Grapes, Transfiguration and Theosis
by Fr Patrick Tishel
Studying nature is fascinating because it also is a "second Scripture" which helps us along with the Gospel to understand the mysteries of God. We know from Romans 1:20 that the physical things of this world represent an eternal Mystery. What do grapes which are blessed at Holy Transfiguration show us and what does the blessing of the grapes at Transfiguration mean?
Here are various illuminations that provide clues from the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Jewish prayer over wine calls upon God, the King of the Universe, and glorifies Him for bringing forth the fruit of the vine. What love God has to bring us, His children, consolation and joy. The making of wine tells a story of the cooperation and synergy between God creative powers and man labors in the cultivation of grape vines, the fruitfulness of the vine, and the making of wine. We work in concert with what God gives us and we end up with a miracle.
In Isaiah 5 there is a beautiful picture of this. It is pure poetry! God who Isaiah calls "my beloved" gives the vineyard, wine press, and cultivated grapes, but the people who receive it-Judea and Jerusalem, instead of bearing good grapes bear the uncultivated wild sour type. The Giver then asks through Isaiah, "What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" The Lord supplied everything, why were there no fruits to speak of? Isaiah continues to warn those who occupy the day in revelry, self-pleasure and "regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of His hand" for wasting precious time and opportunity. We also hear a similar unfolding of this mystery of the synergy of God's gift and the potential of amazing fruitfulness in the Gospel of the husbandmen who refuse to give any fruit of the loaned vineyard (Matt. 21-33-40). Is it that hard for us to recognize the gift, and the giver of the gift? And why are we so reluctant to give back the fruit of this gift?
Transfiguration was not only the revelation of our Lord's divinity but also the showing forth of the uncreated Light that becomes accessible to our humanity. Each time the Lord appeared to men He showed His divinity more fully. On Mt. Sinai before Moses He showed that He is a personal God: I AM that I AM. At the Baptism of the Lord He showed his love: This is my beloved Son! At Transfiguration He showed His Divinity as far as the Apostles could bear it. It was not only His Divinity that was shown but the Divine Life and Light now available to us. Our life is meant to bring forth more than the sour wild grapes of earthly existence, but the full cultivated grapes transfigured into the wine of theosis, deified and heavenly existence. Work to acquire this Divine life, to acquire the Holy Spirit, our Father Seraphim exhorts us.
Our life in Christ and in the Church is the new vineyard; Theosis, divine life in us is the new wine. Transfiguration takes place tin us as we are transformed by the life with Christ
O Lord, lover of men, fill us with Thy Divine Life and make us who are earthly men and women into sons and daughters of Light.
With love in Christ,