The following is from Transfiguration of Christ: Appearance of the Kingdom of God by Bishop Alexander Mileant of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, translated by Dimitriy Baranov and Father German Ciuba, https://fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/preob_e.htm. He writes regarding the experience of certain Saints of the uncreated divine light of the Transfiguration in their lives.
Many righteous people were honored with seeing the light like that on Mount Tabor. In the Holy Scripture and writings of the Holy Fathers the graceful light is described mostly as an internal condition received through prayer, contemplation about God, and particularly Holy Communion. Experienced internally, it is at the same time as real as the visible physical light. External shining of this light is a rarer phenomenon. However, writings of saints contain descriptions of external manifestations of this immaterial Divine light when the zealot’s very body and clothes become shining. Visible light was many times described in the Lives of Saints of 4th-6th centuries, Lavsaik and Spiritual Meadow. Here we will cite several cases described by eye witnesses:
– “Abba Pamvo’s face was shining as lightning and he was as king sitting on his throne.”
-Before death of Abba Sisoi, monks came to say good-bye to him and suddenly saw his face shining as the sun.
-Someone met Abba Siluan and prostrated himself because Abba’s face and body were bright as an angel.
-A brother came to Abba Arsenius’ cell in a secluded monastery, looked through the doorway and saw that the elder was all like fiery.
-Wonderful light that shone in Sergius of Radonezh attracted everyone who had seen him even once. (My note: Saint Sergius is one of the most popular Russian Orthodox Saints. He is seen as a patron Saint of the Russian people and contributed very much to the growth of monasticism within Russia. He reposed in 1392). At the time of singing the prayer ‘Here we sing to Thee’ all the present saw fire, “as if it fell from heaven and moved over the Altar Table, shining all around the altar,” and surrounded Sergius while he was doing the rite. During Eucharist, divine fire entered the chalice and reverend Sergius received it in Communion.
-St. Seraphim’s (My note: of Sarov) admirer Motovilov saw him in heavenly light and said, “I cannot look at you, father, because lightning is pouring from your eyes. Your face has become brighter than sun and my eyes ache.”
Visitors of Elder Ambrosius in Optina also sometimes saw him shining. Bishop Theophan the Anchorite and St. Righteous Father John of Kronschtadt were seen with their faces shining. Father John stood before God like before the sun; feeling the inexpressible brilliance of divine light, he closed his eyes and clearly experienced sojourning in the beams of this light, sensed their warmth, joy, and proximity to Christ the Saviour. Out of God’s grace, his face had splendor like angel’s face, and people wanted to look at him (Note: Attention must be paid to stories of people who had died and then returned to life; after their death they arrived in a world of light and there experienced remarkable peace and joy. Many descriptions of this were collected by Raymond A. Moody, Jr., MD, in his book “Life after Life.” Also see Iskul’s brochure “Event Incredible for Many, but Still True.” It might be that God permitted them to see His shining light in order that they stir up faith in the modern rationalistic society.).
The sensation of felicity from divine light can be so powerful that humans feel sad and abandoned after it had ended. St. Gregory the Theologian describes this state as follows, “I wish to stay all by myself and setting aside flesh and the world, not touching anything corporal without extreme need, talking to myself and God, live above all things visible, and always carry in myself clear divine images unmixed with earthly delusive impressions, be and permanently become an unshadowed mirror of God and divinity, acquire light to light, adding the brightest to the paler; and all this until we rise to the Source of illuminations and reach the blessed end. Beloved God pierces the mind with a beam of light and immediately escapes from fast-moving thought. The more we know Him, the greater grows the distance, because He slips from hands, calls and entails the soul.”
St Simeon the New Theologian (949-1022) often received divine illuminations. After one of them he felt that “all feelings of my soul and mind were stuck to the only one inexplicable joy and gladness that had arose out of that solemn light. But when the unmeasurable light that had been shown to me slowly lessened and finally became absolutely invisible, then I came to sense and recognized the marvelous things, which the power of that light performed in me. This light brings joy when it is seen, and leaves sores and aches in heart after it vanishes” (Word 86).
Divine light is mysteriously given to every truly believing Orthodox Christian. However, the Holy Fathers warn against attempting to artificially invoke and see the spiritual shining because such attempts conceal the tremendous danger of falling to the devil’s enchantment. A Christian must go the narrow way of repentance, meekness and self-correction. This life is the time of labor; the future life shall be the time of reward.