Confessor, Ambiguum 10, ed. And trans. Nicholas Constas, On Difficulties in the Church Fathers: The Ambigua [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014], 190-95.

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