From the Synaxarion:
On August 6 in the Holy Orthodox Church, we commemorate the divine Transfiguration of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Tabor was glorified above earth’s every region
When it looked upon God’s nature shining in glory.
On the sixth Christ transformed His form as a man.
This glorious event is recorded in the Gospels of Mark (9:2-13), Luke (9:28-36 in Orthros) and Matthew (17:1-9 in Liturgy). In the third year of His preaching, the Lord Jesus often spoke to His disciples of His approaching passion and His glorious Resurrection. So that His impending passion would not totally weaken His disciples, the All-wise Savior wanted to show them His divine glory before His passion on the Holy Cross. (This is why we sing the Katavasias of the Holy Cross on this day.) For that reason, He took Peter, James and John with Him and went out at night to Mount Tabor. The Lord took only three disciples on Tabor because the Lord did not want to leave the unworthy Judas alone at the foot of the mountain so that the betrayer would not, by that, justify his betrayal. Our Lord was transfigured on a mountain and not in a valley to teach us two virtues: love of labor and godly-thoughts. For, climbing to the heights required labor and height represents the heights of our thoughts, i.e., godly-thoughts. Moses and Elijah appeared in order to destroy the erroneous thought of the Jews that the Christ is one of the prophets; that is why He appears as a King above the prophets and that is why Moses and Elijah appear as His servants. Until then, our Lord manifested His divine power many times to the disciples but, on Mount Tabor, He manifested His divine nature. This vision of His Divinity and the hearing of the heavenly witness about Him as the Son of God would serve the disciples in the days of the Lord’s passion, in strengthening of an unwavering faith in Him and His final victory.
Unto Christ God be glory and dominion unto the ages. Amen.
Below is a beautiful piece of writing on the essential quality of the monastic life. It is from the website of the Holy Monastery of St. Paisius in Safford, Arizona.
BEHIND THE VISIBLE LIFE of the monastery is an invisible life of interior prayer that the monastic considers to be her deepest calling. Through such interior prayer, coupled with constant self-denial and ascetic labor, the monastic seeks to become near and like unto Christ. From her isolated cell, in daily prayer and repentance, the monastic seeks to meet Christ, to become united with Him, and to thereby allow her heart to be purified and enlarged with Christ’s all-embracing love. Only then can the monastic love her fellow man as Christ loves us all.
Accepting the fire of holy love, however, is sobering and exacting labor, accompanied by many tears. There are no guarantees (and often no outward indications) of “success.” It requires painful self-transformation to humble oneself and shed the outer shell of our nature (our jealousies, resentments, prideful aspirations, and the like) in order to find our true nature in Christ and become new creations. Indeed, only by allowing one’s heart to be humbled and enkindled by Divine Love can one be overtaken by Christ-like compassion and co-suffer with all who suffer in the world. The humbled heart enlarged by God’s love cannot bear to see any harm come to anyone, and thus it prays for everyone and is prepared, like Moses, to be erased from the book of life or, like the Apostle Paul, to be exiled from the Kingdom of God, even for the most grievous sinner or worst enemy. As St. Silouan said: “The monk is one who prays for the whole world…” That is the monastic calling; and that calling is worked out in the isolation of the monastic’s cell where, apart from the world, the monastic sees herself as she really is, with all her faults and passions and without the mediating factor of friends or family or success or recognition to tell her that she is important or good or righteous. The monastic chooses the life of obscurity and insignificance to crucify the ego. By dying to oneself, the heart is humbled and finds humanity. By withdrawing from the world, one is united with the world by being able to see oneself in all sinners. By crucifying one’s self-love, one finds one’s true self and can see others more clearly.
Strangely, then, it is from the monastic’s isolated cell and withdrawal from the world that she seeks to accomplish unity with the world. As St. Nilus wrote, a monastic is one who, withdrawing from all men, is united with all men. A monastic separates from people in order to learn to love them with complete and true love, which is inextricably bound up with perfect love of God.
The ascetic struggle begins by leaving the world so that the monastic can keep watch over herself more readily—away from the distractions of the world. It is there, in the quiet of solitude, that one can converse undisturbed with Christ, in prayer and contemplation, and can thus press toward complete victory over one’s passions.
You can visit the monastery’s gift shop here.
