This is My Beloved Son: The Transfiguration of Christ by Andreas Andreopoulos
This book is a remarkable journey into an Orthodox understanding of the Transfiguration of Christ found in the Gospel narratives. Right from the beginning, Andreopoulos locates the story of the Transfiguration within the concept of a ‘journey.’ Understanding the plight of the Christian as a journey to the kingdom of heaven, Andreas writes, “The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ is an important landmark in this journey. It is a timeless story, a wonderful and miraculous episode from the life of Jesus Christ that reveals a lot about our own journey toward salvation” (2). Andreas goes on to locate the story of the Transfiguration within the present context of the church gathering for sacraments, for the grace that comes through the ecclesia (6). What is significant about these statements concerning this event in the life of Christ is the way in which the church is drawn up into this event through worship and the celebration of the Eucharist. Protestant churches on the whole have not given much thought to the Transfiguration as a formative event in the life of Christ, much less to the significance for the present faithful surrounding this miraculous event.
Connecting the baptism of Christ and his Transfiguration, Andreas writes, “In both cases the voice reveals something about the relationship between the Father and Son, and how the Son reveals the Father to the world” (27). There is a Trinitarian coherence to the voice of God being seen in both events. The three person of the Trinity working together in simultaneous harmony is found here in the Transfiguration. The Spirit’s work in awakening the eyes of Peter, James and John was evident in their responses (38). What was also illuminating in this chapter was the great important Andreas gave to the role of the Holy Spirit in both events, the baptism and Transfiguration. From the descent of the dove to the opening of the eyes of Peter, James and John, the Spirit’s work is to remove the scales from our eyes and allow us to see clearly the work of both the Father and the Son, and in turn, bring worship to all three.
In chapter 3 Andreas writes about Christ leading the apostles up on the Mount where the Transfiguration was to take place. There is much practical value here that Andreas draws out concerning this momentous event. Concerning the concept of freedom, Andreas writes, “For God, who is both good and loves humanity without limits, freedom does not mean the option to step away from abandon his creature, but to act in the most irrational way if it can bring about even a change of bringing that creature closer to him” (63). The events of the Incarnation and Death of Christ are the most irrational events in human history. These events remain irrational to us because they invest themselves with radical concepts of love and sacrifice that we often fail to grasp. Yet, we often think the most rational way to follow God is to rely on our own strength. Andreas reminds us to that follow God up the Mount of Thabor or Calvary requires the putting to death of our sinful atttitudes and behaviors (crucifying our flesh). The only criticism I have of this point is the absence of any reference to the Holy Spirit in the process of crucifying the flesh and its passions. For we rely on the Spirit to guide us and to lead us out of temptation no matter the event.
Not written as an academic tome nor a devotional commentary, this book is a welcome addition to understanding the Transfiguration from an Orthodox viewpoint. More than this, the book radically helps people, including me, to see the ongoing connection between the event of the Transfiguration and the Christian life. Lastly, the book bears witness to the beauty of the Trinity in all its fullness through both the relationship between each person (Father, Son and Spirit) and the roles that they follow.
Much thanks to Paraclete Press for the complimentary review copy of this book.