In the Eastern Churches, it is common to celebrate feast days of Old Testament Saints.  This tradition is almost unheard of in the West. On 20 July the Carmelite family celebrates the feast of St Elijah the prophet, who is known as the father of Carmel.
Our Rule of life, the Rule of St Albert, written in the early 13thCentury, addresses a group of hermits “who live near the spring of Elias on Mount Carmel.”  Medieval Carmelites looked to Elijah as the founder of the Order. They believed that hermits had dwelt on Mount Carmel in the tradition of Elijah in an unbroken line from his first successor Elisha to the present day.  Modern historians would treat this as legend rather than historical fact. However, Carmelites today still look to Elijah as a model of contemplative prayer, perseverance and trust in God.  He is the one who perceives God in the ‘still small voice’ on Mount Horeb. (1 Kings 19:12) and who stands in the presence of the living God (1 Kings 17:1) as God’s witness.

The words of the Carmelite motto “With zeal I am zealous for the Lord God of hosts” are spoken by Elijah in 1 Kings 19:14.

His feast is a fitting day to pray especially for peace in the Holy Land, since Elijah is revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Almighty, ever-living God,
your prophet Elijah our Father
lived always in your presence
and was zealous for the honour due to your name.
May we, your servants,
always seek your face
and bear witness to your love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

More on Elijah in these reflections from:

Kilmacud Carmel
Christopher O’Donnell O.Carm.
Nicholas Blackwell O.Carm.
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart (Los Angeles)

Fresco at Gracanica Monastery, Belgrade. Photo: Dr Johan Bergström-Allen