The feast of Saint Elijah is celebrated July 20th in the Carmelite calendar. Saint Elijah was a prophet of the Old Testament. His story is recorded in the First and Second Book of Kings. He is also acknowledged as the spiritual father of Carmelites because the early hermits of Mount Carmel lived together near the spring of Elijah (wadi en-Siah)in Mount Carmel to follow his way of life. He is known for his spirit of courage when he confronted the prophets of Baal for a showdown to determine who is the one and true God of Israel. " How long will you straddle the issue? If Baal is god, follow him. If it is the Lord, then follow him". (1 Kings 18:21). The events that followed were so dramatic that it became the most repeated story in the Carmelite tradition. Elijah was both a man of prayer and action. He lived in Mount Carmel to savor the delights of deep contemplation and left it only when sent by God to do is bidding.
He was a man of no compromise, a man who spoke the truth when it wasn't popular, a man who allowed himself to be guided by his zeal for the Lord God of Hosts. He was also a man of deep compassion and sensitivities. When the son of the widow of Zarapath, whose hospitality Elijah was enjoying during the drought in Israel died, Elijah performed a miracle of raising him back to life. He felt the human feeling of sympathy and did what he could to comfort the widow. He wasn't always brave. When Queen Jezebel sent her men to hunt him down, after Elijah slaughtered most of her false prophets, at the showdown in Mount Carmel, Elijah went into hiding and despair and begged God to take his life (1 King 19:1-4).But true to his calling, he continued his mission, prompted by God and nourished by the food from heaven. After Elijah was taken up to heaven by fiery chariots (2Kings 2: 9-12), the prophet Elisha succeeded him.
Elijah for the CARMELITES :
As we attempt to follow Christ more closely, we Carmelites find inspiration in the Old Testament Prophet, Elijah, and in the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Prophet Elijah
Elijah's memory was kept alive especially on Mount Carmel where he challenged the people to stop hobbling first on one foot and then on the other but to choose who is God in Israel - Yahweh or Baal. According to the story, which can be found in the First Book of Kings, chapter 18, Elijah's sacrifice was consumed by fire from heaven which proved to the people that Yahweh was the true God. Elijah made himself available for God's work and was sent into various situations to proclaim God's word. Elijah undertook a long journey through the desert where he began to despair. He sat down under a bush and wished he were dead but God would not allow him to die and prodded him to continue his journey to Mount Horeb. When he arrived there, God became present to Elijah. God came not with the signs usual in the Old Testament of fire, earthquake and mighty wind but in the sound of a gentle breeze. Elijah was sent back to his people to carry out God's will. From Elijah, Carmelites learn to listen for the voice of God in the unexpected and in silence. We seek to allow the Word of God to shape our minds and our hearts so that the way we live and the things we do may be prophetic and therefore faithful to the memory of our father Elijah.