Monday, December 05, 2005

Why "Transfigure Baton Rouge"?

I am a convert to the Orthodox faith. After twelve years of ministry in the United Methodist and Episcopal Churches, my wife, daughters, and I were chrismated and received as members of St. Basil Antiochian Orthodox Church in Metairie, Louisiana by Fr. Peter Nugent in October 2005.

We hope to plant an Orthodox Mission in Baton Rouge - our adopted hometown. This tiny corner of cyberspace is devoted to cultivating Orthodox Christianity in the heart of Louisiana.

So, why the name, “Transfigure Baton Rouge”?

It may sound audacious… perhaps it is. But the verb “transfigure” in its Greek form, metamorphow, appears a number of times in the New Testament. Most prominently, the word denotes the visible change which several of the disciples witness in Christ’s appearance on the mountaintop in Matthew 17:1-9. This scene, typically known as “the Transfiguration,” is a disclosure of Christ’s divine nature and a glimpse of the glory of the kingdom of heaven.

Significantly, the word is also employed by St. Paul the Apostle to depict the change or transformation that takes place in the lives of Christian people. In 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, St. Paul writes, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed [“metamorphed,” or transfigured] into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

And at the beginning of Romans 12, he writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed [again, “metamorphed,” or transfigured] by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

These passages refer to the work of God to transfigure us into the people we were created and redeemed to be. This work is our salvation and sanctification, or as Orthodox Christians often say, our “theosis.” It is a work we share, or “participate in.” Indeed, this “co-operation” or “synergy” is the fundamental task of the Orthodox Christian life. In Philippians 2, St. Paul writes, “Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

God is at work in us. And we are to work, as well: We hear the Good News; we repent and receive God’s healing and forgiveness through the sacramental life of the Church; we practice the ascetic disciplines of the Church, struggling to love God and our neighbor; we feast upon holy mysteries. Through it all, God is at work in us and we are sharers in that work.

So, with fear and trembling, with humility and boldness, I pray that God will “Transfigure Baton Rouge.”

And by God’s grace, may we share in that transfiguration!