Transfiguration Day for the Eastern Churches

Heat over Israel. The Holy Land is too warm, overheated. Other countries also suffer from fires and heat like the Russian Federation and the nearby republics, in particular Ukraine and Belarus. Chernobyl is about to be imperiled and what may happen in the forests there and the atomic center? Heat is also present in other parts of the world, with awful floods in Pakistan, more precisely in Kashmir and millions of people may die. International assistance is missing there. Numerous children and women may die while men are unemployed and have no prospects for their lives.

It is clear that mankind is at pain with life and death. It seems that we always prefer to choose the line leading to death. 65 years ago, on the Western style and calendar 6th of August 1945, the first atomic bomb exploded and covered Hiroshima, then later on Nagasaki, killing and injuring thousands of inhabitants. This happened in a strange way. Was it necessary to reach such a killing decision to cast an atomic bomb and use atomic power for the first time in history? History will have to understand how strong forces of inhumane killing pulsions came to such a point of extravagancy and total lack of conscience.

This happened less than a century ago. There is one point which always struck me profoundly. Many renowned scientists, great men of knowledge and somhow of “ethical reflection” participated in the making of the atomic project and bomb. J. Robert Oppenheimer and R. Bernstein, but also numerous German, American, international scientists have worked on a material that can help the humans. They chose death and make a weapon. This is quite difficult to judge because of the weird situation of the world at that time.

On the other hand, the bomb was created in a Trinity center, i.e. under the very Christian name of the most secret plenitude of God’s Presence in the world that He created. Then, the bomb was launched on Hiroshima on the festive eschatological day of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ.

The event is usually, traditionally speaking located on Mount Tabor in the North of Israel; it i high mountain from which it is possible to see very far and reach to the limits of the Eretz Israel/Land of Israel. The word “Tibburטיבור” means “navel” “belly point” in Hebrew and has at the present two spaces: one Greek Orthodox monastery at the top entrance and a Roman Catholic church on the other side. Other accounts consider that the event took place in Jerusalem, at the Mount of Olives. Many authors and traditions love to depict all the spiritual events as typical local Jerusalemite occurances.

In the Eastern tradition, we have many icons showing the scenery: Jesus standing in the middle of the icon, Moses on the left and Prophet Elijah on the right; below, the disciples and apostles, those that Jesus will send to annouce redemption to all the nations. The disciples sleep and ahrdly can wake up, they are supposedly seven, but Jesus will call Peter (Shimon-Caiphas) and Yaakov-James and John. The viison of the three is reported as a “flash”, a glimpse, it lasts a second: this flash is very important: from Moses at Mount Sinai to Elijah the Tishbi, the great Prophet who did not die but rose to heaven on the chariot of glory (merkavahמרכבה). Peter, as always is seemingly awkward and would suggest to build three tents (sukkotסוכות) as at the eschatological all-encompassing feast of the Booths (autumnal days). A time of full recollecting of human history, from the inception and creation of the Universe till the end of all times and history and the coming of the Savior, both for Judaism and for Christendom.

In a flash, Jesus shone brighter than any white and pure light, which is considered as the end of time blessed vision of “eternal life and full resurrection”. In Greek “metamorphosis” gave the Latin and English word. “Human shape and image = morphe” is changed to the full = “meta”. In Hebrew, God said that He created the Adam in His Image and Likeness (“betzalmo uvdemûtoבצלמו ובדמותו”). The words for “Image” means “full shape”, today “photograph”, “picture”. It has to deal with the total shape of a person. “Transfiguration” in Hebrew does not exist as such; there is no real word, excpet that the Church suggested “hishtanenût = over-changing”. Hebrew “tzelemצלם” implies the full mutation of being as a human being can be “taken” into a “shot” and be stored in memory, be memorized.

This just-a-second event is very striking because the “wide scope of eternity” appeared in a flash, the time of a simple flash. At this moment, according to the Gospel, only Jesus remained and Moses together Elijah disappeared from the vision received by the disciples. A one-second hope for hope beyond hope and resurrection, life to the fullest.

Jesus told the disciples not to say a word about the vision and adds that he is going to suffer, be betrayed, cheated, condemned, mocked and then he will rise from the dead.

It is a terrible thing that the humans and the American and Allied governments decided to launched this atomic blow and cloud on such a festive day of glory. From these days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (08/09/1945), human faces changed and did not shine the same way.

We see how pictures, films, shots, takes, photographs can store our memories and keep them alive even it they grow old overtime. On the other hand, we are obsessed by our own “selves” and image, images that we can change, mutate, mix-up, “avatarize” without giving any sort of spiritual prospects such as the light of life. Photographs can be “icons”. The Russian faithful use to pick some photographs of beloved departed or renowned personalities on their icon wall. This is not a Greek tradition. The jews do have something like that at the moment, though it was not accepted traditonally and show photographs of the righteous.

On August 19th, the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem and all old-calendar Orthodox Oriental Churches celebrate this event. We make huge collections of photographs as objects of self-mirroring “worship” or “adoration”.

The Transfiguration has more in the Semitic tradition: Hebrew “hitshanenutהתשננות” may suggest a “change (from the reality)” that leads us to get rid of all turbulences and turmoil.

av aleksandr in South African Blog “Cradle of the World/Wieg van die Wêreld” (“”)

August 19/6, 2010 – 9 Ellul 5770 – 9 RamaDhaan 1431

Hiroshima day

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