Sunday, October 14, 2018

St Benedict and Elijah




Damien F. Mackey





“Some details of the story about Benedict - the father's entreaty, the saint

walking to the child and lying prostrate on him – make us think especially of Elisha,

but the analogies with Elijah are more numerous”.


Adalbert de Vogüé





Hagiography and the Cult of Saints: The Diocese of Orléans, 800-1200 (p. 129).

By Thomas Head:


…. In the eleventh century members of the religious communities of the Orléanais produced sermons for use on the feats of their patrons which were based on patristic and Carolingian texts. Aimo of Fleury, for example, began his Sermo in festivitatibus s. Benedicti with a long comparison of Benedict with the prophet Elijah ….



The Life of St. Benedict--Gregory the Great (p. 151).

By Adalbert de Vogüé:


Some details of the story about Benedict - the father's entreaty, the saint walking to the child and lying prostrate on him - make us think especially of Elisha, but the analogies with Elijah are more numerous. Like Elijah, Benedict says a prayer aloud which the narrator reports verbatim, and this supplication follows the act of prostration and so immediately precedes the re-animation. The order of events serves to prove Gregory’s thesis – the miracle must be seen as the result of prayer. For this reason, like Elijah and unlike Elisha, Benedict prays after lying on the child, just before obtaining his revival. Further, in speaking of the “return” of the child’s “soul” and of “giving him to his father”, Gregory again unequivocally echoes Elijah’s epic.



Benedict and the Famine (drought)


Adalbert de Vogüé also writes (op. cit., p. 131):


The famine in Campania … recalls the drought which prevailed at the time of Elijah when he asked another widow to give him all that remained for her to live on, promising her in return that she would never lack oil or wheat again …. By his faith and generosity in giving away his last reserves, Benedict resembles the attitude of this woman.

But the miracle of the jar filling with oil is less like Elijah’s than Elisha’s deed. ….


Benedict and the Ravens


Another Reason I Like St. Benedict

By Daria Sockey:


If you take a magnifying glass to your St. Benedict medal you will see a raven standing at his feet. Or if you don't have a magnifying glass (or a St. Benedict medal) just google "St. Benedict raven", and have a great time looking at all the paintings, icons, statues and Benedictine college sports mascots that depict this bird. ….


The story is that when Benedict tried to reform a lax monastery, a couple of monks who did NOT want to be reformed tried to do away with him by serving him poisoned bread. But a helpful raven flew in through the window, snatched the loaf out of the saint's hand, and made off with it. 
I hope the raven didn't eat it. 
Ravens are not generally thought of as "nice" birds, but God seems to like them an awful lot. He sent one to the prophet Elijah with loaves of (non-poisoned) bread while he was hiding out in the desert from his enemies. He inspired the psalmist to marvel at His providence for the "young ravens that call upon Him" in Psalm 147.  I'm pretty sure there's a few more Ravens to the Rescue of Saints stories out there, but can't think of them at the moment. 
Anyway, it's the kind of thing that animal lovers like myself get excited about. 
Image result for elijah and ravens



Benedict and silence



At the Holy Eucharist on the Friday of the Second Week after Trinity

I Kings 19:9,11-16 - Ps. 26:7-9,13-14 - Matthew 5:27-32

It was a time of tumult and division and violence.

Elijah the prophet confronts Ahab the king.

Ahab kills the prophets of Israel ...

Elijah kills the prophets of the king's cults.

Elijah flees for his life.

He comes to the mount of Horeb, "the mount of God".

It was here that God had appeared to Moses, in the bush which while aflame, was not consumed.

This, in other words, was a 'thin place', a place of encounter and revelation.

I think we can guess what Elijah may have desired.

Surely he desired the God of the great wind, the God of earthquake, the God of the fire ...

Bringing judgement, tearing down, overcoming foes in shock and awe.

"But the Lord was not in the wind ... the earthquake ... the fire".

Where is God encountered by Elijah?

In "a sound of sheer silence".

It seems so out of place in an age of tumult and division and violence ...

Amidst Elijah's fears and uncertainities.

Silence seems so vulnerable and insignificant.

But again and again in the story of Scripture, silence is the place of encounter and revelation.

The silence of the Virgin's womb ... where God takes flesh and dwells amongst us.

The silence of Jesus before his accusers ... where hatred and violence become subject to divine love and forgiveness.

The silence of the tomb on that first day of the week, early in the morning ... where death is swallowed up in Life.

Christians haven't always grasped this meaning of silence.

Too often, amidst challenge and uncertainty, we desire to speak often and loudly ...

Rather than follow Elijah to Mount Horeb.

But there have been times in the Church's life when silence has been understood.


In the 6th century, as western Europe experienced the trauma of the fall of the Roman Empire ...

As the political, social, economic and cultural order collapsed ...

A monk called Benedict wrote a rule for the community which formed around him.

He said "the disciple is to be silent and to listen" [2].

The oratory - the church - at the heart of his community was to be a place of "the most profound silence" [3].

As Europe fell apart, Benedict's communities were characterised by silence.

It seems like an incredibly foolish response to the circumstances ... as with the silence Elijah experienced on Mount Horeb.

But these Benedictine communities flourished, becoming centres of prayer, service and study which proved more enduring than the Roman Empire.

The temptation facing the Church in times of challenge and crisis is to be loud, to want the power of wind, earthquake and fire.

Elijah on Mount Horeb, Benedict in his monastic community lead us to a different way ...

The way of silence, where God is encountered, where our words cease and God's presence is experienced ...

Where silence gives deep meaning to the reading of Scripture and the celebration of the Eucharist ...

Where silence calls us to humility, generosity and service.

It is a call to us to cherish those times of silence in the Liturgy ...

To embrace the silence of this parish church ...

To nurture times of silence in daily living.

God is not in the wind, the earthquake, the fire - in the shock and awe of the loud, the powerful, the muscular.

God is in the sound of sheer silence, in the most profound silence ...

Where the heart encounters the One who is Eternal, the Triune God who is closer to us than we are to ourselves.



[1] I Kings 19:8

[2]  Rule of St Benedict, 6.

[3] Rule of St Benedict, 52.



Image result for elijah on horeb