His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Homily for the Vespers of the Prophet Elias
July 19, 2020
Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church
Yonkers, New York
My Beloved Christians,
Tonight our hearts soar with the memory of the Prophet of fire and water, of wind and tempest, of heights of glory, and depths of despair. We speak of your Patron, who even to this very day has yet to experience a human death, for he was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind and chariot of fire. And he must return before the Day of Lord, before the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, even though the Lord said of his cousin, John the Baptist:
Truly, all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you will accept it, he is Elias who was to come. You, who have ears to hear, listen well![*]
So tonight, my dear Christians, we must listen and listen well. Do we accept our Elias? Do we accept his prophetic voice, and hear his godly call? All of us have our doubts, I am sure, in this moment when our faith and traditions are under attack; when this global pandemic shows no sign of giving up; when our society feels frayed and as damaged as our way and means of life.
All of us have witnessed the worldwide outcry over the decision of the Turkish government to convert the Great Church of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. This provocative and dangerous act runs counter to what should be the standard for the 21st Century. As a human family of over seven billion people, we can no longer afford the pride and prejudices of conquest and empire. There are still alive among us those who remember the World Wars of the last century and the horror they inflicted on our world.
Therefore, my beloved Christians, what can we learn from our Prophet Elias? He raised the dead, called down fire from heaven, and performed miracle after miracle. Yet for all these wonders and true θαύματα, he knew discouragement, loneliness, and even abandonment.
In tonight’s second Reading from the Third Book of Kings, after his triumph over the idolaters and his calling down of fire from heaven, the Prophet fled the scene of his victory and retired into the wilderness. There, exhausted from defending the true worship of God, he sank into a deep depression, even wishing to die. And then, God visited him….
And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire … a still small voice.[†]
Here is our message from the Prophet tonight, if we have “ears to hear.” We often see problems around us, and we want an instant and dramatic fix. We want the wind, and the earthquake, and the fire. But God is not in them.
God is in the “still, small voice” that speaks to us of patience, of endurance, of resilience, of the kind of faith that sees the unseen, believes the unbelievable, and hears the ineffable message of God’s love for every single human being.
Is it any wonder that in our noisy world filled with shouts and shrieks, where dialogue has nearly disappeared, and division dominates – is it any wonder that it is so very hard to discern that “still, small voice?”
My friends, Saint Seraphim of Sarov once said: “Save yourself, and a thousand around you will be saved.” This is how we hear that voice of God, that speaks so gently. For if we look for answers outside our own hearts, we will find only Θόρυβο, weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
I pray that in these difficult times, when so many of our assumptions are being challenged, we will all follow the wise example of the Prophet, and wait for the truthful utterance of God in our lives. This is how we change the world, by being faithful to His Word. And how shall we listen, except in the quietness, within the ἡσυχία of our own minds and hearts?
May we find this peace of mind and heart through the powerful prayers of the Prophet Elias, and all Who have spoken the word of God to God’s People. Amen.