Those to whom Elijah is little more than a myth, should visit Mount Carmel on July 20 — his Feast. They would behold a revelation. The chronicles of the Order give accounts of it each year, for it is a thing not of the past but of the present. The Holy Mountain is a teeming mass to celebrate Mar Elijah, as it is called. It is not by hundreds, but by thousands, the people are counted. For centuries, they have come on foot, on asses, on camels, on horseback, in carriages, and now, in automobiles! They come in caravans on pilgrimages, and singly on the eve, the pilgrims take their places nearest the Monastery, in every possible costume. The accounts are fascinating, and the ceremonies lend themselves to vivid description, but they would over-pass our space. The tone of the Feast is of innocent joy and profound veneration. There are two statues of Elijah, one in the original grotto under the Sanctuary, reached by steps from the Basilica, another exposed in the Basilica itself; they go from one to the other, praying and asking protection — the devotion to the Prophet enters into the very life of the people.
The good Fathers lend themselves with the utmost charity to all harmless local customs. The archives of the Monastery record many well-authenticated incidents of miraculous favors, and even of apparitions of the Prophet. Children are dedicated to him and offered to God in his grotto. There are always many baptisms. The Arabs of the Greek Catholic Rite wish their children baptised in that spot, and often defer the Sacrament until their yearly pilgrimage.
The closing of the Feast leaves a beautiful picture; the sun sets in the deep blue of the Mediterranien; the Mountain, so lovely in form that the Canticle says of the Bride, “Thy head is as Carmel,” is veiled in shadow, the moon rises over the olives, and it is night! The monks come out upon the terrace, and the traditional illumination takes place, the Monastery is outlined in fire, and as it fades away once more, the pilgrims in their turn continue the display far into the night.
Devotion to the Holy Prophet was brought into the West with the advent of Carmel, and probably no living man has so many adherents, followers, and devotees as he. East and West combine to do him homage: East, because of traditions which hang without dispersion, as clouds in summer, over those dreamy, non forgetting, changeless peoples; West, because of the diffusion of Carmel throughout every nation.
A volume might be filled, indeed many have been filled, with memories of Elijah. The Prophet had no home, but a solitary cave in the mountain, and divine hospitality has opened a home for him in every quarter of the world. And what more in keeping with the idea of divine economy than to believe that when an ambassador of God returns to earth after thousands of years, God should thus provide for him, and how better provide than by constituting him the father of innumerable children who everywhere claim him as their own; who treasure every detail of his life, and, what is most sublime, who offer the supreme Sacrifice many times each day in the humble cave wherein he dwelt, which has be come a Sanctuary enclosed in the Basilica of Carmel. There in the Tabernacle, he will find his Master awaiting him.
The Manual of the Carmelite Order contains prayers for a procession to be made in time of drought or flood, for the holy Prophet both opened and closed the heavens, and in many countries messages are sent to the Monasteries for prayers in either necessity. In May, 1779, there was a great drought in Rome and a Triduum was inaugurated at the four Carmelite Churches in the City. Prayers were said in honor of Elijah, and the Cardinal Vicar of Rome urged the faithful to follow the exercises. The people came in crowds to the statue of the Thaumaturgus, and from the first day the prayer was granted, rain began to fall, and the devotions were continued in thanksgiving. This is only one of many analogous cases.
The Holy Prophet is invoked against pestilence, to avert public calamities, to restore peace of soul, and to draw down the blessings of God on those aspiring to perfection, as is proved in innumerable cases among the Saints and Blessed of Carmel. He is also called upon to avert wars and a remarkable instance is given when Roger of Sicily had to sustain terrible combats against the Saracens. So immediate was the answer of his prayers, that the pious Count built a Church and Monastery in honor of Elijah and presented it to the Carmelites. Many churches, altars, and statues have been erected in his name; states and cities have chosen him for Patron.
This devotion is proper to these latter times when the crimes of men are such as to weary the Divine patience and draw down calamities upon the human race. It is well to seek the charitable aid of him “who has been chosen to appease the wrath of God.” (Ecclesiasticus) Then, too, each day brings us nearer the time when he will come among us with the last message of mercy and forgiveness, ere he sheds his blood for the Lord “in whose sight he stands.”
PRAYER TO ST. ELIJAH
Holy Prophet of God Elijah, Leader and Father of Carmelites, intercede
for us and for the salvation of all.
V: Pray for us, O holy Father Elijah.
R: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray.
Grant, we beseech You, O Almighty God, that we who believe that the
Blessed Elijah Your Prophet and our Father was wonderfully carried up in
a fiery chariot, may by his intercession be raised to the desire of
heavenly things and rejoice in the society of Your saints. We ask this
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
After: “Carmel, Its History, Spirit, and Saints”