Sunday, August 17, 2008
THE SECOND SPAS — THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
As August continues, the church calendar brings to our attention another “spas,” another opportunity to experience the “energies” of God that lead us to salvation.
The feast of the Transfiguration has a particularly theological nature, and has been used by Byzantine theologians to illustrate the divine essence that is present in the historic Jesus. St. Gregory Palamas, St. Simeon the New Theologian and others of the late-Byzantine period, would ultimately conclude that because Jesus was able, in his earthly, human state, to display the light of his divine glory, so too, all humankind can strive to “clothe themselves in the light of God” (divinization). This is done by living lives worthy of God’s presence — lives which make use of God’s energies that are constantly made available to us.
Palamas made a distinction between God's "uncreated energy" and "created energies." The "uncreated energy" - refers to God's pre-eternal essence which is the "very life of God" and belongs solely to God. The believer, whose ultimate desire is to become "one with God" (theosis), experiences the uncreated energy of God especially through the enlightenment which comes from participation in the sacraments (mysteries) of the church.
The "created energies" - those many times and ways in which God "breaks through" to humanity, channeling grace to the individual are experienced in many different forms. They are those inspiring and often life-altering moments when we hear God's voice as he speaks to us.
This latter form of "created energy" is often referred to in Western thought as "actual grace" while the former (uncreated energy) is called "sanctifying grace."
Quite often, God's created energies are channeled through others, who may offer us a healing word or be a blessing to us in some way, when we need it most. God's inspiring energies might also come from our experience of the beauty of nature or of the discoveries of science. They can come from the church's liturgy and through prayer, in our dialogue with the Savior through which there is an outpouring of his energy.
Being recipients of God's energies, we have an obligation to be channels of them to those whom God places in our lives. All things happen for a reason. The opportunities God gives to us - the possibilities for personal spiritual growth, the ability to make changes in the name of justice and truth and the attainment of a higher level of self-fulfillment - these are ways in which we can release God's energy into the world around us. If we do so, God will deem us to be good stewards of the graces he so freely bestows upon his people.
As a reminder of these opportunities and the need to put them to good use, the liturgy uses blessings and ceremonies. They keep before our minds, the need to use all that is good for the good and all that is holy for holy purposes. Therefore, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, the church sanctifies apples and other fruits, in thanks for the rich harvest – the many good energies, spiritual and material, that the Savior gives to us. Truly, our world can be transfigured by the energy of God.