(Source) Schema-nun Sepphora, in the world Daria Nicholaevna Shnyakina (nee Senyakina) was an Orthodox ascetic and eldress. She was born in 1896, and desired from her early years to dedicate herself to God in monasticism, but due to her father’s early death she was compelled by her mother to marry in order to help support the family. Darya did not wish to disobey her mother. She went through many trials during the much-suffering twentieth century—“raskulachivanie”, or the confiscation of all property by the soviet authorities, famine, war, and persecution against the faithful. In 1967 she received the monastic tonsure in the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, but she continued to live in the world. Her move to Klykovo was foretold to her in 1993, when the monastery was just being built, and no one knew about its existence. Schema-nun Sepphora reposed in the Lord at age 102 in Klykovo Monastery. Many people had found a in her a spiritual mother, consoler, and witness to faith in Christ.
Excerpt from Julia Posashko’s interview with Igumen Mikhail (Semenov):
Igumen Mikhail: …We had to restore the church having no money whatsoever for it—not a cent. So we went to ask the prayers of Schema-nun Sepphora.
How does one take a blessing from a woman?
Igumen Mikhail: Schema-nun Sepphora was waiting for us. It just so happens that in 1993, when Matushka prayed to the Mother of God to show her where she would end her days, the Heavenly Queen appeared to her and said, “Wait—the priests will come from Klykovo Monastery to take you there.” She waited for two years. At first there simply was nowhere to take her. We ourselves were living in very bad conditions here; we were building a building, and when we met her in 1995 it was half completed. Matushka starting hurrying us. “Build it faster, I am going to live with you.” We did what we could to finish the building and just before Christmas of 1996 we brought her here.
How did you meet Schema-nun Sepphora?
Igumen Mikhail: We met her in Optina. I had been there a month when one day I heard that an eldress had arrived, and everyone had a high opinion of her. They said that she was spiritual, clairvoyant, and a great woman of prayer… Naturally everyone was trying to see her; many of us had only begun the religious life, and we all had a great many questions. Well, I also went to see her. I was told, “Forget it! There are abbots waiting in line to see her. You won’t get in!” On the first night I did not get in, and I resigned myself to the probability that I would not see her. However, the next day I was leaving the Church of the Entrance of the Mother of God, and a laborer said to me, “Look, they are taking Matushka. Let’s go and get her blessing!” I thought, how does one get a blessing from a woman, and what is going on? But then I saw her blessing each person carefully with three fingers. I went up to her; she made the sign of the cross over me and asked, “Who are you?” I said, Sergei. She said with surprise, “And what are you doing here?” I said, “I am laboring in the steward’s department, helping the fathers.” She was silent, and then said, “But you and I are going to live together.” Her cell attendant whispered to me, “Listen to what Matushka says to you, she is an eldress!” We stood for a bit, were silent, and then Matushka Sepphora patted me on the shoulder. “Well, run on, run on for now!” I of course walked away perplexed. Where are she and I supposed to live together? Then I just put it out of my head. I remembered that conversation only when we were bringing Matushka here to Klykovo. She lived in our monastery until her death. We do not do anything to “advertise” Schema-nun Sepphora. It all happens by itself. People know her, and she really does help people. Some people told me, for example, that she stood during an operation next to one woman… The Hermitage of the Savior “Made Without Hands” in the village of Klykovo.
But isn’t there a certain spiritual danger in people always coming to the monastery, to her relics, to pray by the grave of the eldress not because they are seeking God, but only to solve their problems of everyday life?
Igumen Mikhail: Yes, often people have a poor understanding of God, but when they come up against an obvious miracle from a specific saint it strengthens their faith. After that, God looks for action from a person. But in order to light the flame in him a miracle is often needed. He is smart enough to turn to one or another saint and prays, and the miracle happens. It is a little push, and the person begins his first spiritual steps. He may not receive the same “advance pay” the second or third time—you can’t deceive God.
Did you have such a launching point?
Igumen Mikhail: I did not seek out miracles, and it was not my goal to pray one out. I simply lived my life with the thought that I wanted the Lord to do what was necessary in me. My sole desire was to learn from people of holy life. The Lord aided me in this—I knew many elders.
