Sunday, September 27, 2020

Mount Tabor & The Transfiguration of Christ

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Since on Monday, August 6, we are celebrating the great feast of the Transfiguration of our Savior (Η Μεταμόρφωσις του Σωτήρος), I thought I’d share something regarding Mount Tabor in the Holy Land, the site of this great event. What happened with the Transfiguration is that Christ took three of His Apostles-  Saints Peter, James, and John – and revealed the glory of His Divinity to them in the presence as well of the Prophets Moses and Elias. His face shone like the sun and his clothing became white as light, white as snow. Christ exposed the Apostles to the uncreated light of God, which He Himself possesses as God. This light is a light far stronger than the light of the sun and is something divine, not created. This is a light that so many of our Saints have experienced, including Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, and the modern-day Saint Seraphim of Sarov who lived in the 18th-19th century in Russia.


The traditional site of our Saviour’s Transfiguration, Mount Tabor is an isolated dome-shaped mountain in eastern lower Galilee. It has been a site of Christian worship from the earliest times, following the example of our Lord Who “went up into [this] mountain to pray” (St. Luke 9:28). A web of catacombs recently discovered under the courtyard and church of the Orthodox contains a chapel with a 3rd-century Holy Table and other important artifacts. Archaeologists surmise that these caves also served as a hiding place during persecutions. In the 4th century a church was built on Mount Tabor, and two more were built in the 5th century. Pilgrims and monastics flocked to the hallowed mountain, and over the centuries several small monasteries existed at the summit. When the Moslems recaptured the area in the 13th century, they destroyed all the Christian buildings and built a fortress over some of the ruins. In the mid-19th century Christians were permitted to rebuild. On the northern section of the summit the Roman Catholics built a monastery, and later, a hostel and Byzantine-style basilica. In 1862, on the southern portion of the summit, the Orthodox built a monastery, a large church dedicated to the Transfiguration, and a chapel dedicated to Melchisedek, the king of Salem (My note: Melchisedek is the priest whom Abraham meets in the Book of Genesis who gives Abraham bread and wine)


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Early pilgrims hiked up 4,300 steps carved into the rock, but now access to the summit is via a very steep and winding road which is only accessible to small vehicles. A taxi service is available at the parking lot at the foot of the mountain.

-From A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land For Orthodox Christians by Holy Nativity Convent, St. Nectarios Press: Seattle, Washington, 1997.


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