“You were transfigured upon the mount, O Christ our God, and Your disciples, in so far as they could bear, beheld Your glory. Thus, when they see You crucified, they may understand Your voluntary passion, and proclaim to the world that You are truly the radiance of the Father.” (Kontakion of the Feast of the Transfiguration)
The Transfiguration of Christ is the feast of the uncreated light; the feast that reveals Christ’s glory. It also reveals the potential we have to be partakers of the divine nature of Christ (2 Peter 1:4). Traditionally grapes are taken to church on this day. They are blessed and eaten after Divine Liturgy (Mass). This reminds us that through Jesus Christ, the fruit of our labors can be transfigured into wine; into the blood of Christ. We are reminded that ultimately, all of creation will be transfigured in glory in the Heavenly Kingdom.
The Transfiguration is on the calendar 40 days before the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (Sept. 14). So we too, like the apostles, can see the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ before we see His cross. This also serves as a reminder that we need to fall down before His glory, we need to allow the time to draw nearer to God, allow Him to fill us up with his life so we can have the strength to carry our crosses.
So what does this mean in our daily lives? This is one example of what it has meant in mine.
I recently had a one day retreat. I was in desperate need of time away from the house; time away from the stress, the noise and everyone that lives in my house. I know that’s not nice, but it’s the truth. Because we homeschool, we are together all of the time—every hour, every minute, of every day! With eight children someone always needs me and time that is quiet and alone is a luxury. Most of the time this is beautiful chaos but some days…it just isn’t. Vespers at church or quiet prayer time are often what I need. Usually a date night, or even just a trip to town alone helps. I look forward to weekly communion-bread baking that usually happens late at night once all the littles have long been dreaming. It’s my quiet time with God.
This time, I knew none of that would be enough. I was feeling weighed down by the responsibilities in my life and the everyday difficulties we each encounter. Tensions were building and I was getting snappy and irritated with everyone (I know it is time to hit reset when this starts happening). So I went to stay a night at the monastery near my home. There, I was up super late praying and writing. I definitely got out all I needed to say to God and was able to be still and listen to Him. I thoroughly soaked up the silence and I allowed God to fill me with His presence. It’s so beautiful to just rest in His light and simply enjoy being with Him. It’s amazing how everything is made clear when sitting on top of Mount Tabor. “Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’” (Mt. 17:1-4)
I know why the apostles did not want to leave the mountain after the Transfiguration of our Lord. Just like St. Peter, I would want to build tents and stay there forever, but we never get to stay on the mountain too long.
At home I am responsible for the physical and spiritual care of my family. I oversee my household, taking care of shopping, cooking, paying bills; I teach the kids school lessons, I referee, give encouragement, call everyone to prayer, and do all that we moms and wives do. My husband helps, and has his own set of responsibilities. Together we are busy with the demands of physically and spiritually raising eight children, building our own marriage, and our own relationships with God. Thankfully there are monasteries to provide hospitality and a place of refuge when needed.
While on retreat it was so nice to be cared for instead of giving care. Offers of cappuccinos in a cozy kitchen were accompanied by gentle and non-prodding smiles in the halls. A clean comfortable room and bed; meals cooked by someone else; prayer time that meant I had only to walk over to chapel and soak up the words from someone else’s lips. I didn’t sit down with anyone for spiritual direction, but knowing it was available was a comfort.
I rested a lot. I didn’t even get up for Matins. I heard the symatron being beaten and decided to fall back to sleep. So I dreamed with the sound of the monks chanting going on in the background (they have a speaker system throughout the building so you can hear what is going on in the chapel). I didn’t get up for breakfast, either. I finally came down just before the 6th hour and lunch. Then I did some more writing (in peace and quiet) and was called, by the beating of the board, to the 9th hour. There were 20 lovely minutes of the Jesus prayer in silence then Vespers. Dinner followed. It’s funny how enjoyable a meal can be when you’re not making it! Meals are served in silence while one of the monks reads a spiritual book aloud. Then, while others cleaned up after the meal, I enjoyed some light conversation before I headed home.
Receiving all of this hospitality from the monks filled me with love and gratitude towards them. This also pointed my gaze to the care I receive from my husband and my heavenly Father. Making me see how often I take for granted the love I receive daily. Equally important, the hospitality I received made me reflect on the love and care that I give, making me understand even more the significance of my own jobs. I was able to see God and His glory in my daily life when reflecting on it from the high perch of prayer and silence. Being on retreat allowed me to gather up my strength again to continue fighting the good fight and be renewed in my own vocation as wife and mother.
I have learned many lessons from the monks over the years about building a holy home. I am sure they do not realize how much their normal activity witnesses to visitors. Lessons like the gift and importance of hospitality, silence, a daily schedule, simplicity, spiritual friendship and being available to my family and friends. Most importantly, I have learned the necessity of prayer and working on my relationship with God and passing that knowledge on to my children, especially by example.
Those of us with families or concerns in the world need time away with God. We cannot live up to the demands of our vocations if we have nowhere to draw our strength from. Prayer is that well of strength. And we need to take the time daily and for longer periods every now and again to draw deeply from that well.
Next time you are feeling weary and are thinking of a vacation, go on retreat. Forget the beach, or wherever the hot vacation destination is—go on retreat! If you’re married, go together. Several months back, Manny and I had a few days away and it was wonderful. No rushing, no running around, we had time to pray, read and rest in quiet. If you can’t get away for long, plan a day retreat. Get together with some other friends and spend time in prayer. Take turns with other families babysitting, so you can have quiet time with God. Go to the chapel in town for a few hours. Organize a retreat at your parish. Most importantly strive for daily prayer. And if you can, visit Holy Resurrection Monastery…it’s a bit of heaven.