Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Transfiguration, and ordination of Ian to diakonate

19 August 1989

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

There are two icons of Transfiguration that bring us two mutually completing messages. The one, by the hand of Saint Andrew Rublev, and the other one by Theophane the Greek.

The icon of Rublev is all splendour; Christ appears to us in glory; the disciples are taken - as the Gospel tells us - with fear; they prostrate themselves, they loose awareness of where they are and what is happening.

The icon of Theophane is less brilliant, but it conveys us another message: not only of the fact that on the day of Transfiguration Christ appeared to His disciples all shining, all transfixed by the glory of His own Godhead; but it shows us how the rays of this light, the divine light, the very Divinity of God pouring itself out reaches His flesh, reaches His clothes, and beyond that touches all that is this mountain of the Transfiguration. And when a ray of light touches a stone or a rock, or a flower, they begin to shine in reply, as it were, to shine with eternal light; they commune to it but not passively; they receive it at the very heart of their being and become capable of shining themselves with eternal light; not to perfection yet, because perfection will be reached when God shall be all in all, at the end of time, but to the extent to which each creature of God can receive this grace, commune to God, and shine with the splendour of God Himself.

And on this day of the Transfiguration perhaps is it particularly joyful that we were able to consecrate to God in a new way Ian and his wife. In an old manuscript of the Gospel we are told that Christ was asked one day, ‘When shall the Kingdom of God come?’, and His reply was, ‘The Kingdom has already come when two are no longer two but one’. What has happened today to Ian is something that has happened within the Kingdom which God has established by His grace, His indwelling presence, His power in the lives of Ian and Sasha. The grace of God that has come to the mountain, and to the disciples, and to all things created, has been poured today abundantly upon the handmaid of God Sasha, as well as upon the servant of God Ian.

But becoming a deacon is to become a servant, in the same terms in which Christ Himself calls Himself The Servant, in the same way in which we read in the prophecy of Isaiah, at the end of the 52nd and in the 53rd chapter the vision of the Servant of God Who gives His life for others, Who takes upon Himself the burden of others, and indeed - Who dies for others. And this death is something which we must accept if we want to serve faithfully every day of our life. Because it is not the death of the body; it is a death to one's own self; it’s a renunciation to be self-sufficient, to live for nothing but one's own self and those whom one loves; it's the acceptance of the way of Christ: If one wishes to follow Me, let him renounce himself - turn away from himself, look elsewhere, towards God and towards his neighbour who is whoever is in need of him: Let him take up his cross and follow Me...

And this command would be so frightening if we did not know that the Lord has trod this path Himself before us; and that when He says to us ‘Follow’, He means it, He makes it quite clear to us that He has gone all the way, and He will never ask of us what He has not done Himself.

And more than this: He walked along this road, that brought Him to Calvary; upon the Cross He overcame evil, He overcame Satan, He overcame death, He laid waste the realm of death itself. And when we follow Him, we follow after One Who has already conquered. But there is a great deal to do still: to love with all one’s heart, and all one’s mind, and all one’s strength, and indeed, from within all one's frailly both God and the neighbour and serve them; serve them faithfully, responsibly, lovingly. A deacon is one whom the laity, that is the people of God sends into God's realm to represent them; the nave is the realm of history, the place where we all stand, struggle, and become; the sanctuary is the place where God dwells; and to cross the threshold between the two can be done only with and in Christ. But once a man has become a deacon and serves at the altar, it is the whole laity he represents; he remains a layman in the realm of the sacred; he represents all of us; he is there before God in the name of the whole Church.

Let us pray that God grant him and his wife faithfulness, a true love of the Lord, and a true love of all those people who are in need of God, or simply in need of human warmth, human love, human attention. May the grace of God be upon him; and it is such a joy for a Bishop to pronounce, to declare in one of the prayers that it is not in the laying on of his hands, but in the grace of God that comes from above that the ordination is done. Let us rejoice that God has been in our midst, acting with power, with love, with tenderness and making one more person, one more family the sharers of His sacrificial, but victorious love.

We will in a moment do two things: we will bless the fruit because on the day of Transfiguration, as depicted to us in the icon of Theophane, all things are filled with divine grace; and then, we will sing ‘mnogaya leta’, asking God to give a long life of faithful service, of devotion to Ian and his wife, and make them grow from strength to strength, from glory to glory, until they become to all those who will ever meet them a revelation of what a love of God received, accepted, integrated can make of a family and make of a man. Amen.

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