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The Order of Elijah

  • 09 August 2020 |
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Letters from a Pastor to His People- August 9, 2020

Dear Parishioners,

One cannot think of Elijah without thinking about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Elijah was the first contemplative monk. He lived atop Mount Carmel in prayer and asceticism. He drew others to follow him. It was said when he prophesied rain to relieve Israel in the midst of a terrible drought, he saw a cloud in the shape of a foot rising from the sea. He understood this as the sign that the drought would end, but more importantly that the Messiah would come. Elijah saw this foot as the foot of the Virgin Woman, who would be the mother of the Messiah. She, the immaculate cloud, would rise from the blue sea of humanity.

This "Order of Elijah" existed atop Mount Carmel until the time of Christ. It wasn't far from Nazareth, and legend has it Mary herself visited the hermitage during her life. After the Resurrection and Pentecost this order was transformed to the first Christian religious order, and eventually become Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Carmelite Order.

In the 13th Century, an English fellow named Stock, who was living in the woods, had a vision of Mary. She inspired him to join the contemplative order, which had just entered Britain. He did, adopting the religious name Simon, and Mary eventually gave to him the brown scapular.

The scapular is a little piece of cloth one can wear around one's neck as a sign of one's commitment and consecration to God and his Mother. We don't need to bear the full weight of the cross. Jesus himself did that for us. We can bear a weightless piece of cloth as a symbol of our love.

This week is almost a perfect confluence of all these things I've just written. Our first reading involves Elijah, who experiences God in a tiny whispering sound. Our Gospel deals with water, and on Saturday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption, a holy day of obligation.

Mary was small, like that tiny sound Elijah hears. She hardly speaks in the Gospels. And most of what she says is centered on God: my soul magnifies the Lord, do whatever he tells you, etc. Her appearances over the centuries when she did speak (at Knock she didn't say a word!), she told people to pray and, again, focus on her Son. Very basic stuff. Basic like that tiny whispering sound Elijah hears. I wonder if this is something Elijah and Jesus discussed during the Transfiguration: Mary.

In the Gospel we have Jesus walking on the sea in the middle of the storm and then Peter attempting to imitate Jesus. At the end of his life, Peter, I bet, would have been able to walk on water and not sink like he does here. Why? Because Peter had a better relationship to Mary.

Peter, we know, was the prince of the apostles. Mary, we know, was crucial for Jesus and the early Christian community. Remember, Mary is there at the foot of the cross and Jesus tells John, "Behold, your mother." Mary is also in the upper room at Pentecost. If Peter is the prince, Mary is the queen. Surely, Mary and Peter would have been in relationship. After Jesus' life, Peter would have prayed with Mary, talked with her, consulted her, asked her advice, and so forth.
In this scene Peter tries to walk on the water by himself. At the end of his life, he would have used the assistance of the Blessed Mother, who walked on the clouds to Heaven, and he would have succeeded.

Mary, Queen of the Apostles and the Lady of the Assumption, pray for us!

Yours in Christ,
Fr. James

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