Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Feast of the Transfiguration in the South

For all the things in Christian Godlore (theology) that the South gets right, there is one that she gets absolutely wrong, and that is the doctrine about man’s transfiguration/deification.  The Southern view is stated simply by Laurie Hibbett:

“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is now sung, North and South, as the ultimate paean of true American soul. “In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was bom across the sea, with a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me; as he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, as we go marching on”—(through Georgia?).

The Southerner, being from the Bible Belt, can’t help but know that men cannot be transfigured. The Transfiguration on the Holy Mount happened only to Jesus. The words of Mrs. Howe’s song, however, imply that crushing Southerners may have the same beatifying results on anyone game for the sport.

Here it is actually the Yankees who have the better ingoading (instinct).  Of course, their means of attaining transfiguration - committing atrocious war crimes against Dixie - is utterly false and evil, but at least they do acknowledge the possibility.

The shame and irony of this for the South is that it has tragic consequences for something she holds very dear:  the creation.  The goal of the Holy Trinity in creating the cosmos was to fill it with his Grace, His Uncreated Energies, that is, to unite it with Himself, with mankind acting as the key agent in that process.  Jesse Dominick bewords this beautifully in his essay on St Herman of Alaska:

 . . .

St. Herman and his missionary team set out in 1793 and arrived in Alaska in 1794. By the early 1800s, St. Herman was the only monk left of the initial ten, and he took up a hermit’s life on the eastern end of Spruce Island, which itself lies eleven miles northwest of Kodiak, across the channel.

This humble and wild island became holy in St. Herman’s time, and it remains holy to this day. Everything in the Orthodox faith is wholly centered on the Person of Christ, Who is both God and man. That is, Christ took on a physical, created nature. Accordingly, the Orthodox value creation and see its potential for bearing the grace of God. Icons are holy, church buildings are holy, the physical elements of the Sacraments are holy, bodies can be holy—and when the soul departs at death, the grace that was present in the saint and his surrounding environment does not suddenly depart.

Salvation is a cosmic affair in holy Orthodoxy. Adam and Eve were called to sanctify all of creation, though the Fall left that job up to Christ and His saints. And Spruce Island is a “picture perfect” example of this teaching. The island is home to St. Herman’s original resting place, it is home to St. Herman’s miraculous healing spring, it is home to a holy monastery, and much more.

St. Herman lived a strict life of asceticism—of prayer “without ceasing” (Thess. 5:17), of all-night vigils, of fasting, of selfless care of all who came to home, of self-emptying for the sake of being filled with Christ. And St. Herman became filled with Christ, and thus Spruce Island became holy.

Creation itself obeys the holy and is sanctified in their presence, as was true of Adam and Eve before their sin. This is why so many varied animals could live at peace together on Noah’s Ark—his righteousness made them all as lambs.

The same was true with St. Herman. The animals sensed Paradise within him and were tamed. He was friends with birds and bears and all manner of animals on the island. And what’s more, nature and the weather itself obeyed the ascetic, as is the case with one of his most “famous” miracles. When tremors forewarned the island natives of a coming tsunami, they instinctively ran to their holy father in the faith for help. St. Herman placed an icon of Mary, the Mother of God, on the shore and began to pray to God. He then told the natives to be calm, for the sea would not pass the spot where the holy icon had been placed. And so it happened. This place is known as “Icon Bay” to this day.

Environmentalists, some of whom essentially fall just short of worshiping creation, could have their entire lives changed by St. Herman of Alaska. Creation is healed and elevated by the holiness of man, and not his ideology-driven rallies and marches.

Such miracles as that described above have continued after St. Herman’s 1837 death. In 1842, he turned to calm a turbulent wind that had been preventing St. Innocent of Alaska’s boat from landing, by his prayerful intercessions. In 1907, a young girl, crippled from the age of two, began to walk after falling onto St. Herman’s grave and tearfully pouring her heart out to him. Likewise, a spring where St. Herman would draw water has become a fount of healings after his death.

 Miracles also flow from his original burial place in the nearby Church of Sts. Sergius and Herman of Valaam (and from his relics, which are now in Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak). Graves and relics—the remains of a saint—do not signify a morbid obsession with death, but quite the opposite. Relics show the believer, with eyes to see and ears to hear, the overflowing life that comes only from Jesus Christ. They are a slice of the Paradise we are meant to abide in.

 . . .

When we deny that man and the creation may be transfigured/deified, we turn them into utilitarian objects, a phenomenon we see in abundance today.

The desire to control other men and women will also appear at some point:

The great problem for the Church has always been how to deal with the world. The Orthodox view is to do our best to sanctify the world, suffering persecution and even martyrdom if necessary, submitting to martyrdom. The Western view has been to conquer and control the world: the result of this is the secularization of the Western ‘Church’ – their ‘Church’ has become the world.

As Fr Andrew has just hinted at above, we also put ourselves on the path toward atheism or some new idolatry.  For if there is no direct knowledge of God through oneness with His Grace, but only indirect knowledge through created intermediaries like the Bible or spoken words or sight-forms (visions), men and women will either reject the idea of God altogether or look for a god they can have some sure knowledge of.  Jay Dyer goes into more detail about this in a short video he posted here (about 17 minutes long):

The Feasts of our Lord Jesus Christ that have a special connection with the creation, like His Transfiguration (6 August) and His Baptism (6 January), ought to be amongst the most highly anticipated and festively celebrated all across the South.  That they are not speaks volumes about the shortcomings of her theology. 

The time for Dixie to leave the deformed theology of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism has come.  Only in the Orthodox Church will the South find the fulfilment of her traditional, agrarian customs.

Transfiguration hymns:

Apolytikion For the Forefeast. Mode 4.
O Faithful, prepare for the Transfiguration of Christ, * and joyously celebrate as we observe on this day * the Forefeast, and cry aloud: * Coming is the day of the divine exultation. * The Master is ascending the holy mountain of Tabor, * in order to shine with the beauty of His divinity.

Kontakion: Mode 4.
On this day of Christ's divine Transfiguration * human nature in advance splendidly shines with light divine, * and with great joy we all cry aloud, "Christ is transfigured in glory and saves us all."


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

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