Daily Reflection for July 20, 2020



Writing about the life of his sister St. Macrina, St. Gregory of Nyssa hesitates to enumerate her miracles, saying: “…that I may not be responsible for the sin of unbelief among weak men.” His term for those who do not believe is “weak.” Truly, there is nothing weaker than a man without faith. The man without faith believes in the power of dead things and dead elements of nature, but does not believe in the power of God or of men of God. This is spiritual dullness, and this dullness is equivalent to spiritual death. Thus, living souls believe and dead souls do not believe. Living souls believe in the powerful miracles of the Prophet Elijah. These miracles give them courage and joy, for they know that they are a manifestation of the might of God. When God manifests His might through lifeless things and elements of nature, why would He not manifest it through living and holy men? The Prophet Elijah’s appearance on Mount Tabor at the time of the Transfiguration of the Lord in particular gives the faithful the greatest joy. During his life on earth, this great prophet gave proof of the existence of the One and Living God and, by his appearance on Mt. Tabor hundreds of years after his departure from the earth, he gave mankind visible proof of life after death. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

And according to the word of Elijah, Ahab sent to all Israel, and gathered all the prophets on Mount Carmel, and brought Elijah before all of them. And Elijah said to them, “How long will you go limping on both feet? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people answered him not a word.
            And Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord; and the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty men, and the prophets of the groves four hundred.” And Elijah said, “Give me two oxen, and let you choose one for yourselves, and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; and I will prepare the other bullock and lay it on the wood, and put no fire to it. And you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the Name of the Lord, my God; and the God Who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people answered and said, “The word that Elijah has spoken is good; let it be so.”
            And Elijah said to the prophets of shame, “Choose for yourselves one bullock and prepare it first, for you are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire to it.” And they took the bullock and prepared it; and they called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, and said, “Hear us, O Baal, hear us!” But there was no voice, nor an answer. And they ran about the altar which they had made.
            And it was noon, and Elijah the Tishbite mocked them and said, “Call with a loud voice, for your god is (musing), or he has gone to another place, or perhaps is sleeping and you must awake him.” And they cried with a loud voice, and cut themselves with knives and flogged themselves many times with whips, even to the shedding of their own blood. And they prophesied until the evening; and it came to pass that it was the time of the offering of the scarifice, but there was no voice.
            And Elijah spoke to the prophets of shame, saying, “Stand by for the present, and I will offer my sacrifice.” And they stood aside and were silent. And Elijah said to the people, “Come near to me”; and all the people came near to him. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel, as the Lord had said to him, “Israel shall be your name.”
           And he built up the stones in the name of the Lord, and repaired the altar that had been broken down; and he made a trench for water that would hold two measures of seed round about the altar. And he piled the cleft wood on the altar which he had made, and divided the whole burnt-offering, and laid on the wood and around the altar. And Elijah said, “Fetch me four jars of water and pour it on the whole-burnt-offering, and on the wood.” And they did so. And he said, “Do it a second time”; and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time”; and they did it a third time. And the water ran round about the altar, and the trench was filled with water.
            And Elijah cried aloud to heaven and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, hearken unto me, hearken unto me this day by fire, and let all this people know that Thou alone art the Lord God of Israel and that I am Thy servant and that I have done all these things for Thy sake; for Thou hast turned back the hearts of this people to follow Thee.”
           Then fire fell from the Lord out of heaven and devoured the whole-burnt-offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and the water that was in the trench; the fire licked up everything. And all the people fell upon their faces, and said, “Truly the Lord God, he is God!” And Elijah said to the people, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. (3 Kings 18,19 [composite from Vespers])

The Church celebrates the memory of the Holy Prophet Elijah today — a prophet so in communion with the Lord that he did not taste death. The passage above (more than worth reading) relates one of the greatest demonstrations of the Lord’s glory and power. Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal, all from Israel, numbering 450! The challenge was quite graphic. The 450 would offer a sacrifice but not touch flame to it, and Elijah himself would offer a sacrifice with the same conditions. After a whole morning of begging “Baal” to come and consume their offering, nothing. Elijah mocks them and their “god.” Then, to leave no doubt about the power of God, Elijah orders his sacrifice, the altar and even the trenches around it to be soaked with water. He called upon the Lord and not only was the sacrifice consumed, but the fire even lapped up the overflow of the water. Then the false prophets were rounded up and destroyed.

There are simple lessons in this miracle. The “prophets” of Baal were all from Israel, the chosen people of God, and were apostates and idolaters. There is no guarantee that because we belong to the people of God (the Church) we are immune from the same temptation. Many idols are seductive to a people weak with secularism and consumerism. Then there is the fact that Elijah stood alone against 450 others. Sometimes a lone voice brings the presence of God despite being “outnumbered” and “outshouted.” Many times in the history of the Church a single voice was the only voice of Truth and the living God. Sometimes I am called to be that one voice. There is the example of false sacrifice. We need to make sure that we offer our sacrifice to the one true Lord, and not to idols. We sacrifice so much in this world. We sacrifice time, talent, and treasure to many different “gods.” We spend so much of each on idols that feed our appetites, but do not serve the Lord. Finally, we see what happens to those who truly depend on themselves, their positions and false gods instead of the Lord. The end is always death — if not here, then in eternity. May we always have the strength, faith and presence of Elijah in our lives!