The Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ is celebrated on August 6, in the middle of the Dormition Fast. On this day we celebrate our the transfiguration (or change in appearance) that occurred on top of Mount Tabor.
Jesus brought his disciples Peter, James, and John with him to the top of the mountain–the place where they would behold his glory. There he revealed himself to them shining in the uncreated light that radiated through him. Along with Christ, the disciples also saw Moses and Elijah, who had both encountered the glory of God atop mountains.
The disciples were dazzled and overcome with awe. Peter offered to build tents for them all in order to remain in the glory, but they were not to stay there. Instead the disciples fell face down and were lifted up by Christ, who was no longer transfigured. Christ charged them to tell no one of what they have seen.
It is after this point that Jesus begins to set his face toward Jerusalem in anticipation of his suffering, death, and resurrection. The hymnody of the Church tells us that Christ, in fact, showed his glory to the disciples so that they would understand his crucifixion was entirely voluntary. They would know that no human plan against Him could stand unless he so willed it.
The Kontakion says,
“On the Mountain You were Transfigured, O Christ God,
And Your disciples beheld Your glory as far as they could see it,
So that when they would behold You crucified,
They would understand that Your suffering was voluntary,
And would proclaim to the world that You are truly the Radiance of the Father!”
5 Ways to Celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration
1. Attend Divine Liturgy and Learn the Troparion
Attending the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Transfiguration may prove easier for many families, as it takes place during the (theoretically) less busy summer. My children especially enjoy attending this liturgy since they are able to eat grapes and other fruit afterward!
The troparion for the feast is:
“You were transfigured on the mountain, O Christ God,
Reavealing Your glory to Your disciples as far as they could bear it.
Let Your everlasting Light also shine upon us sinners,
Through the prayers of the Theotokos,
O Giver of Light, glory to You!”
2. Bring in Grapes or Other Fruits to be Blessed
Many churches have the tradition of bringing in grapes and other fruits to be blessed on the Feast of the Transfiguration. If your church does this, go to the farmer’s market or grocery store as a family and pick out several varieties of grapes. Place them in a lovely basket and bring them along to liturgy.
3. Read about Moses and Elijah
Two Old Testament figures play a prominent role in this feast. So, it is a good time to read about Moses and Elijah and their mountaintop experiences. Read and talk with your child about Moses’s journey up Mt. Sinai to receive the Law–including the commandments written by the very hand of God. You can point out that Moses was surrounded by a great cloud, that the Israelites heard the sound of thunder, and that Moses’s face glowed when he came back down the mountain.
Then discuss Elijah’s “prayer battle” with the prophets of Baal on the top of Mt. Carmel. Point out that God answered Elijah’s prayer by raining down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. In both of the stories, people of faith met God on a mountain, God demonstrated his power, and light was involved. Discuss the similarities with the Feast of the Transfiguration.
4. Discussion on the Glory of God
The Feast of the Transfiguration is a good time to talk about the Glory of God. There are many times in Scripture when God is compared with, referred to, or depicted as light. You can bring up examples such as:
-the smoking fire pot that came down when God made a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15)
-the pillar of fire that accompanied the Israelites on their journey through the desert (Exodus 13)
-the cloud and glory that came upon the tabernacle of the Lord (Exodus 40)
-the fire that consumed the sacrifices (Leviticus 9)
-Moses’s face shining after meeting with the Lord (Exodus 34)
-fire consuming the sacrifice Elijah placed on the altar on Mt. Carmel (3 Kingdoms 18)
-many, many more!
You can also mention that there are stories of saints whose faces reflected the radiance of God during or after prayer.
5. Make a Special Meal
Food always makes things more fun! Though the feast is in the middle of the Dormition Fast, fish and wine are permitted by most jurisdictions. Grill some salmon, make a salad, and eat the fruit that was blessed at church. Have a simple but celebratory meal together as a family.
May our lives be changed to reflect the Glory of our Lord!
How does your family celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration?