Thursday, July 18, 2019

Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes: On the Prophet Elias and the Wonders of Prayer

The Holy Prophet Elias (source)
Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes of Florina: On the Prophet Elias and the Wonders of Prayer
Today, my beloved, we celebrate one of the greatest Saints of our faith, the glorious Prophet Elias. He lived before Christ, but he is also "the second forerunner of the coming of Christ" (from the Apolytikion of the Saint). He is one of the most beloved Saints, and many bear his name, and on many hills there are built chapels in his name, and many villages celebrate his name.

Should we tell of his life? It would take much time and you don't have much stamina. So that I might not tire you, I will tell of a few essential things from the life of the Prophet Elias. I will mention three of the wonders out of the many that he had done.

The one was that once, with his prayer, there was a drought that hit along with a famine in Judea. He also was hungry, because the Saints suffer hunger. He went to a village and everyone closed their doors to him. Only one house, a hut, opened their door. And who lived there, a rich man? It was a poor widow with her children. She received him. She had nothing to offer him hospitality, only a handful of flour and a little oil. And these she did not hold back. As soon as she saw him, even though she didn't know who this old man was, she said: "Come in, Elder." She immediately took the flour, made bread and gave him to eat, because he was tired from his journey. This occurred in Zarepta of Sidonia. And then--let the faithless disbelieve; it is their right, but we believe--from that hour on, the widow's house was never lacking in flour and oil. (Third Kings 17:8-16).

What does this mean?  Where there is the blessing of God, everything is riches. One can have incomparable fields, vineyards and olive groves, one can have sacks of gold and silver, one can have it all, but die from hunger. And one can have a handful of flour, a little piece of earth, a bucket of soil, and this will sustain you, as long as one blesses the Lord. These are not just words, they are reality. Because of this our Church chants: "The rick have become poor and hungry, but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." (Psalm 33:11) Everything, therefore, is a blessing. Some place too high an emphasis of work alone, because above work is the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Another miracle: While the house of the widow had flour and oil, the rest of the village was suffering hunger, for it had not rained for three and a half years. The impious King Ahab gathered the people of Israel on Mount Carmel, and there, the Prophet Elias censured them for their lack of steadfastness. Until when, he said, will you stand limping with your two feet? If our God is true, then follow Him. If Baal (the idol) is true, then follow him. They heard him without speaking, how would they be justified? Then he told them, I will only preach the true God, while the priests of the idols were about 1000. Today, therefore, we will test who is the true God. Bring two calves, and you will choose whichever you wish, and let us prepare a sacrifice with wood, but we will not light them on fire. And I will prepare the other for sacrifice and will not light it on fire. And you will entreat your god, and I will call upon the Lord my God. And He will hear me and will light and burn the calf of sacrifice, because He is the true God.

They agreed. The priests of shame placed their altar, and their calf upon it, and began to entreat, calling out: "Hear us, Baal". Noon passed, evening came, nothing. Their god was shown to be false. Afterwards, Elias places the clean altar, places wood and the calf upon it in pieces, and tells the others to sprinkle it three times with water (in order that there not be any possibility of fire). And as soon as he prayed, fire descended from heaven and consumed the whole calf, and the wood and the stones and even the water! Nothing remained. Then everyone believed that the only true God is the Lord. Immediately, the Prophet Elias commanded: cease all of the priests of shame, the priests of idolatry. And he took them to the brook of Kisson, and there--terribly--he slaughtered them all (ibid 18:19-40).
The Holy Prophet Elias (source)
Let us now return again to the house of the widow. What happened there? One day her child fell deathly ill and died. The mother said to the Prophet Elias: "Come to my house to explain to me for which of my sins my son was put to death." "Give me your son." he told her. He took him to the upper room, laid him in his bed, and having prayed to the Lord, breathed three times on the child, and then--let the faithless disbelieve, we believe that there is a God Who works wonders through the Panagia and the Saints--the child was resurrected. "I see that you are a man of God", the widow said. (ibid 17:17-24)

I told you a few things, my beloved, about the Prophet Elias. One more thing I will mention. When it came the time for him to flee from the world, he did not die like we do. As he was walking, a fiery chariot took him and lifted him high. The Prophet Elias still lives. He is hidden somewhere, in one corner of the universe. And we expect him to come again. You don't fear the Prophet Elias, because it seems that you are Saints? I am afraid of him. He is a thunderbolt against sinners, prostitutes, adulterers, blasphemers, atheists, shameful people and all who remain unrepentant. His word is burning. He is the "second forerunner of the coming of Christ", the forerunner of the Second Coming of the Lord. And the Second Coming of the Lord is approaching, it is coming! The signs are many. There are signs which will precede the end of the world, and one of them is the appearing of the Prophet Elias.

One sign of the end of the ages is, as Christ Himself said, that there will be earthquakes, terrible earthquakes (Matthew 24:7). And continuous earthquakes are occurring. Another sign was mentioned by St. Kosmas Aitolos. When they asked him when the end of the world was coming, he replied: "When you see women walking naked in the street." And we see this in reality. Women walking around [naked], corrupting the world*, and even in the church they dare to enter naked. Another sign is the divorces that are increasing, while formerly divorce was unknown and only the shovel of the undertaker separated couples. Another sign that will appear is the 666. The devil will come out and begin to seal people, all, small and great will take this identification. These are the signs of the times. Go and sell your shirt and buy the Book of Revelation and read it, it is all written in there, what will occur.**

Within your houses, have fear of God. How will we be saved? With prayer. With what prayer? Not dead prayer, but living prayer which comes through tears. In the old blessed days the Christians listened in the Church of Christ with contrition. Today, we find the church dead. In the old days, in the crags of our homeland dwelt holy people. And what did they do? Were they partying at night? Before they would go to sleep, the father and mother, along with their seven or eight children would kneel in prayer to God. Show me today a family that prayers together! We have lost the mind of God. Where is prayer, family prayer? Where are the tears, the contrition? Where is Confession and Holy Communion? Where is almsgiving? Where are the wonders of our people?

Because of this, I advise you to take the Gospel and the Revelations and all of you read them, men and women. Pray night and day, at noon and in the evening. And if you can't say many prayers, say only one prayer: "Lord, have mercy", "Lord, have mercy", "Lord, have mercy". And if you say it with your whole heart, you will be heard, and you will work wonders, and the stars will descend to earth.

Let us live like this, therefore, my beloved and blessed ones, with Christ, awaiting the return of the Prophet Elias, and entreating God to save the world. Amen.

(+) Bishop Avgoustinos, recorded from a homily given in the Holy Church of the Prophet Elias, Xanthogeion, Amyntaiou, on July 20th, 1987) (Source)

*Note I: This described lack of modesty, and lust in general is of course not only seen in women, but in men as well, as day by day, filth of body, mind and soul is growing and is being exhibited more externally, in society, TV, the internet, etc.
**Note II: Thankfully, there are many good Orthodox guides to reading the Book of Revelation, including the most famous commentary by St. Andrew of Caesarea (translated here), published talks by Fr. Athanasios Mitilinaios, a series by Fr. Thomas Hopko, the series of talks by Fr. Josiah Trenham, etc. Metropolitan Avgoustinos ends this sermon very poignantly, focusing not on fear of the 666 or the Antichrist, but on fear of the Lord, and emphasizing the need for prayer, repentance, contrition, the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Mysteries of our Church.
The Holy Prophet Elias, with scenes from his life (Source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

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