Hearth cake and a Jug of Water

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O Lord!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19: 4)

The Israelites had become comfortable worshiping the Lord and Baal, giving each one an exclusive area of influence in their lives. So the Lord takes his claim by exerting his authority over the rain, thus challenging the domain and power of Baal. Elijah proclaims a drought at the command of God, leaving the land parched and dry. The story as it plays out in chapter 17 and 18 of the First Book of Kings is explicit: the Lord and Baal – who will the people of Israel be loyal to? After three years of no rain, Elijah challenges the prophet of Baal on the top of Mount Carmel. After this the prophet it worn out and cannot go on. He lays down and falls asleep “under the broom tree”. He was exhausted and depressed and ready to just give up, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. “Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water.”

There is a profound similarity between our present times and those of the prophet Elijah. It seems like we are wandering in the desert, dry and weary in the spiritual life and everyone is worshiping Baal. What is a faithful person to do? Like Elijah we need to be nourished by God and persevere.

“After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the Lord came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.”(1 Kings 19: 6-8)

We too are on a journey to the mountain of God. To get there we need to persevere. Perseverance means we need to continually begin again. To arrive at our destination we need to persevere in our struggle in going against our defects and to acquire virtue. Perseverance in prayer is necessary in order for our life to bear fruit.

God will reward our efforts if we rely on God’s strength. He supplies us with daily nourishment in his word and in the Sacraments.

For daily nourishment and inspirational quotes from Carmelite Saints for the journey visit Hearthcake and a Jug of Water here.

The Prophet of Mercy

Elijah is the prophet of mercy. Why? Because mercy is a gift and a call. It is a generous gift and a call to conversion. This can be seen in the life of the “father” of prophets. After considering a reign like that of Ahab, who wouldn’t be left downcast and sorrowful in spirit? Dark clouds loom, every light seems extinguished, and voices are silenced – with death on the horizon. What a scene where all seems to be in the control of Satan himself! But God had a plan. In His mercy, He raised up a prophet. Elijah was to be a witness bringing light and power.

God is wise and full of compassion.

“As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.

For he knows how we are formed,

remembers that we are dust.” (Ps 103:13-14)

It is the mercy of God that raises up a prophet in a day of ruin. This He does with Elijah. God seeks out Elijah who is deserting, hiding under a broom tree! But God does not say, “Get up, go back to Jezreel!”


God is wise and full of compassion. 

The Lord tells Elijah first to rest and sleep. “ “Get up and eat!” He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again.” (1Kings 19:5-6) It has all been too much for Elijah, and he is crushed and unable to think or act clearly.

God is wise and full of compassion. 

He knows that Elijah is unable to process any correction nor is he able to take in any instruction. First, in order for him to be profitable, he needs to regain his physical and emotional strength.

“After Elijah had learned mercy during his retreat at the Wadi Cherith, he teaches the widow of Zarephath to believe in The Word of God and confirms her faith by his urgent prayer: God brings the widow’s child back to life.” (CCC 2583) The Catechism goes on to explain that it is “in their “one to one” encounters with God, the prophets draw light and strength for their mission. Their prayer is not flight from this unfaithful world, but rather attentiveness to The Word of God. At times their prayer is an argument or a complaint, but it is always an intercession that awaits and prepares for the intervention of the Savior God, the Lord of history.”(CCC 2584)

Hyla blue largposter copy

According to the visions of St.          Faustina, the Divine Mercy chaplet’s prayers for mercy have a threefold purpose. First, to obtain mercy, then to trust in the mercy of God, and finally to show mercy.

Christians know that they are not called to bring judgment. They know that they are to bring the Good News of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice to others. When faith is weakened people soon abandon the path to conversion because of their many sins. Then they are ladened with the guilt of these sins which slowly devour them. The role of the prophet is to help others to accept their faults and weaknesses while trusting in the mercy and hope that is found on the road towards forgiveness and conversion which leads to Jesus Christ.

To obtain “mercy” means to be given something that we do not deserve. As sinners we clearly do not deserve anything from God. But here is where we insert the prophetic message – God is merciful:

Merciful and gracious is the LORD,

slow to anger, abounding in mercy.

He will not always accuse,

and nurses no lasting anger;

He has not dealt with us as our sins merit,

nor requited us as our wrongs deserve.

For as the heavens tower over the earth,

so his mercy towers over those who fear   

him.” (Psalm 103:8-11)

When we live in, with, through and for Christ, He will supply us with every grace.Then we can show others the way with God’s mercy. Mercy is God’s love, a compassionate love that seeks and meets the needs of others and relieves them of their miseries.The prophet, Elijah, prays for the widow’s son and he is returned back to life for her. “The woman said to Elijah, “Now indeed I know that you are a man of God, and it is truly the word of the LORD that you speak.” (1 Kings 17:24) 

Sadly, prayer among Christians is a neglected exercise and especially at at time when it is needed most. There is a mutual weakness felt among us, and along with this there should be a united utterance of this weakness that would therefore result in a renewal of our collective strength. From a shared, heartfelt prayer we could, no doubt, expect an outpouring of God’s refreshing grace that would revive those who are resting and satisfied with their dead, cold lives.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, “St. James refers to Elijah in order to encourage us to pray: “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”” (2582) On this Feast of Divine Mercy and inspired by Elijah, the prophet of mercy, let us renew our efforts at prayer entering into that “one to one” encounter with God, and from this draw light, and strength, for our prophetic mission.

