We too are anxious as Prophet Elija!

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There is a great lesson that we are given this month through the commemoration of the Prophet  Elijah,  those  of  us  who  have  the  Church  at  heart  and  thirst  for  its  purity.  We receive  this  lesson  by  reading  chapter  19  of  book  III  of  The  Kings.  What  is  said  at  this part of the Old Testament is the following:

The fiery Prophet Elijah, with a soul exhausted and almost broken-­‐hearted as a result of his struggles against the idolatry which plagued the state of Israel, is found in a cave of the mountain Horeb. He opens his heart in prayer before God and overflows with feelings of grievance: “I have served you with zeal,” he says to his Divine Master. “See, however, the reasons which have discouraged me. The sons of Israel betrayed me. And, in spite of all that I did for them, in spite of the castigation which I addressed to them, and in spite of the punishment of the priests of Baal which your power brought about, the same situation continues to apply. Your altars are still ruined. Your Prophets are assassinated. And I have remained alone but my enemies seek to put me to death.”

Then, the Prophet Elijah heard a voice which said to him: “Tomorrow you must come out of your cave and you must stand at the peak of the mountain.” This is indeed what happened. The following day, the Prophet came out of his cave, and climbed up to the top of the Mountain. What a dreadful moment! A terrible thunderstorm had broken out. It seemed that its force would dissolve the rocky mass of Mount Horeb. At this moment he heard a voice which said to him: “The Lord is not inside this violent and destructive storm.” Then the storm passed and a terrible earthquake occurred. But again the voice informed him that the Lord was not inside this earthquake either. And then, the rocks of Horeb brought out flames. And the voice said to Elijah that the Lord was not in that fire either. After these breath-­‐taking phenomena, a gentle Breeze began to blow. The  Lord was in it. This is what the voice said to the Prophet, and he believed it and understood what God wanted to teach him. The lesson is this: that the presence of God is  not expressed in any other way but as “a gentle Breeze”, as the sacred text calls it. This is an eternal lesson, which is addressed to us as well.

We, too, often become as anxious as Elijah. Our zeal makes us feel violent like the storm, and like the earthquake and vehement like the fire. Our sacred indignation pushes us to words and acts which do not have the freshness and the gentleness of the Breeze.

We believe that The Church, this new Israel, will not be cleansed from sin, unless we move vigorously, imitating the activity of Elijah, before he received this superb lesson on the mountain Horeb.

But the Lord loves His Church more than we do. He is concerned much more for her well being than  we  are.  His grievance  which  he  feels  because  of  our  sorry  state  is uncontainable not only in our heart, but also in our imagination.

And yet, He tells us that we must not be impatient and uncharitable. Rather we should be merciful and condescending as He is.

When  God  came  down  to  the  earth,  and  became  a  human  being.  He  repeated  this lesson  to  us.  We  may  recall  here  the  verses  from  Isaiah  which  St.  Matthew  the Evangelist recalls in order to show the simplicity which characterizes the Son of God in his  behavior towards those who exhibit an evil behavior in the Church. “He will not wrangle  or  cry  aloud,  nor  will  anyone  hear  his  voice  in  the  streets;  he  will  not  brake  a bruised reed, or quench a smoldering wick” (Matth. 12:19-­‐20).  It is exactly because the Lord loves his Church more than us that he is genial and caring and delicate. He does not like screaming, lengthy expostulations of wild criticism, or unbridled victimization. He knows, because he is the only one who knows our heart, and so, even in the worst guises of evil, which stigmatize the body of the Church, there is always the hope of recovery. This recovery is accomplished only under the life-­‐giving and distinctive breeze of  the Spirit. Love, forbearance, meekness, humility, affection should distinguish the workers of the Church. The workers should imitate their divine employer, the Lord of the Vineyard. There is no room in them for rage, anger, or a judging tongue. What has to be  gained on behalf of Christ on the earth will not be gained by force, but with love, harmlessness and non-­‐aggressiveness.

Indeed, the Son of God himself teaches this most clearly in the parable of weeds among wheat. We see the weeds among the wheat and this sight is unbearable to us. Our zeal pushes us to cut out the weeds. Nevertheless, this impulse is not the finger of God, but the finger of Lucifer. God does not want us to cut them out. Listen to what he says to us, when we take it to ourselves to strike persons and situations in His Church: “It is not I who inspires you to do so. This behavior is thoughtless and prejudicial. Because where you direct your beating, there are souls around which will be scandalized by your action, and  you  may  damage  them  and  even  uproot  them  together  with  the  evil  which purportedly you tried to uproot.”

Do not misappropriate what is not your own task. I will purge my Church from all weeds on the Day of Judgment. Your judgment, your holy indignation, your anger will not bring only good, but also evil. You may uproot from the Church myriads of pharisees, vicious culprits  and  bribe-­‐takers,  but  if  with  them  you  cast  out  even  one  soul  which  is scandalized by your behavior, for whom I shed my Blood, the damage to you will be infinitely greater than the benefit.

Do you want to bring glory to my Church, or to work for its progress and her purity? Imitate me. Do not run to cut out the weeds. Do not take recourse to violence. Become and  remain  to  the  end  as  “a  gentle  breeze,”  because  I  am  not  present  either  in  the storm, or in the earthquake, or in the fire. I am only present in the refreshing breeze.

translated by Fr.George Dragas

(“The Forerunner” Volume  10,Issue 6,7,8, June, July, August 2012)