*A nun’s head-covering
Antigonus and his wife Eupraxia were pious and bestowed generous alms on the destitute. A daughter was born to them, whom they also named Eupraxia. Antigonos soon died, and the mother withdrew from the imperial court. She went with her daughter to Egypt, on the pretext of inspecting her properties. Near the Thebaid there was a women’s monastery with a strict monastic rule. The life of the inhabitants attracted the pious widow. She wanted to bestow aid on this monastery, but the abbess Theophila refused and said that the nuns had fully devoted themselves to God and that they did not wish the acquisition of any earthly riches. The abbess consented to accept only candles, incense and oil.
The younger Eupraxia was seven years old at this time. She liked the monastic way of life and she decided to remain at the monastery. Her pious mother did not stand in the way of her daughter’s wish. Taking leave of her daughter at the monastery, Eupraxia asked her daughter to be humble, never to dwell upon her noble descent, and to serve God and her sisters.
In a short while the mother died. Having learned of her death, the emperor St Theodosius sent St Eupraxia the Younger a letter in which he reminded her that her parents had betrothed her to the son of a certain senator, intending that she marry him when she reached age fifteen. The Emperor desired that she honor the commitment made by her parents. In reply, St Eupraxia wrote to the emperor that she had already become a bride of Christ, and she requested of the emperor to dispose of her properties, distributing the proceeds for the use of the Church and the needy.
St Eupraxia, when she reached the age of maturity, intensified her ascetic efforts all the more. At first she partook of food once a day, then after two days, three days, and finally, once a week. She combined her fasting with the fulfilling of all her monastic obediences. She toiled humbly in the kitchen, she washed dishes, she swept the premises and served the sisters with zeal and love. The sisters also loved the humble Eupraxia. But one of them envied her and explained away all her efforts as a desire for glory. This sister began to trouble and to reproach her, but the holy virgin did not answer her back, and instead humbly asked forgiveness.
The Enemy of the human race caused the saint much misfortune. Once,while getting water, she fell into the well, and the sisters pulled her out. Another time, St Eupraxia was chopping wood for the kitchen, and cut herself on the leg with an axe. When she carried an armload of wood up the ladder, she stepped on the hem of her garment. She fell, and a sharp splinter cut her near the eyes. All these woes St Eupraxia endured with patience, and when they asked her to rest, she would not consent.
For her efforts, the Lord granted St Eupraxia a gift of wonderworking. Through her prayers she healed a deaf and dumb crippled child, and she delivered a demon-possessed woman from infirmity. They began to bring the sick for healing to the monastery. The holy virgin humbled herself all the more, counting herself as least among the sisters. Before the death of St Eupraxia, the abbess had a vision. The holy virgin was transported into a splendid palace, and stood before the Throne of the Lord, surrounded by holy angels. The All-Pure Virgin showed St Eupraxia around the luminous chamber and said that She had made it ready for her, and that she would come into this habitation after ten days.
The abbess and the sisters wept bitterly, not wanting to lose St Eupraxia. The saint herself, in learning about the vision, wept because she was not prepared for death. She asked the abbess to pray that the Lord would grant her one year more for repentance. The abbess consoled St Eupraxia and said that the Lord would grant her His great mercy. Suddenly St Eupraxia sensed herself not well, and having sickened, she soon peacefully died at the age of thirty.
So we couldn’t help but mention an amazing “coincidence”! Who would have thought a few months after we published Voyage to the Rock we’d be reading this headline: Crucifix unearthed in Ferryland after 400 years underground. For those of you who don’t know – and I would assume that is most of you out there – Ferryland is in Newfoundland and is one of the earliest British settlements in North America, established in 1621.
It wasn’t Martin who made the discovery this time, but it was a young student archaeologist only TWO WEEKS into her dig! Unlike Martin’s bronze cross, this crucifix was made of copper (and much smaller!).
What’s even more amazing is that we, the founders of Lumination Press, in April of this year stood at the very spot where this student made her discovery 2 months later! I (Fr Matthew) even made my own discovery! It wasn’t a bronze or copper cross, but on Bright Tuesday I found amid a reconstructed early forge at the site a shiny, foil-wrapped chocolate Easter egg!
And we thought that was a funny coincidence. What if we’d kicked around some of the loose dirt and soil at our own feet? You might be reading about us instead of this happy student archaeologist!