July 20, 2013

"The Zealot"

By His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

When one stands before the great Old Testament figure, the fiery Elijah, it must be absolutely comprehended that one is standing before a virtuous man, full of character, with boldness towards God, since through his prayers the heavens were shut for three years and six months during which it did not rain, according to the Old Testament text.

This is why Saint John Chrysostom characterizes him as the "key-bearer of heaven", since, as he says, "he locked the heavens".

His characteristic feature was his zeal for God.

"I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with You,..." was his reply to the Lord after being asked by Him: "What are you doing here?" (1 Kings 19:9-10).

But what is zeal for God? It is the driving force behind every good work. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Zeal means heat, fervor, elation. For this reason it is likened to boiling water and performs a great work. It means a warm heart full of deep faith.

A zealot for God is full of spiritual states, who willingly obeys the voice of God and with selflessness and dedication performs His will. This zeal for God moves from love for God, is to be found far from selfish motives, and it is outspoken and clear, according to Saint John Chrysostom.

Without this zeal, no one can work for the Kingdom of God, nor enter therein, since according to John the Evangelist in the third chapter of the Book of Revelation: "God will spit the lukewarm from His mouth."

What does this zeal help with? It helps man to always bear in mind the glory of God and the acquisition of His Kingdom. An expression of this zeal is to not keep his beliefs only for himself, nor to keep the light "under a bushel" (Matt. 5:15), but to offer it to every man.

This is why the Prophet, full of divine zeal, does not hold anything for himself except the commands of God, and he offers them so that the people of his time could disentangle themselves from paganism and follow the true God.

The Prophet, moved by zeal for God, is not even afraid to rebuke the all-powerful Ahab. "When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, 'Is it you, you troubler of Israel?' And he answered, 'I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father's house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals'" (1 Kings 18:17-18). A characteristic of his zeal is his stability.

He is not like someone who makes an impression and after a while is extinguished! He has no agenda nor does he have any selfishness!

The zealot, moved by divine and holy zeal, never lowers his flag, not even to be liked, nor to be applauded, nor to have on his forehead the label of savior, nor for people to talk about him, nor to be among those with the syndrome of elderism.

And his zeal seems even greater when he is threatened and persecuted. To this zeal belong persistence, stability, courage, and especially the presence of God. Another characteristic of this zeal is discernment.

The zealot uses virtue as a lantern in his life to give him the right to walk fearlessly and not stumble over the stones of indiscretion. He does not speak of his own commands but only of the commands of God. "I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty", is the response of the Prophet. Only for God - everything for God.

For this reason the unusual figure of the Prophet Elijah, with his uncommon zeal and fiery heart, with his courageous soul and confession of truth, did not go through the usual for all of us door to death in order to be transferred to the Kingdom of God, but on a flaming chariot the fiery Prophet took the road to heaven and was directed to the eternal homeland.

This leaves us today with certain messages. We cannot live with lukewarmness. Our hearts cannot have an extinguished flame, a flame of love for God and for our fellow man. Moreover, only with zeal can we live properly our mission to the world as Christians. Only with zeal can we fight "the rulers and principalities of darkness".

Only with zeal can we keep "the faith once delivered to the saints", our tradition, the confession of the name of Christ and the love for our country.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos