The Transfiguration of the Material World – Part 2

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The transfiguration of the material world is not just a corollary of the doctrine of the Incarnation, but of the complete doctrine of salvation itself. Christ did not come and die, and rise again, only to make us better people. He came to make dead men live. He came to make a creation that is in the grip of death and decay become partakers of the incorruptible Life of heaven.

Orthodoxy is full of practical stories in which this transfiguration is seen to take place. The bodies of many of the saints show no signs of corruption (decay) centuries after death, despite the normal conditions for corruption. There is great devotion in the Church to the relics of these saints. Their incorrupt bodies, though not the resurrection itself, point towards something greater than the laws of nature where death is not having its complete way.

There are many stories as well of nature itself behaving in strange ways. Flowers blooming at the wrong time of year simply because they are in the presence of the Holy. Indeed, a nice Christmas story involves the “Glastonbury Thorn,” a rose which grows at the Abbey of Glastonbury in England that was always known to bloom at Christmas despite the contrary conditions. It was long a place of pilgrimage. I have no idea whether it still grows there or not.

For myself, my interest turns towards these many signposts – most of them small and relatively insignificant – that point to an order of nature that is not the order we know – but an order we do not know. It is an order that makes sense only if Christ is Lord and the Kingdom of God is even now breaking in on our world.

It’s as if the news of Narnia, that Winter is breaking and signs of Christmas have begun to be seen were being announced.

Every miracle, for me, stands in this category. Each one does not have to prove itself over and against all the contrary order. They happen when they should never happen. That they ever happen means that something is losing its grip and that something else is taking its place.

I have been part of miracles from time to time, and have benefitted from them, both for myself and for my family more than once. A Russian monk friend once said, “You Americans! You talk about miracles like you don’t believe in God!”

And he is probably right. We barely believe. But the inbreaking of the Kingdom continues to occur and all the powers of this age cannot hold it back.

The Kingdom of God is among us.

By the way, on the Orthodox calendar, it is my nameday, the feast of St. Stephen the Protomartyr. May he pray for us all and for the ministry of this blog!

11 Responses to “The Transfiguration of the Material World – Part 2”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    “For myself, my interest turns towards these many signposts – most of them small and relatively insignificant – that point to an order of nature that is not the order we know – but an order we do not know. It is an order that makes sense only if Christ is Lord and the Kingdom of God is even now breaking in on our world.”

    I’ve never thought of it exactly this way. But, you’re right. I look forward to the day when God now longer has to break into the world.

    Happy nameday, Father! Many years!!

  2. Michael Bauman Says:

    I had a friend many years ago who used to say that if you wanted to know the state of someone’s soul all you had to do was look at their car.

  3. dilys Says:

    “I look for the life of the world to come”!

    Happy Name Day, Fr. Stephen.

  4. ochlophobist Says:

    Many years!

  5. rdreusebios1 Says:

    Fr. Stephen,Father Bless!
    Many years to you on your name day. It seems to me that the holy protomartyr is already praying mightily for the worl of “Glory To God For All Things”
    Holy Protomartyr Stephen, pray to God for us.

  6. Michael Bauman Says:

    Fr. Michael Oleska tells the story of the funeral of Matushka Olga, a simple Matushka in the back country of Alaska. She died at a time of year when one usually had to be put into storage until spring to be buried. Nevertheless, there was a sudden thaw that not only allowed her grave to be dug, but for many people to come up river and down to help usher her into life eternal. As they processed from the Church to her grave, spring birds suddenly appeared. Singing they joined in the procession.

    Afterward everyone quickly returned home and the normal winter returned.

  7. Alice C. Linsley Says:

    When the Episcopal Bishop of Lexington, KY took over a local congregation to enforce his homosexual agenda, he placed a priest there who had left his wife and was having an adulterous affair. The bishop did not discipline him, but instead put him in charge of this parish knowing that the priest would do whatever the bishop said or be disciplined. On the first Sunday that the priest was to celebrate the Eucharist there was a terrible smell of death in the church. It was so bad that the windows were thrown open and incense was burned. The ladies of the altar guild tried burning candles and sprayed Lysol. An animal had died in the undercroft.

  8. Fatherstephen Says:

    Alice,

    It is interesting to me in a “sideways” sort of way, that the Episcopal Bishop of Lexington was a college classmate of mine. He was originally turned down for holy orders and went to law school. Later he was admitted Holy Orders and has been among the tougher of the liberals. I don’t know what one bears on the other. I’m just glad I’m not there, and I pray for any that are still under his leadership.

  9. Alice C. Linsley Says:

    He was my bishop and accused me of insubordination when I asked him to please return to the Truth of the Gospel so that God could use him in the Church. Many of us here have been burdened to pray for his soul. He is a wolf without pretense of sheep’s wool, and now the new Presiding Bishop has appointed him to the commission to investigate ways to legally go after dissenting parishes and dioceses. Lord, have mercy! May his end be more like Saul of Taursus than like King Saul, who went mad.

  10. Roland Says:

    When I visited Glastonbury in 1992, I saw two Glastonbury thorn trees. One is on the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey, near St. Patrick’s Chapel, where daily services are conducted. The other is towards the top of Wearyall Hill. The Puritans destroyed the original thorn tree, but they apparently didn’t get them all!

    According to legend, when St. Joseph of Arimathea planted his staff at Glastonbury it took root. Consistent with the legend, the Glastonbury thorn has been found to be of a Middle Eastern genus.

    In addition to flowering a second time every year at Christmas, it is said to flower in the presence of royalty. There is a Glastonbury thorn in front of the National Cathedral School here in DC. An alumna of my acquaintance swears that it bloomed when Prince Charles visited the cathedral!

  11. §§§ Raven §§§ Says:

    “”He is a wolf without pretense of sheep’s wool, and now the new Presiding Bishop has appointed him to the commission to investigate ways to legally go after dissenting parishes and dioceses. Lord, have mercy! May his end be more like Saul of Taursus than like King Saul, who went mad.””

    In order for Jesus to come, things have to get bad….
    So I look at such abominations not as a bad thing per se,
    but the precursor to something wonderful. I hope and pray
    He will return sooner than later.

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