Butterflies.

Homily 273 – 9th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
August 6, 2017

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

Happy Feast! I know some, perhaps all, would prefer to hear Metropolitan Nicholas rather than me. You will have that chance – he will speak a few words to us for our salvation after the dismissal.

But for this moment, you are stuck with me. And, hold on tight, because brothers and sisters, I’m excited.

Transfiguration has always been, and will always be, a special feast for me, and obviously this community.

One part it is the anniversary of my ordination as a priest – 5 years ago.

But more important than an anniversary, Transfiguration is for me about hope.

It is the source of hope.

Hope that I too can be transfigured. In many ways I prefer the Greek word – metamorphosis.

I heard about metamorphosis for the first time, must have been fourth grade or so, in science class.

How a caterpillar – grounded, not very pleasant to look at, really – how this caterpillar becomes the most beautiful of creatures – the butterfly.

We can go over to Reiman Gardens today if we like, over to the Butterfly House, and see the beauty, the freedom, the flight.

We can think – contemplate – how all that beauty was, at one time, a caterpillar.

We can think about how we too can experience metamorphosis. The spiritual life is that process.

We spend our lives in this place, in exile from God’s garden, and we can spin our cocoon. Envelope ourselves in the fine silk of God’s love. Insulate ourselves with our love for others, and our efforts on their behalf.

That caterpillar that we used to be no longer concerns us.

Our focus is on what we are to become – butterflies.

It is how St. Peter can say, with sincerity, about a word of prophecy made even more certain. He can talk about the “tent” – the cocoon – which we expect to lay aside.

He can reference the experience he had on the mountain, in hearing the voice of God.

And he can remind us that we should pay attention to it the same way we pay attention to a lamp in a dark place.

Because in that place, when the light becomes brilliant, as it did with Christ on Mount Tabor, that is where we will also find our transfiguration.

Our metamorphosis.

We will be revealed for the butterfly we are.

Because brothers and sisters, that is what is happening to us. That is what following Christ is about. It isn’t about caterpillars. It’s about butterflies.

Or, maybe better said – it is about caterpillars being revealed as butterflies. Because the being is the same.

But the process, the new birth, is not without pain. Not without struggle.

In the Garden, Eve was told the pain of childbearing would be increased. But in his mercy God allowed the joy of children to overcome the pain of childbearing.

Same can be said of the new birth. The birth into the Kingdom of God is not without pain. But the joy of the Kingdom will overshadow the pain we might experience.

At the end of our transfiguration, our metamorphosis, we also will be that which God intended from the very beginning.

Beautiful creatures, connected with the source of life for eternity.

As we read last night at Vespers, Moses saw God. But he did not see the Face of God, until he saw it in the Transfiguration in the incarnate Son.

Elijah – Ilia in some languages – saw God, in the gentle breeze. He too saw God on the mountain in the person of Christ.

The disciples saw God – as much as they could bear it – where before they only saw the humanity of Christ. They believed it – they had faith – but they didn’t see it until then.

And we too see the face of God – in the person of the Saints, in the uncreated light manifested by them, as St. Gregory Palamas teaches us.

A light that we can also manifest – that, in fact, we all will manifest, if we endure and keep focusing on Christ – keep repenting when we fail.

Keep adjusting our course toward perfection, who is Christ.

Recognizing that we are caterpillars. But realizing that we are also butterflies.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

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