Thursday, July 20, 2006

In festo Sancti Eliæ, Prophetæ, Ducis ac Patris Nostri

July 20 is the feast of St Elias the Prophet in all branches of the Carmelite Order, in the Byzantine Rite and in some other calendars and martyrologies. In the Carmelite Order he is honoured as the founder -- "Dux et Pater" -- of the Order. These days that is taken in a spiritual sense, i.e., the inspiration of the early crusader founders who dwelt on his holy mount of Carmel. But in the middle ages he was quite literally the founder and the Carmelites were the direct descendants of the sons of the prophets (vide 3 Kings 2:14-15).

Here is the Matins Hymn in the old office of St Elias [a.k.a., "Elijah"]:

Te, magne rerum conditor,
Mens nostra gliscit laudibus,
In hoc Thesbite maximo,
Quem diligis, extollere.

Hic namque sacri nominis
Tui zelator provocat
Vates Baal nequissimos,
Victosque iure interficit.

Illo precante, victimas
Absumit ignis cælitus:
Hi perstrepentes acriter
Sunt omnibus ludibrio.

Tum Iezabelis impiæ
Vitans furorem noxium,
Sub iunipero dormiens,
Adesse cernit Angelum.

Panem sibi qui proferens
Lymphamque, iussit pergere
Cibo refectum strenue
Ad montis Horeb verticem.

Hoc in cibo ieiunium
Tulit quadragenarium;
Hac vi dapes sunt prædite,
Quas dextra Dei porrigit.

Omnis tibi sit gloria,
Verbum, Pater, Paraclite,
Inseparata Trinitas,
Quæ condidisti omnia.

This verse translation was done by Sister Mary Paula,O.C.D.:

Great Author of all things that are
To you we sing in joyful praise
Of him the Thesbite whom you love
Elijah, seer of ancient days.

With burning zeal for your blest name
He challenged wicked priests of Baal
And conqu'ring killed them in his might
To make your sacred law prevail.

The victims offered by his prayer
Drew heaven's blest consuming flame.
In vain Baal's servants scream and rave
Their frenzy brings them only shame.

Then Jezabel, unholy queen,
In fury raves, the prophet flees.
Beneath the sheltering juniper
He sleeps and then an angel sees.

The angel offers strengthening food
With water pure his thirst to end
And marks a journey he must make
Mount Horeb's summit to ascend.

No food but this for forty days,
He journeys through the desert land
Prefiguring the royal feast
Prepared us by the Father's hand.

To Father, Word and Paraclete
All glory, honor ever be
O undivided Trinity
Through whom creation came to be.

The troparion and kontakion in honour of the Holy Prophet Elias the Thesbite, from the Melkite Byzantine Liturgy:


The Glorious Elias, angelic in body, pillar of prophets, second herald of Christ, by sending grace upon Eliseus from on high, dispels disease, cleanses lepers and over flows with healing for those who honour him.


O Glorious Prophet Elias who foresaw the glories of God, by your command you withheld the rains from heaven : intercede for our sake with the only One who loves mankind!

And, finally, a little note from an American Carmelite who is in contact with the Carmelite nuns on Mount Carmel in Israel. As you may know, Mount Carmel overlooks the port of Haifa which has been subject to missile attack by Hizballah. Indeed, the first missile landed on land belonging to the monastery of Stella Maris where the friars reside. The note:

I had the opportunity today to speak by phone with a couple of the Sisters from the Haifa. Of course, they were more interested in hearing some good news, rather than sharing bad news. But, there has been some good news today in Haifa: they report that there were only three siren warnings sounded – and that’s progress. On this Feastday, they continue to beg all of us to pray for peace in the region. And, they’re concerned for the safety of the nuns at the Harissa Carmel, near Beirut, since they are fairly exposed to Israeli bombardment.

I’m kicking myself because I forgot to ask if the Fathers hosted their usual celebration for the Prophet Elijah. I can’t imagine the current political and military situation would keep everyone away from the most important feast of Mount Carmel. Usually, Jews, Moslems, Christians and Druze gather on the basilica grounds or at the nearby Jewish “shrine” to pray and picnic. In fact, more folks gather at Stella Maris today than on July 16, traditionally. It’s amazing to see.

So, I’ll just pass on the Prioress’ thanks for your prayers and words of encouragement.