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July 20, 2014

Holy Prophet Elijah (Elias) as a Model for our Lives

Prophet Elias or Elijah (Feast Day - July 20)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Elijah the Prophet lived around 816 B.C. and prophesied for twenty-five years. He came from the tribe of Aaron and from the city of Tishbi, which God gave to the Priests. Through prayer he did many miracles, and he was a zealot. When Christ was transfigured on Mount Tabor, he was present with Moses. "And behold, two men conversed with Him, appearing in glory and speaking of His departure, which was about to take place in Jerusalem" (Lk. 9:30-31).

The Prophet Elijah was a zealot and fiery. He had zeal for God "with knowledge", because there is a zeal without knowledge, which creates great problems in the Body of the Church and in society in general. True zeal is that which is associated with the spiritual life and the inner struggle a person makes to be purified of the passions, to meet God and acquire communion with Him. This teaching is clearly seen in Patristic texts and in Orthodox hymnology. In the First Kathisma of the Liti for the Vespers of the Prophet Elijah we chant: "Elijah the zealot and emperor over your passions ... you were an angel in the flesh and a fleshless man who showed us accomplishments in virtue." A true zealot is he rules his passions and not one who is ruled or carried by them. He who with his spiritual accomplishments has become an equal of holy angels and, though he lives on earth, his citizenship is in heaven.

He is an angel with flesh and a man without flesh, that is, without a carnal mind. In his epistle to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul explains to us what a carnal mind is: "For you are yet carnal. As long as there is among you jealousy, and strife, and divisions, are you not carnal, and walk as men?" (1 Cor. 3:3). Jealousy, discord, anger and quarrels cannot have a relationship with God, because God is love, He is the God of peace. The Prophet Elijah, living in the time and spirit of the Old Testament, killed, as is known, the "priests of shame", but God gave him to understand that he was wrong with the example of the strong wind, the earthquake, the fire and the still small voice, saying that God is not found in the strong wind, the earthquake or the fire, but "in the still small voice", in other words, God does not love violence, but tranquility, peace and gentleness (1 Kings 19:11-12).

Fanaticism can have no relationship with Orthodox Christians, nor with true zeal for God. Fanaticism prevails in religions and organizations with an anthropocentric character, creating a climate of fanaticism and polarization to create and retain followers. Orthodoxy is not a religion, in the sense of an anthropocentric religion, but the Church. It is the revelation of God and not a human discovery. It does not have followers, but members who are "baptized and have certain faith", who have been baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity and they live or they struggle to live in accordance with the will of God.

The mass apostasy from God, as seen in our days, as well as the presence of many heresies, often makes us lose hope and we see all as black, with the result that we are led towards erroneous conclusions. One of these errors is the belief that saints do not exist today, but this is not true. In every era there are people of God, even in our days. There are always true worshippers, who live by prayer, selfless love and sacrifice. When the Prophet Elijah lost hope seeing the people run behind the false god Baal and he thought he was the only one on earth who worshipped God as a Prophet of the true God, God revealed to him that there were seven thousand men who had not worshipped Baal, but they remained faithful to the God of their fathers. Therefore, we always need to be calm and have absolute trust in God.

True zealots are those who combine, as the Prophet Elijah did, zeal and love towards God with prayer and the hesychastic life. Those who shun extremes are they who experienced the humility of Christ, gentleness and inner peace. Those who really and truly feel the presence of God do so "in a still small voice".

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΠΡΟΦΗΤΗΣ ΗΛΙΑΣ: Ο ΖΗΛΩΤΗΣ ΚΑΙ ΠΥΡΙΠΝΟΥΣ", July 1997. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.