Feasting in Heaven and on Earth


Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, O Christ our God,

 showing to Thy disciples Thy glory as each one could endure;

shine forth Thou on us, who are sinners all, Thy light ever-unending

through the prayers of the Theotokos. O Light-giver, glory be to Thee.

Troparion for the Transfiguration


In the Orthodox Church, we prepare for major feasts both spiritually and physically. And so we have Great Lent, but we also prepare decorated eggs and festal foods for Pascha. We have the Nativity Fast, but we also make treats and prepare presents for Christmas. On the Feast of the Transfiguration, we prepare baskets of fruit to be blessed.

Each Feast reminds us somehow of the others. Even though the Theotokos is not in the icon for this feast, it falls during the Dormition Fast, and it reminds us of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple. On that occasion, her father, St. Joachim, gave candles to all the little girls for them to hold as they accompanied the Theotokos to the Temple to live. On this feast, Christ took two trusted disciples up Mt. Tabor with him so they could understand that He is the God of the living and the dead, with Moses and Elijah appearing.

In the Church, we bless things. We do not believe that matter is evil. We bless water and we bless our homes with that water. We bless the ground and the harvest. We bless our vehicles and our journeys. We bless marriage and the children who come from it. And so during this season of fruitfulness, we gather and bless fruits. But just as preparing your house to be blessed or child to be baptised may not be intuitive, there is an art to preparing fruit to be blessed.

The late archpriest Roman Lukianov was my parish priest in Boston. He often drove me back to college after church, and took me on hospital visits and to nursing homes both because people needed a visit and because he knew that my fiance was a seminarian. (In the Orthodox Church, one should be either married or a monk to be ordained priest.) He also taught me how to cut the grapes for the basket of fruit to be blessed so that the priest doesn’t hand people either a whole bunch of grapes or a fistful of loose ones. Later, when my husband was sent to his second parish, the late archpriest Theodore Shevzov insisted on washing grapes a special way to remove all pesticides, and taught me how.

And sharing the good things are important. So, here is how to prepare a basket for Transfiguration.

Step One:

Preparing fruit for the basket to be blessed for the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord.

Step one: Clean the sink and fill it with cold water and a teaspoon or so of baking soda. The baking soda is to clean any residual pesticides off the grapes.

Step Two:

Put all your grapes in the sink and add more water if needed. Let them sit there while you do other things.

Step Three:

Carefully rinse the grapes in cold water and let them dry.
Prepare a place to put grape clusters, a strainer and bowl for loose grapes, and a good pair of scissors, but not your sewing scissors.
If you have a strainer to put over the drain, use it.
Step Four:
Cut the grapes into clusters and lay them out to dry. Throw out any nasty grapes and all the leftover stems. (Save the loose, single grapes for the Karnauch Family Transfiguration Dessert. Details to follow.)
Step Five:
Line your basket and one to give away with a clean towel, both to absorb water and to keep the wicker from scratching the fruit. Arrange the fruit as nicely as you can with the understanding that the baskets will shift en route to church and that we never fully obtain perfection in this life.
Cover the baskets with something pretty but not your Pascha basket cover because you don’t want grape stains on that. Put them somewhere safe near the door and buy a small candle to put in the basket when you get to church.
Don’t light it until the baskets are to be blessed.
Some parishes only bless grapes, other bless apples, etc. as well.
Karnauch Family Festal Dessert:
The Karnauch Family of Houston introduced us to the simplest and most wonderful dessert for the feast.
You spread a little honey on a plate.
You take the bowl of cold, loose grapes out of the refrigerator.
And you dip each grape in honey before eating it.
Best served when you have friends with whom to talk and share.
And a Story:
God does all things for a reason. One year when my children were all home, we were running VERY late and I couldn’t find any of our nice towels or basket covers. I made my cross and tore up an old white sheet from the rag bag and used part for lining the basket and part for covering it, because the higher value was to be at the service on time. The fabric was soaked, because I didn’t have time to drain the fruit properly, and I was mortified.
When it was time to bless the fruit, some latecomers shoved the baskets that had been placed on the tables earlier into my basket, with all the candles lit, and the corner of the sheet I used caught fire. Before I could react, however, the flame hit the soggy part of the sheet, the fire sputtered and died, the service went on, the fruit was blessed, and it was delicious, and it was a feast.
Come to church. Bring what you can. And if all you can bring is yourself, that is enough. Just come.

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