The Transfiguration of our Lord is found in the Holy Gospels of Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8 and Luke 9:28-36. “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.” The Transfiguration is celebrated forty days before the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, according to the tradition that the divine glory of the Lord was revealed to his disciples forty days before his crucifixion, in order to strengthen them for the Passion which was to follow.
The feast of the Transfiguration is one of the Great Feasts of our Lord. This year, it falls on Sunday, and Great Feasts of the Lord supercede Sunday, since they are pre-eminent celebrations of the Paschal Mystery. Therefore, the texts of Sunday Resurrection Tone 8 are set aside on this day, and only the feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated. However, the First Kathisma, “Blessed is the man … “ is sung, even though this is not usual for a Feast of the Lord, and the Saturday evening Prokeimenon is also sung. At Matins, however, the Sunday texts of the “Host of Angels,” the Resurrection Prokeimenon and Gospel and its Hymn of Light and Doxasticheron at the Psalms of Praise, the Prayer, “Having beheld the resurrection of Christ …, “ and the Resurrection Troparion for Tone 8 at the Great Doxology are all omitted. The Divine Liturgy is all for the Feast of the Transfiguration, and only its Antiphons, Troparion, Kontakion, Prokeimenon, Epistle, Aleluia, Gospel, Exaltation in the Anaphora, Communion Hymn and dismissal are sung or read.
The texts from the Octoechos are sung during the entire post-feast (August 7-13), but the Octoechos for Tone 1 is sung together with the Feast on the day of leave-taking (August 13) according to the rules of the Typicon. Therefore, observe that Tone 8 and Resurrection Gospel 9 for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost are passed over.
At Matins, according to the Slav usage, the Irmosi of the Feast of the Transfiguration, the first Canon, are sung as the Katavasiai at the Odes of the Canon at Matins from August 7-13. On the Feast itself (August 6, as well as the preceding days, August 1-5) the katavasiai are from the Canon of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. In Greek usage, the irmosi are from the Feast of the Transfiguration are also sung from July 27, the Feast of the Holy Great Martyr Panteleimon until July 31.
The Feast of the Transfiguration has a proper Ambon Prayer, which is read on August 6, and may be read throughout the feast until August 13:
“Master Jesus Christ our God, lead us upon the all-holy mountain of love, just as you led your chief disciples upon a lofty mountain. Open the eyes of our minds to a sight of indescribable beauty, just as you did for your apostles when you surrounded your bodily form with unexpected brightness, for you revealed the radiance of your Godhead through your flesh. Guide us also into higher things by your all-powerful right hand. You changed your visible form beyond our power of understanding; now make our senses aware of the might of your Lordship witnessed by Moses and Elijah. Give us an unfailing memory of the voice of your eternal Father revealing you as his beloved Son, so that, putting your commandments into action, we may shine forth among those worthy of your immortal kingdom, and see in you the eternal Father, with whom you are blessed, together with your all-holy, good and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and forever.”
On the Feast of the Transfiguration, it is customary to bless fruit. This is done immediately after the “Amen” of the Ambon Prayer. This is because the Ambon Prayer was the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, and the Hymn, “Blessed be the name of the Lord … “ was a part of the rite of the Antidoron and dismissal from the Liturgy which follows. The blessing of fruit is not immediately connected with the mystery of the Transfiguration, but this date was selected because it was around the time that grapes became ripe in Mediterranean lands. The blessing of fruit was directed by Canon 84 attributed to the Patriarch Nicephor (11th century). Fr. Placido de Meester in his work on Byzantine blessings (published 1929, in Italian) says that the date was established in monasteries as early as the tenth century. (p. 500). Here he notes that the same blessing the Roman sacramentaries, the Gregorian and the Gelsasian, contain the same blessing, but that he believes the Greek text was the original, which was taken by the West and translated into Latin.
Most priests will probably use the blessing found in the Euchologion pubished in Hamtramck, by Father Demetrius Wysochansky. The original blessing was of grapes, the main fruit in Greece, but the Russians also blessed apples, since grapes did not grow that well, and today, the blessing has been extended to all sorts of fruit. The Hamtramck Euchologion gives two prayers of blessing for first fruits (pp. 298-299), then adds separately a Prayer for the blessing of grapes and a blessing for those who bring the first-fruits. The priest may choose which prayers are best for the pastoral needs of the parish.