July 20, 2023

On the Prophet Elijah (St. Ephraim the Syrian)

By St. Ephraim the Syrian
Regarding the life of the blessed Elijah, who can narrate it? For he so lived upon the earth, that before his translocation he might be thought to live in the heavens, and associate with the incorporeal Angels; he who obtained nothing at all upon the earth; he who was wrapped only in sheepskin, and to those who wore crowns and royal robes he appeared dreadful, not because of the strength of the body, but by the power of landlessness and self-control, and by the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, which he obtained by his good life; he who had nothing, and yet possessed everything; he who refused all the comforts of this life; he who parted the river with his command; he who commanded the sky not to rain on the earth for three years and six months; he who shunned all the vain glory of this life; he who quenched the flame of sin with the coolness of temperance; he who never thought of anything carnal; he who rebuked the blasphemies of the prophets of delusion, and slaughtered the priests of Baal; he who commanded fire to come down the third time from heaven, and consumed the unbelievers, and rebuked the king for his diversion; he who had so much boldness and courage of speech; he who bound the clouds.

Thus, so great and so important a prophet did not live on earth without sorrows and temptations, but on the contrary, after the presentation of such great miracles, for fear of the woman, he became an exile and an emigrant, and was forced to travel forty days a path while fasting, but even so he did not find relief, but again another trial followed him, that is, the death of the widow's child. For after the kindness of hospitality, that blessed woman saw that her child had died, and while she expected to receive from the prophet a reward of blessing, she received as a reward the most painful of all for her: for she who expected to have consolation in her life, she lost him in the presence of the prophet.

How much sorrow then for the prophet? How much weakness? For the woman asked for her child, and he who bound the clouds was troubled by her, as she asked him for her child. Therefore, because he was pressed by her, he embraced the child seven times, mouth to mouth, and beseeching God for a long time, he gave the child to her who gave birth to him, after raising him from the dead. Because he had fasting and landlessness as his helper in the work.

You saw, brethren, the power of landlessness and self-control; how he abolished death and gave life to the child, and from trials and dangers they saved him, and with a chariot of fire they prepared him to ascend to the Master, without suffering anything from the fire. And because his life was refreshed by temperance and purity and the grace of God, with these and other virtues, while he was still in the body, he lived with the incorporeal Angels.

Source: Excerpt from "Discourse on What the Lord Said, That in This World You Will Have Sorrow, and That Man Must Be Perfect". Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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