The Holy Glorious Prophet Elias

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The Holy Prophet Elias is one of the greatest of the prophets and the first dedicated to virginity in the Old Testament. He was born in Tishba of Gilead into the Levite tribe 900 years before the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Saint Epiphanius of Cyprus gives the following account about the birth of the Prophet Elias: “When Elias was born, his father Sobach saw in a vision angels of God around him. They swaddled him with fire and fed him with flames.” The name Elias (the Lord’s strength) given to the infant defined his whole life. From the years of his youth he dedicated himself to the One God, settled in the wilderness and spent his whole life in strict fasting, meditation and prayer. Called to prophetic service, which put him in conflict with the Israelite king Ahab, the prophet became a fiery zealot of true faith and piety.

During this time the Israelite nation had fallen away from the faith of their Fathers, they abandoned the One God and worshipped pagan idols, the worship of which was introduced by the impious king Jereboam. Jezebel, the wife of king Ahab, was devoted to idol worship. She persuaded her husband to build a temple to the pagan god Baal, which led many Israelites away from the worship of the true God. Beholding the ruin of his nation, the Prophet Elias began to denounce King Ahab for impiety, and exhorted him to repent and turn to the God of Israel. The king would not listen to him. The Prophet Elias then declared to him, that as punishment there would be neither rain nor dew upon the ground, and the drought would cease only by his prayer. Indeed, the word of Elias was a torch (Eccles. 48: 1) The heavens were closed for three and a half years, and there was drought and famine throughout all the land.

During this time of tribulation, the Lord sent him to a cave beyond the Jordan. There he was miraculously fed by ravens. When the stream Horath dried up, the Lord sent the Prophet Elias to Sarephta to a poor widow, a Sidonian Gentile who suffered together with her children, awaiting death by starvation. At the request of the prophet, she prepared him a bread with the last measure of flour and the remainder of the oil. Through the prayer of the Prophet Elias, flour and oil were not depleted in the home of the widow for the duration of the famine. By the power of his prayer the prophet also performed another miracle: he raised the dead son of the widow.

After the end of three years of drought the Merciful Lord sent the prophet to appear before King Ahab, and promised to send rain upon the earth. The Prophet Elias told the king to order all of Israel to gather upon Mount Carmel, and also the priests of Baal. When the nation had gathered, the Prophet Elias proposed that two sacrificial altars be built: one for the priests of Baal, and the other for the Prophet Elias who served the True God.

The Prophet Elias told them to call on their gods to consume the sacrificial animals with fire, and he would call on his. Whichever was first to send fire on the sacrifice would be acknowledged as the true God. The prophets of Baal called out to their idol from morning till evening, but the heavens were silent. Towards evening the holy Prophet Elias built his sacrificial altar from twelve stones, the number of the tribes of Israel. He placed the sacrifice upon the wood, gave orders to dig a ditch around the altar and commanded that the sacrifice and the wood be soaked with water. When the ditch had filled with water, the prophet turned to God in prayer. Through the prayer of the prophet fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, the wood, and even the water. The people fell down to the ground, crying out: “Truly, the Lord is God!” Then the Prophet Elias had all the pagan-priests of Baal put to death, and he began to pray for rain. Through his prayer the heavens opened and an abundant rain fell, soaking the parched earth.

King Ahab acknowledged his error and repented of his sins, but his wife Jezebel threatened to kill the prophet of God. The Prophet Elias fled into the Kingdom of Judea and, grieving over his failure to eradicate idol worship, he asked God to let him die. An angel of the Lord came before him, strengthened him with food and commanded him to go upon a long journey. The Prophet Elias traveled for forty days and nights and, having arrived at Mount Horeb, he settled in a cave.

The Lord told him that the next day Elias would stand in His presence.There was a strong wind that crushed the rocks of the mountain, then an earthquake, and a fire, but the Lord was not in them. The Lord was in “a gentle breeze” (3 Kings 19: 12). He revealed to the prophet, that He would preserve seven thousand faithful servants who had not worshipped Baal.

Later, the Lord commanded Elias to anoint Elisha into prophetic service. Because of his fiery zeal for the Glory of God the Prophet Elias was taken up alive into Heaven in a fiery chariot. The Prophet Elisha received Elias’s mantle, and a double portion of his prophetic spirit.

According to the Tradition of Holy Church, the Prophet Elias will be the Forerunner of the Dread Second Coming of Christ. He will proclaim the truth of Christ, urge all to repentance, and will be slain by the Antichrist. This will be a sign of the end of the world.

The life of the holy Prophet Elias is recorded in the Old Testament books (3 Kings; 4 Kings; Sirach/Ecclesiastes 48: 1-15; 1 Maccabees 2: 58). At the time of the Transfiguration, the Prophet Elias conversed with the Savior upon Mount Tabor (Mt. 17: 3; Mark 9: 4; Luke. 9: 30).

