The dark night, if patiently and trustfully endured, culminates in a new strength and nearness to God. #Elijah #ElishaTweet
Elijah hiked forty days and nights until he reached Mount Horeb. There, in one of the mountain caves, the prophet entered into a dramatic dialogue with the Lord (Cf. 1 Kg 19:4-10).
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” the Lord asked.
“With zeal, I have been zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and slain your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left, and they seek to take away my life.” (The phrase “with zeal, I have been zealous for the Lord God of hosts” was later adopted as the motto of the Carmelite Order and is emblazoned across the Order’s escutcheon.)
“Go forth,” the Lord said, “and stand upon the mount before the Lord.”
“Go, return on your way through the desert to Damascus. And when you arrive you shall anoint Hazel to be king over Syria; and, you shall anoint Jehu the son of Namsi to be king over Israel. And Elisha, the son of Saphat of Abelmeula, you shall anoint to be prophet in your place” (Cf. 1 Kg 19:11-18).
The Lord had commissioned the prophet to anoint two kings and to select Elisha, whom he had never met, as his successor in the school of the prophets. Interestingly, Elijah did not accomplish the anointing of Hazel and Jehu during his lifetime: Elisha anointed Hazel and he sent another one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu.
Elijah encountered Elisha for the first time on the return journey from Mount Horeb. Elisha was plowing a field when Elijah approached him, threw his mantle around him, and invited him to become a follower. Elisha immediately left the oxen he was using to plow the field and began to walk away with Elijah.
Then he remembered: “Let me kiss my mother and my father and then I will follow you.”
“What have I done to you?” Elijah answered sympathetically. “Go, and return back.”
Elisha summoned his family and they killed the oxen and had a great feast, and when the meal was concluded the new prophet said his farewells and departed with Elijah. And thus was established that close friendship between the two men whom God had called to direct the activities of the prophets of Mount Carmel.
The Carmelite tradition makes frequent allusion to the double spirit which Elisha inherited from Elijah, interpreting it as a symbol of the prophetic vocation: the spirit of solitude and the spirit of prophetic preaching.
Elisha himself imbued his followers with this double spirit and his sons of the prophets were true disciples of Elijah. The exploits and adventures of Elisha and his sons of the prophets are related in 4 Kings [now known as 2 Kings], but it is difficult to follow the Elijahan tradition with any precision after the death of Elisha.
At any rate, organized prophetism disappeared completely in Israel, as we have mentioned, after the exile in the fifth century B.C. It was not until the twelfth century of the Christian epoch that Elijahan prophetism was revived by the first Carmelites on Mount Carmel.
Peter-Thomas Rohrbach, O.C.D.
Chapter I, The birth of an Order (excerpts)
Rohrbach, P 1966, 2015, Journey to Carith: The Sources and Story of the Discalced Carmelites, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Featured image: This is a detail from The Calling of Elisha, which was painted in 1572 by Flemish master Jan Massijs (ca. 1510–1575). It was executed in oil on panel and is found in the collections of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp. The image is in the public domain.