Today is the feast day of the Prophet Elijah. His name in Hebrew means “My God is the Lord.”
The greatest prophet of the Old Testament, Elijah is remembered for his contest against the prophets of the false pagan god Baal, where he demonstrated to the people of Israel the impotence of their idols and the power of the true God; he is also remembered for his many miracles and for serving as the mentor of the prophet Elisha. He is most often represented in icons of the Transfiguration, where he appears alongside Moses in the presence of Christ. Perhaps most famously, Elijah was taken into Heaven by a chariot of fire, and so in icons of the Transfiguration he represents not only prophecy meeting the law (represented by Moses), but also the living (as Elijah never died), while Moses represents the dead, the two of them together indicating the reality that Christ “will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.”
The Church looks to Elijah as, in addition to a great prophet, an exemplar of ascetical living. In the West, he serves as inspiration to the Carmelite order, which includes such mystics as St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila. In the East, Elijah (usually referred to as Elias, following the Greek version of the name) has an even more profound impact on the spiritual life of the Church, and his similarities to St John the Forerunner are the source of frequent comparisons, including by Christ.
On this day, as we remember this holy man of God, who has proclaimed the greatness of God for nearly 3,000 years, we respond with the exclamation of the multitude as they gazed upon the fiery offering which proved the truth of the prophet’s words: “The Lord He is God, the Lord He is God.”
“The Glorious Elijah, the angel in body, the pillar of the Prophets and second forerunner of Christ’s advent; by sending grace from on high upon Elisha, dispels disease, purifies lepers, and overflows with healings for those who honor him.”