This past Sunday we blessed fruits of the season in celebration of our praznyk, the Transfiguration, and this weekend we bless flowers and herbs, remembering the death of the Mother of God: Uspennia. Every year the blessed produce of the earth calls us to revisit our perception: how we see—ourselves, our world, each other. The gospels teach us that the world is transfigured through Christ. As Christians, as Ukrainian Catholics, as members of our parish, our tradition points to the sanctity of all creation. We’ve said that we are a transfigured community—coming together for our liturgies to strengthen our desire to be light in our world. On Mt Tabor, the disciples saw their friend illuminated in divine light: Jesus the Christ of the Triune God. In time they recognized and recorded that we too must strive to live in the dazzling reality that God is in us and in everything around us.
Dare I let this fact transform me? Dare I deny it?
Perhaps the most difficult barrier to my transfiguration is letting myself believe that I, with all my faults, insecurities, and secrets, have God in me—whether I like it or not. I am (you are) loved—whether or not I choose to acknowledge it. Transfiguration comes to us when we consciously choose to see, to live, through love—Christ-like love: not romantic sentimentalism, but the essential life force of creation. When I let myself feel integrally loved, I glimpse the transfigured world: God’s love in everything connecting everything, without exception.
To see through Christ’s eyes, we see the miracle of fruit, of sustenance; we see the healing power of flowers and herbs, we see the peaceful end of a loving life as sleep before a new awakening. A transfigured perception can’t turn away from its connections. To see as Christ did is to reject learned prejudices that obscure what we might encounter before us. Transfigured sight sees the plight of Afghani people; hears the lament of Haitians, recognizes the loss of indigenous lives, grieves the degradation of the environment and stands with women, abused at work and at home.
Transfigured sight isn’t blinded by despair or deluded by conspiracies or pious hope. Transfigured sight looks for Christ, for Love, within oneself, and finding love generates strength and confidence to oppose what is wrong and takes action for justice in whatever steps are possible.
The martyrs depicted on our new icon were ordinary people who lived their regular daily lives as best they could. They found themselves in circumstances of extraordinary cruelty, violence, and inhumanity, yet they managed to live in the light of the Transfiguration, being an oasis of love even for their captors. In times of suffering and terror, we often wonder why God has abandoned us. Yet, just as Christ walked with the most unwelcome of his culture and religion, God remains with us and in us. We can strive to see reality transfigured and become one with it. We can carry the blessed flowers and herbs of Uspennia (Dormition) with us throughout life so that our existence becomes a source of beauty and healing.
“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”
These feast days of sharing fruits and flowers, carry a spirit of contrasting realities: fear/hope, life/death, joy/sorrow, earth/heaven. As we end another COVID praznyk, I hope we have garnered some strength from each other to enable us to continue caring, sharing, and loving. We are in a time of COVID exhaustion, climate disaster, social inequality, and global terror. May our community of transfiguration generate love and energy to hold the tensions of today with positive action towards justice and peace.
“Thanks to God and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19. They grant us the hope of ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we work together. Being vaccinated with vaccines authorised by the competent authorities is an act of love. And contributing to ensure the majority of people are vaccinated is an act of love. Love for oneself, love for one’s family and friends, love for all people.”
Pope Francis Aug. 20, 2021