On Sunday, July 23, the Armenian Church will observe one of its five major feasts: the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The feast commemorates the transfiguration or Baydzaragerbootiun of Christ on Mount Tabor, when our Lord appeared in His divine glory before the Apostles Peter, James, and John.
The event of the Transfiguration is recorded in three of the four Gospels: Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36. Jesus took the Apostles Peter, James, and John with Him up upon a mountain, and while they were on the mountain, to the disciples' frightened amazement, Christ was transfigured in a blinding white light; the Old Testament figures Moses and Elijah emerged from the mists of time to confer with the Lord, and the voice of God boomed from out of the heavens to affirm Jesus as his Son.
In the Transfiguration, the apostles see the glory of the Kingdom of God present in majesty in the person of Christ they see that “in Him, indeed, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” that “in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 1.19, 2.9). They see this before the crucifixion so that in the resurrection they might know Who it is Who has suffered for them, and what it is that this one, Who is God, has prepared for those who love Him.
In The Armenian Church, the Feast of the Transfiguration is called also Vartavar (Rose-Blossom). According to the Armenian Church Fathers and especially to St. Grigor Tatevatsi (1345-1409), the feast of Transfiguration is called Vartavar, because the brightness of a rose is hidden in its bud, and likewise Jesus kept hidden the light of His Divine glory in His body prior to His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. Afterwards, He revealed and showed it in all its brightness on Mount Tabor.
Besides the fundamental meaning which the event of the Transfiguration has in the context of the life and mission of Christ, and in addition to the theme of the glory of God which is revealed in all of its divine splendor in the face of the Savior, the presence of Moses and Elijah is also of great significance for the understanding and celebration of the feast.
Moses and Elijah, according to the liturgical verses, are not only the greatest figures of the Old Testament who now come to worship the Son of God in glory, they also are not merely two of the holy men to whom God has revealed himself. These two figures actually stand for the Old Testament itself: Moses for the Law and Elijah for the Prophets. And Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (Mt 5.17).
They also stand for the living and dead, for Moses died and his burial place is known, while Elijah was taken alive into heaven in order to appear again to announce the time of God’s salvation in Christ the Messiah.
Thus, in appearing with Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah show that the Messiah Savior is here, and that He is the Son of God to Whom the Father Himself bears witness, the Lord of all creation, of the Old and New Testaments, of the living and the dead. The Transfiguration of Christ reveals to us our ultimate destiny as Christians, the ultimate destiny of all men and all creation to be transformed and glorified by the majestic splendor of God Himself.