Orthodox Christians of all times, and in all places, have venerated the Prophet Elias for centuries. The first church in Russia, built at Kiev under Prince Igor, was named for the Prophet Elias. After her Baptism Saint Olga (July 11) built a temple of the holy Prophet Elias in her native region, at the village of Vibuta. In iconography the Prophet Elias is depicted ascending to Heaven in a fiery chariot, surrounded with flames, and harnessed to four winged horses. We pray to him for deliverance from drought, and to ask for seasonable weather.

Venerable Father Photios Metropolitan Archbishop of Kyiv and of All Rus’

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Saint Photius, Metropolitan Archbishop of Kyiv and of Rus’, was by birth a Greek from the Peloponnesian city of Monembasia (Malbasia). While still in his adolescence he entered a monastery and was tonsured under the Elder Acacius, a great ascetic (afterwards the Metropolitan of Monembasia). In 1408, when Photius was in Constantinople with the Patriarch on church matters, the question arose about a replacement for the Kyivan See after the death of Saint Cyprian (September 16). The choice of Patriarch Matthew (1397-1410) fell upon Photius, known for his learning and holiness of life. On September 1, 1408 Saint Photius was made Metropolitan and in the next year arrived in Rus’ (modern-day Ukraine).

He spent half a year at Kyiv (September 1409-February 1410), concerning himself with settling affairs in the southern dioceses of the Kyivan Church, then included within the principality of Lithuania, or more precisely, of Lithuania and Russia. The saint perceived that the throne of the Metropolitan, the spiritual center of churchly life in Rus’, could not remain in the western Rus’ lands, where everything increasingly fell under the dependence of Catholic Poland. As a result, the Orthodox Church of Kyiv and All Rus’ continued to move eastward, away from Polish control. On the day of Holy Pascha in 1410, Metropolitan Photius arrived in Moscow following the example of other previous Metropolitans, who transferred their residence first to the city of Vladimir, then to Moscow.

For 22 years the saint labored in the difficult service of archpastor of the Church in Rus’. In grievous conditions of war, fratricidal strife, and pillaging incursions of Islamic Tatars he knew how to highly advance the spiritual significance, the material prosperity and well-being of the churches under the See of Moscow.

Favorable conditions in the Church allowed Saint Photius to render great assistance to the increasingly impoverished Patriarch of Constantinople, and to strengthen the international position of the Orthodox Church of Rus’ and the entire Rus’ realm.

The enemies of Orthodoxy tried to subvert the churchly-patriotic service of Saint Photius more than once. In the spring of 1410, when Saint Photius arrived in Vladimir from Moscow, Khan Edigei, having laid waste this portion of the Rusyn Land for two years, undertook a new campaign with the intent of capturing the Metropolitan himself. A Tatar detachment, headed by Prince Talychoi “the Exile,” suddenly attacked and quickly took Vladimir, but God preserved His righteous saint.

The evening before, not suspecting danger, the saint had gone off to the Svyatoozersk (Holy Lake) monastery beyond the city. When the Tatars attempted pursuit, he concealed himself in a small settlement, surrounded by impassable swamps, at the River Senega. Unable to capture the Metropolitan, the rapacious Tatars plundered Vladimir, especially the Dormition cathedral church. The doorkeeper of the cathedral, Patrikii, endured terrible torments and accepted a martyr’s death from the plundering Islamic Tatars, but he did not reveal where the church sacred items and treasury were hidden.

Through the efforts of Metropolitan Photius the canonical unity of the Orthodox Church of Rus’ was restored. The separate Lithuanian metropolitanate, established by Prince Vitovt for the southern and western eparchies [dioceses], was abolished in 1420. In that same year the saint visited the returned eparchies and greeted the flock with an instructive encyclical. The wise and erudite pastor left behind many instructions and letters. Of great theological significance was his denunciation of the heresy of the Strigolniki, which had arisen at Pskov prior to his time. By his wise efforts the heresy was put to an end in 1427.

Important Church historical sources compiled by Saint Photius are his “Order of Selection and Installation of Bishops” (1423), “ Discourse on the Seriousness of the Priestly Office and the Obligations of Church Servers,” and also the “Spiritual Testament”, in which he tells of his life. Another great work of the saint was the compilation, under his guidance, of the Obscherus’k (All-Rus’) Chronicle (about 1423).

On April 20, 1430 the holy archpastor was informed by an angel of his approaching end, and he reposed peacefully on the Feast of the Placing of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos at Blachernae, on July 2, 1431. His relics were uncovered in the year 1471. Two sakkoi (robes) of Saint Photius are preserved in the Armory Palace of the Moscow Kremlin.