My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
ON THE 20th OF JULY, THE HOLY ORTHODOX CHURCH
COMMEMORATES THE HOLY AND GLORIOUS PROPHET
ELIAS THE THESBITE, AND HIS FIRST-BEARING ASCENT
ELIAS, (Elijah), the glorious Prophet, hailed from the town of Thesbe of Galaad (Gilead) by the Jordan. He was a scion of Aaron, the Priestly Tribe. When Elias was born, his father, named Sovak (Sobacha), beheld a vision. Men clad in white named the holy child Elias, that is, a name that bespoke "God" or "Divine" -as Eli signifies in the Hebrew language "God." Those with shining appearance not only wrapped the infant in swaddling clothes of fire but also fed him flames of fire. He was in no wise seared. Sovak repaired to Jerusalem in order to take counsel with the priests on what was revealed to him. Filled with the Prophetic Spirit, they disclosed the following revelation to him: "Cease fearing, O man, the dwelling place of thy child is light. His is the word of decision. His life is according to the Lord. His zeal shall appear pleasing to God. He shall judge Israel by fire and dagger (sword)." Thus, it came to pass, Elias prophesied for twenty-five years. His life is recorded in the Books of Third and Fourth Kings (Kingdoms) of the Septuagint (Old Testament translation of the 70 and the Orthodox Old Testament).
His great mission was to return his apostate people back to God. While the other Prophets give a detailed genealogy, Elias’ name appears boldly in the Old Testament, like Melchisedek, without any mention of father or mother. Our account opens during the reign of Achaab (847-853 B.C.).
Achaab (Ahab), son of Ambri, reigned over Israel in Samaria for twenty-two years. Achaab did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord. In fact, he did more wickedly than all that were before him. It was not enough for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nabat, but Achaah took to wife, Jezebel (Jazabel) the daughter of Jethebaal (Ethbaal) king of the Sidonians. Achaab, consequently, went and served Baal, and even worshipped him. Achaab set up an altar to Baal, in the house of abomination, which he built in Samaria. Achaab also made a grove. He did yet more abominably, to provoke the Lord God of Israel, and to sin against his own life so that he should be destroyed. Indeed, as it is written: "He did evil above all the kings of Israel that were before him. Saint Andrew of Crete cites this king as a standard of evil in his Great Canon, remarking: "Alas, my soul! Thou hast rivaled Achaab in guilt. Thou hast become a dwelling place of fleshly defilements and a shameful vessel of the passions. But groan from the depths of thy heart, and confess thy sins to God."
3 Kings, Chapter 17
Prophet Elias at the
Brook of Chorrath
Holy Elias the Prophet, the Thesbite of Thesbae of Galaad, said to Achaab, "As the Lord God of Hosts, the God of Israel, lives, before Whom I stand, there shall not be these years dew nor rain, except by the word of my mouth." And the word of the Lord came to Elias, saying, "Depart hence eastward, and hide thee by the brook of Chorrath (Cherith), that is before Jordan. And it shall be that thou shalt drink water of the brook, and I will charge the ravens to feed thee there." Elias did according to the word of the Lord: he sat by the brook. The ravens, indeed, brought him loaves in the morning, and flesh in the evening: and he drank water of the brook. It came to pass after some time that the brook was dried up because there had been no rain upon the earth.
Prophet Elias at Sarepta
The word of the Lord came to Elias, saying, "Arise and go to Sarepta" of the Sidonian land. Behold, I have there commanded a widow-woman to maintain thee." Elias arose and went to Sarepta. He came to the city gate. He observed a widow who was there gathering sticks. Elias cried after her, saying, "Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink." She hearkened and fetched it. Elias cried after her, saying, "Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of the bread that is in thy hand." The women answered, "As the Lord thy God lives, I have not a cake, but only a handful of meal in the pitcher, and a little oil in a cruse. Behold, I am going to gather two sticks. I shall go in and dress it for myself and my children. Then we shall eat it and die."
Elias said to her, "Be of good courage, go in and do according to thy word. But make me thereof a little cake. And thou shalt bring it out to me first. And thou shalt make some for thyself and thy children last. For thus saith the Lord, "The pitcher of meal shall not fail, and the cruse of oil shall not diminish, until the day that the Lord gives rain upon the earth." The woman went and did according to his word. Verily, the pitcher of meal failed not, and the cruse of oil was not diminished, according to the word of the Lord."
Prophet Elias Raises the Widow’s Son
It came to pass afterward, that the son of the woman–the mistress of the house–was sick. His sickness was very severe until there was no breath left in him. She then said to Elias, "What have I to do with thee, O man of God? Hast thou come in to me to bring my sins to remembrance, and to slay my son?" Elias said to the woman, "Give me thy son." Taking him out of her bosom, Elias took him up to the chamber om which he himself lodged and set him down on the bed. Elias cried aloud, and said, "Alas, O Lord, the witness of the widow with whom I sojourn, Thou hast wrought evil for her in slaying her son." And Elias breathed on the child thrice, and called on the Lord, and said, "O Lord my God, let, I pray Thee, the soul of this child return to him." And it was so and the child cried out. Elias then brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and gave him to his mother. Elias said to her, "See, thy son lives." The woman said to Elias, "Behold, I know that thou art a man of God, and the word of the Lord in thy mouth is true."
