The Feast of the Holy Transfiguration of Christ: Firstfruits
Before his Passion, Jesus Christ went up onto the top of Mount Tabor. He took Peter, James and John along. While they were there, Jesus was transfigured, and his disciples beheld his glory, and saw Moses and Elija alongside. They were commanded to keep silent until after Christ's resurrection.
This transfiguration is the first-fruits of what is to come. Christ is the firstfruits, and we are to follow.
I'm always reminded of the story of St. Seraphim of Sarov, who was speaking with his companion:
"Oh, if you only knew" he once said to a monk, "what joy, what sweetness awaits a righteous soul in Heaven! You would decide in this mortal life to bear any sorrows, persecutions and slander with gratitude. If this very cell of ours was filled with worms, and these worms were to eat our flesh for our entire life on earth, we should agree to it with total desire, in order not to lose, by any chance, that heavenly joy which God has prepared for those who love Him."(For more about St. Seraphim of Sarov visit: http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/seraphim_e.htm)
The miraculous transfiguration of the starets’ face was described by a close admirer and follower of St. Seraphim — Motovilov. This happened during the winter, on a cloudy day. Motovilov was sitting on a stump in the woods; St. Seraphim was squatting across from him and telling his pupil the meaning of a Christian life, explaining for what we Christians live on earth.
"It is necessary that the Holy Spirit enter our heart. Everything good that we do, that we do for Christ, is given to us by the Holy Spirit, but prayer most of all, which is always available to us," he said.
"Father," answered Motovilov, "how can I see the grace of the Holy Spirit? How can I know if He is with me or not?"
St. Seraphim began to give him examples from the lives of the saints and apostles, but Motovilov still did not understand. The elder then firmly took him by the shoulder and said to him, "We are both now, my dear fellow, in the Holy Spirit." It was as if Motovilov’s eyes had been opened, for he saw that the face of the elder was brighter than the sun. In his heart Motovilov felt joy and peace, in his body a warmth as if it were summer, and a fragrance began to spread around them. Motovilov was terrified by the unusual change, but especially by the fact that the face of the starets shone like the sun. But St. Seraphim said to him, "Do not fear, dear fellow. You would not even be able to see me if you yourself were not in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Thank the Lord for His mercy toward us."
Thus Motovilov understood, in mind and heart, what the descent of the Holy Spirit and His transfiguration of a person meant.
But perhaps I digress. Or perhaps not. Having that vision of Heaven...that's been on my mind lots lately. I am too much gloomy and too much bogged down by the trials and temptations of this world. And that other place seems too dim, too far away. This is a challenge for me. And how do I build a life here, and work here and keep that vision of heaven, too. In the Holy Spirit. Oh, how I need the Spirit's help!
But in keeping with the theme of first fruits, Orthodox Christians literally get to bring their first fruits to the Church and have them blessed. We had a small garden planted this year, and so onions, tomatoes of various varieties, carrots and lettuce have made it abundantly into our basket.
First fruits, offered to God.
And so, even vegetables can teach us about the Kingdom of Christ.