We are compelled to ponder today what can only be called a core text of the liturgical and spiritual tradition of Carmel. I refer, of course, to the lesson from the Third Book of Kings. This is a text — no, more than a text, a living word — that has, over the centuries, captured the heart of those called to live on Carmel’s heights.
Elias went up to the top of Carmel, and casting himself down upon the earth put his face between his knees, And he said to his servant: Go up, and look towards the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said: There is nothing. And again he said to him: Return seven times. And at the seventh time, behold, a little cloud arose out of the sea like a man’s foot. And he said: Go up and say to Achab: Prepare thy chariot and go down, lest the rain prevent thee. And while he turned himself this way and that way, behold the heavens grew dark, with clouds, and wind, and there fell a great rain. (3 Kings 18:42–45)Its context is important. First of all, a terrible drought has come over the land; God withholds his life–giving rain. Over the land ruled by Achab, a weak king, influenced by his wife’s devotion to the great sky–god, Baal, the heavens are closed. Elias determines that this state of affairs must be resolved. The true God, the God of Israel must be glorified in the sight of all. «And Elias coming to all the people, said: How long do you halt between two sides? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word» (3 Kings 18:21).
Elias summons the prophets of Baal, favourites of the wicked Queen Jezebel, to a public showdown on Mount Carmel. A holocaust is prepared. By the sign of fire from heaven the true God will make Himself known. The prophets of Baal were the first to begin the dreadful rite. The heavens were not moved by their frantic entreaties; Baal was distant and deaf to their cries, even though they cut themselves with swords and lances, joining blood to their futile ravings. (Read more.)