On the Transfiguration of the Lord

The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Yesterday, August 6/19, we celebrated the bright Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ (St Matthew 17:1-13; St Mark 9:2-13; St Luke 9:28-36; cf. II Peter 1:17-18). Two thoughts occurred to me as I heard the following sung in Church yesterday morning:

Тамо где Израиљ победи Сисару
Изволи се тамо и Небесном Цару
На молитве поћи и на ноћна бдења,
Да покаже славу Свог Преображења,
И утврди веру својих следбеника
У победу трајну Њега – Победника.
Ту светлост божанску Он из Себе пусти
Па обасја Тавор, мрак разагна густи;
Светлост што ј’ у Себи дуго задржав’о
Од које је свету по мало раздав’о
Пустио је сада лучама обилним,
Лучама радосним, лучама умилним.
Небу да открије блесак човечанства,
Земљи и људима истину Божанства.
Нека небо види Посланика свога,
Нека земља позна Спаситеља Бога.
Where Israel defeated Sisera,
There also did the Heavenly King deign to go
To pray in nightly vigils,
To manifest the glory of His Transfiguration,
And confirm the faith of His followers
In his eternal victory as Victor.
There He shone forth with divine light,
Dispelled the thick darkness, and illuminated Tabor.
The Light, long concealed within Himself,
Which He had shed upon the world in brief flashes,
Now burst forth in abundant rays–
Joyful rays, sweet rays–
To reveal to heaven the brilliance of His humanity,
And to reveal to earth and men the truth of His Divinity.
Let Heaven see its messenger,
Let the earth recognize God the Savior.

Firstly, as some of you may already know, this is the “hymn of praise” for yesterday’s entry in the Prolog of Ohrid. English speakers who only know these from the two-volume edition by Sebastian Press may not realize that these are not only sacred poetrythey are spiritual songs (duhovne pesme), many of them with well-known melodies that are often used in liturgical and paraliturgical settings. It is therefore not unusual to hear the “hymns of praise” from the Prolog sung on various feast days. I have searched to no avail for a recording of the above hymn, but there is a recording of the Prolog hymn for St Thekla (whose feast, incidentally, is my Krsna Slava) available from Svetigora Radio.

Secondly, the opening lines of this hymn strike me as an excellent example of how the Church reads the Bible. At once Mount Tabor, the place of the Transfiguration, is recognized as the place of the victory of the children of Israel over the armies commanded by Sisera (cf. Judges 4-5). And it is in this place of victory that the Lord was transfigured, revealing to his disciples before the Passion his victory over death and hades in the Resurrection.

“Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in Thy name” (Psalm 88:13, LXX).

9 responses to “On the Transfiguration of the Lord

  1. Vade retro, Satana!

    Actually, the translation above comes from the original two-volume edition of the Prolog published by the Serbian Diocese of Western America in 2000. I find those translations to be generally very good. For some reason, though, the translation on their online edition is different. I find that one to be dreadful. I certainly hope it’s not the one found the new second edition!

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  2. I’ll look for the Diocese publication. The other is so poor as to be incomprehensible. And as I’m sure you know, but your readers might not, they are not even included in the four-volume translation by Mother Maria published by Lazarica Press, which is a shame, as they’re otherwise handsome volumes.

    Still, the more, the merrier. Get crackin’ Stefane!

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  3. I have never quite understood why the “hymns of praise” were not translated in the Lazarica Press edition. Perhaps, since that translation was the work of a lone monastic, she did not deem them urgent enough to translate. I should also mention that, in the course of my own translation of multiple entries from the Prolog into Spanish, I found that the Lazarica Press translation often does not represent well the Serbian original. For one thing, while the preface indicates that it leaves the “legendary material” (sic!) untouched, in actual fact some of the entries are smoothed over, and in a few cases entire sentences are left out. Also, while the English of the first Western American Diocese edition is rougher, St Nikolaj’s text is simple and utterly unafraid of parataxis, and in that sense the latter edition reflects the Saint’s own style better than the former.

    As for a new translation of the Prolog hymns into English, I suppose a metrical rendering of at least the hymns for greater feasts that would allow their singing to their given tunes would be desirable — but who has the talent and time to do this? I certainly do not, and not only would I have to learn the melodies well enough to fiddle with them, but then also to develop a poetic gift!

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  4. Robert> I will have you know, sir, that not only do I have a “Hispanic name,” but that I am, in fact, a full-blooded Puerto Rican born and raised in the island!

    Other than that, I don’t see what’s so odd or surprising about what you say, which is all true. ;-)

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  5. “Odd’ in the sense of not common or frequently encountered! I found a blog the other day of an Australian graphic designer who’s post-mil, Federal Vision, Baptist!
    So I take it then that there is room in the Serbian tradition for Reformed soteriology? How are you so comfortable in this rare slavic language as to be at ease in service? Are the homilies in English? Spanish?!?! What a fantastic example of catholicity you are in one person! :-)

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  6. Robert> C’mon, just because one is utterly committed to Vosian biblical theology and Van Tillian presuppositionalism doesn’t mean that one is Reformed in bibliology and/or soteriology!

    Wait, what’s that noise? Oh, I know — must be the battlecry of people taking up arms at the two Westminsters, Redeemer, and Northwest. ;-)

    As you might suspect, there is in fact no room in the Orthodox tradition for a Reformed soteriology, which together with all the soteriological constructs of the West (be they Lutheran, Arminian, Roman Catholic, and anything in between) is considered heretical. The soteriology of the Greek Fathers and of the Orthodox Church operates in a different plane altogether. But that, my friend, is a nearly inexhaustible topic!

    As for Church Slavonic, I should like to inform you that it is not some “rare Slavic language,” but nothing short of the True Language of the True Worship of the True God, and anything translated from Greek to Church Slavonic is thereby improved and perfected. (Well, not really, but still.) Anyway, I’m comfortable with it because I worked hard at trying to learn it — but you would know this already if you had read my most recent post (sob, sob). As for the homilies, sometimes they’re entirely in English, and sometimes in English and Serbian. I recently heard a Russian Bishop preach basically the same homily first in Russian and then in English. So it varies from place to place, but only very rarely have I been to a service in the US where at least some English was not used in preaching.

    You know, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around the “Federal Vision” thing: for one thing, it was after my time, and then I’ve never been able to understand its weird estranged parent, Christian Reconstructionism. But even I know that to be a BAPTIST and an FV type is quite a stretch!

    And I doubt that I have much that’s truly universal, but at least I that hope my faith and confession are truly catholic in the authentic Nicene sense: “according to whole,” that is, the wholeness and fullness of what God has revealed.

    P.S.: You should come over and play more often! :-)

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