Prophet Elias on Mount Carmel
Achaab dispatched word to all Israel, and he gathered all the idolatrous prophets to Mount Carmel. Elias addressed all, saying, "How long will ye halt on both feet? If the Lord be God, follow Him, but if Baal, follow him." And the people answered not a word. Elias said to the people, "I am left, the only one Prophet of the Lord, and the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty (450) men, and the prophets of the groves four hundred (400). Let them give us two oxen, and let them choose one for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, and put no fire on the wood. And I will dress the other bullock, and put on no fire. And do ye all loudly on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord my God. And it shall come to pass that the One Who shall answer by fire, He is God." And the people answered and said, "The word which thou hast spoken is good."
Elias said to the prophets of shame, "Choose to yourselves one calf, and dress it first, for ye are many, and call ye on the name of your god, but apply no fire." They took the calf and dressed it. They called on the name of Baal from morning till noon, and said, "Hear us, O Baal, hear us!" There was neither voice nor hearing. The abominable prophets ran up and down on the altar which they had fashioned. Now it was noon when Elias mocked them, saying, "Call with a loud voice, for he is a god; for he is meditating, or else perhaps he is engaged in business, or perhaps he is asleep and is to be awakened." They, indeed, cried louder. They cut themselves according to their custom with knives and lancets until the blood gushed out upon them. And they uttered prophecies until the evening came. Then it came to pass, as it was the time of the offering of the sacrifice, that Elias spoke to the prophets of the abominations, saying, "Stand by for the present, and I will offer my sacrifice." And they stood aside and departed.
Elias said to the people, "Come near to me." And all the people came near to him. Elias took twelve stones, according to the number of the Tribes of Israel, as the Lord spoke to him, saying: "Israel shall be Thy name." Elias then bult up the stones in the name of the Lord. He repaired the altar that had been borken down. He made a trench that would hold two measures of seed round about the altar. He next piled the cleft wood on the altar, which he had made, and divided the whole-burnt-offering. Following this, he laid the offering, in order, on the wood. He then said, "Fetch me four pitchers of water, and pour it on the whole-burnt-offering, and on the wood." The people compiled. Elias then said, "Do it teh second time." And he said, "Do it the third time." The people did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar, and they filled the trench with water."
Elias cried aloud to heaven, and said, "Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, answer me, O Lord, answer me this day by fire, and let all this people know that Thou art the Lord, the God of Israel, and I am Thy servant, and for Thy sake I have wrought these works. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, and let this people know that Thou art the Lord God, and Thou hast turned back the hear ot this people." Then fire fell from the Lord out of heaven, and devoured the whole-burnt-offerings, and the wood and the water that was in the trench, and the fire licked up the stones and the earth.
All the people fell upon their faces, and said, "Truly the Lord is God; He is God." Elias said to the people, "Take the prophets of Baal, let not one of them escape." And they took them. Elias brought them down to the brook Kisson (Kishon), and he slew them there."
Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes: "Now herein, by that wondrous sacrifice, Elias clearly proclaimed to us the Sacramental rite of Baptism that should afterward be instituted. For the fire was kindled by water thrice poured upon it, so that it is clearly shown that where the mystic water is, there is the kindling, warm, and fiery Spirit, that burns up the ungodly, and illuminates the faithful."
Prophet Elias is Taken up in a Whirlwind
As Elias and Elissaios were going and talking–lo!–a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, separated both of them. Elias was taken up in a whirlwind as it were into heaven. Elissaios was accounted worthy to behold this. He cried out, "Father, father, the chariot of Israel, and the horseman thereof! After that, Elissaios saw Elias no more. Elissaios then took hold of his garments, and rent them into two pieces. Next, Elissaios took up the mantle of Elias, which fell from off Elias and upon himself.
The great Elias shows by his actions a mystery. Saint Maximos explains: "During his taking up, Elias gives Elissaios his mantle (that is, mortification of the flesh, in which the magnificence of the good moral order is firmly grounded). The mantle is an ally of the spirit in the struggle against any enemy force. Itis a a blow against the unstable and flowing nature figured by the Jordan, so that the disciple should not be held back from crossing oer to the holy land either by being swamped in the mud or by being prone to the slipperiness of the craving for matter.
"As for Elias he advances toward God, free and uncoutrolled by any attachment to beings at all. He is simple in his desire and uncomplicated in his intention… He knows that it is necessary for Christ’s disciple to keep away from unequal dispositions whose differences prove an estrangement…When he reaches the point of having life and movement and being in Christ, he has put far from him the monstrous origin in inequalities. He, therefore, no longe carries within himself the contrary dispositions of these passions…" (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George