ZENIT – A Prophet’s Depression, an Apostle’s Grief, a Disciple’s Fear

ZENIT – A Prophet’s Depression, an Apostle’s Grief, a Disciple’s Fear

Chapter 19 of the First Book of Kings presents us with the aftermath of Elijah’s brilliant victory in the contest with Jezebel and the priests of Baal atop Mount Carmel. 
Just when Elijah should have been triumphant, he receives a message telling him of Jezebel’s murderous intentions, and he is “afraid” (3). The spectacularly exemplary servant of God is now in a rut — believing that all of his efforts were in vain! In Chapter 18, Elijah was at the height of success; in Chapter 19 he is in the depths of despair. In Chapter 18 he is on the mountain peak of victory; in Chapter 19 he is in the valley of defeat. In Chapter 18 he is elated; in Chapter 19 he is completely deflated.
Mountaintop experiences

Elijah and the Double Portion

“When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, he and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. . . Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here; the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan.” “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live,” Elisha replied, “I will not leave you.” And so the two went on together. Fifty of the guild prophets followed, and when the two stopped at the Jordan, stood facing them at a distance. Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up and struck the water, which divided, and both crossed over on dry ground.When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha answered, “May I receive a double portion of your spirit.” (2 Kings, 2)
What is this double portion Elisha asked for from this holy prophet? Some say the the ‘double spirit’ of Elijah is prayer and mortification. These certainly are the cardinal virtues of a Carmelite. Others say it is prayer and preaching. After all what is a prophet without words? Many say it is the spirit of zeal –
 “Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum” (I am on fire with zeal for the Lord God of hosts [I Kg 19:10]) – a reflection of his passion.
In the New Testament recall that John the Baptist was to come in the spirit of Elijah. Obviously, this means that Elijah had received the Holy Spirit in an exceptionally strong manner. Elijah is for Carmelites a special Father whom God had given the Holy Spirit with particular strength. This prophet possessed the spirit of unique holiness and left a double portion of it to Elisha. 
A double share of his spirit, that is -the Holy Spirit- twice as much
The Holy Spirit brings with Him gifts- precious, beautiful gifts. Chief among these gifts stands the Gift of Wisdom. Elijah had this gift and he was a great contemplative for it is by this gift that one contemplates. Whenever Elijah’s contact with the world exhausted him or whenever he was persecuted, he would flee to the mountain, into solitude, in order to enter into contact with God.  Then by contemplation he would be renewed in strength. – This is a great lesson for all Carmelites.


Mount Carmel was a solitary mountain where the prophet Elijah lived a retired and solitary life. There on Mount Carmel he lived in the continual presence of God, truly recollected, and contemplating divine things. Carmelites look to the prophet Elijah for their identity.  
If the world ought to be renewed, as indeed it ought to be, it is through Carmel. We, as Carmelites, ought to be as torches – scripture says so…
“And Elias the prophet stood up, as a fire, and his word burnt like a torch.” (Ecclesiasticus 48:1, Douay-Rheims Translation) 
This is as carmelite as it can be!

The torch is the image of the Carmelite life. In the Carmelite crest the arm holding the flaming torch represents light and love. As the torch illuminates the night, so too, we as Carmelites are to illuminate the darkness.
The love and light of God ought to be in our souls.


Elijah was a man of God who zealously fought for the worship of the one true God. Recall how on top of Mount Carmel the prophet Elijah engaged in a great contest of faithfulness to the one true God against the prophets of a false god. (1 Kings 18:16-40) “How long will you straddle the issue,” he cried. “If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, follow him.” (1Kings 18:21)

The first Carmelites settled on Mount Carmel near the spring known as the “fountain of Elijah”. The Carmelites have looked at this fiery prophet as a model of their life. Like the prophet Elijah they were to live a life of prayer, detachment, with pure hearts and with a mind and heart open to the experience of God.

Today Carmelites still look to the prophet Elijah’s challenge of the status quo and thirst for justice. Asking for a double portion of his spirit, zeal and sense of mission as did Elisha (2 Kings 2:9), Carmleites are part of a long line of prayerful people that can no longer “straddle the issue”. In the midst of this struggle against false gods, with the realization of their powerlessness and nourished in the presence of God in their lives, Carmelites make these constant themes of their lives and therefore identify with Elijah.

Elijah struggled and found himself almost despairing without the strength to continue on. It is at this time that the Lord revealed himself to Elijah. Having had enough he lays down and falls asleep under a broom tree. He is told by an angel to get up and after eating and drinking travels forty day to the mountain of God. Here God reveals himself not in an earthquake, not in a strong heavy wind, not in fire…but in “a tiny whispering sound”. (1Kings 19:1-12)

Carmelites spend their time in silence and solitude seeking union with God ever open to the revelation of His presence. Like the prophet Elijah they stand before God and say, “I have been most zealous for the Lord, the God of Hosts.” (1 Kings 19:14)


“Climb up and look out to sea,” [Elijah] directed his servant, who went up and looked, but reported, “There is nothing.” Seven times he said, “Go look again!”

And the seventh time the youth reported, “There is a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising from the sea.” (1 Kings18: 43-44)

This small cloud, first visible after a very long period of drought, brings life-giving water to refresh the parched land. This cloud is also a symbol of Mary who bore the Word Incarnate and brought Him to the world to restore life to the desert.

Likewise, Mary can keep bringing rain to souls and keep them from turning into a dry wasteland.