The Holy Prophet Elijah is one of the greatest prophets and the first devoted to virginity in the Old Testament. He was born in Tishba-gilead in the tribe of Levites 900 years before the Incarnation of the Word of God.
On July 20, the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates the Prophet Elijah.
Saint Epiphanius of Cyprus gives the following account of the birth of the prophet Elijah: “When Elijah was born, his father Sobach saw in a vision of the angels of God around him. They wrapped him in fire and fed him with flames. The name Elijah (the strength of the Lord) given to the child defined his whole life. From the years of his youth, he devoted himself to the One God, settled in the desert and spent his whole life in strict fasting, meditation and prayer. Called to prophetic service, which brought him into conflict with the Israelite king Ahab, the prophet became a fiery fanatic of true faith and godliness.
Meanwhile, the Israelite nation had drifted away from the faith of their Fathers, they had abandoned the One God and worshiped pagan idols, the worship of which was introduced by the impious King Jeroboam. Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife, was devoted to idol worship. She persuaded her husband to build a temple to the pagan god Baal, which alienated many Israelites from worshiping the true God. Seeing the ruin of his nation, the prophet Elijah began to denounce King Ahab for his ungodliness and urged him to repent and turn to the God of Israel. The king did not listen to him. The prophet Elijah then told him that, as a punishment, there would be no rain or dew on the ground, and that the drought would only cease by his prayer. Indeed, Elijah’s word was a torch (Eccles. 48:1) The heavens were shut up for three and a half years, and there was drought and famine throughout the land.
During this time of tribulation, the Lord sent him to a cave beyond the Jordan. There he was miraculously fed by crows. When the Horath stream dried up, the Lord sent the prophet Elijah to Zarephath to a poor widow, a kind Sidonian woman who was suffering with her children, awaiting death from starvation. At the Prophet’s request, she prepared a loaf for him with the last measure of flour and the rest of the oil. Thanks to the prayer of the prophet Elijah, flour and oil did not run out in the widow’s house for the duration of the famine. By the power of his prayer, the prophet also performed another miracle: he raised the widow’s dead son.
After three years of drought ended, the merciful Lord sent the prophet to appear before King Ahab and promised to bring rain to the land. The prophet Elijah told the king to command all Israel to gather on Mount Carmel, along with the priests of Baal. When the nation gathered, the prophet Elijah proposed that two sacrificial altars be built: one for the priests of Baal and the other for the prophet Elijah who served the True God.
The prophet Elijah told them to call on their gods to consume the sacrificial animals with fire, and he would call on his own. Whoever would first send fire on the sacrifice would be recognized as the true God. Baal’s prophets cried out to their idol from morning till night, but the heavens were silent. Towards evening, the holy prophet Elijah built his sacrificial altar of twelve stones, the number of the tribes of Israel. He placed the sacrifice on the wood, gave the order to dig a ditch around the altar and ordered that the sacrifice and the wood be soaked with water. When the ditch filled with water, the prophet turned to God in prayer. Through the prayer of the prophet, fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, the wood and even the water. The people fell to the ground crying, “Truly the Lord is God! Then the prophet Elijah had all the pagan priests of Baal put to death, and he began to pray for rain. Through his prayer, the heavens opened and heavy rain fell, soaking the parched earth.
King Ahab recognized his mistake and repented of his sins, but his wife Jezebel threatened to kill God’s prophet. The prophet Elijah fled to the kingdom of Judea and, distressed at his inability to eradicate idol worship, he asked God to let him die. An angel of the Lord came before him, strengthened him with food and ordered him to go on a long journey. The prophet Elijah traveled for forty days and forty nights and when he arrived at Mount Horeb he settled in a cave.
The Lord told him that Elijah would stand in his presence the next day. There was a strong wind that crushed the rocks of the mountain, then an earthquake and a fire, but the Lord was not in them. The Lord was in “a gentle breeze” (3 Kings 19:12). He revealed to the prophet that he would preserve seven thousand faithful servants who had not worshiped Baal.
Later, the Lord commanded Elijah to anoint Elisha for prophetic service. Because of his fiery zeal for the glory of God, the prophet Elijah was taken alive to heaven in a chariot of fire. The prophet Elisha received Elijah’s mantle and a double portion of his prophetic spirit.
According to the Tradition of the Holy Church, the Prophet Elijah will be the Forerunner of the Dreadful Second Coming of Christ. He will proclaim the truth of Christ, urge everyone to repentance, and be killed by the Antichrist. It will be a sign of the end of the world.
Orthodox Christians of all times and places have revered the prophet Elijah for centuries. The first church in Russia, built in kyiv under Prince Igor, was named in honor of the Prophet Elijah after his baptism. Saint Olga (July 11) built a temple of the holy prophet Elijah in her native region, in the village of Vibuta.
In iconography, the prophet Elijah is depicted ascending to heaven in a chariot of fire, surrounded by flames and harnessed to four winged horses. We pray for deliverance from drought and ask for seasonable weather.
Today is also the name day of Elias.
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