by Adam Kossowski at Aylesford Priory, Kent
The prophet Elijah (Elias in Latin) appears in Scriptures (the Books of the Kings) as a man of God who lived always in God's presence and fought zealously for the worship of the one true God.
On Mount Carmel Elijah defended God's law in the solemn contest against the prophets of the false god Baal, and afterwards was given on Mount Horeb an intimate experience of the living God in 'the sound of sheer silence'. As a man of both prayer and service, he inspires Carmelites in their contemplative vocation. As a passionate defender of the truth, he gives particular inspiration to the Carmelites' work for justice, peace, and the integrity of Creation.
The first Carmelite hermits gathered by the 'Well of Elijah' on Mount Carmel, and regarded themselves as the 'sons of the prophet'. Although Carmelites no longer claims Elijah as literal 'founder' of our Order, the inspiration that was found in Elijah from the very beginnings of the Order so pervades its whole history that the prophet may deservedly be called the founder of the Carmelite ideal, the Father of All Carmelites, and Patron of the Carmelite Order.
Carmelites are unique in the Roman Catholic Church in the level of devotion that they give to such a figure of the Old or First Testament. Since Elijah is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims, he is a figure that encourages Carmelites to engage in interfaith encounter and dialogue.
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 grace through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever.
Saint Elijah depicted in an icon written by the Carmelite nuns of Ravenna,
in York Carmelite Friary