By the gentle breeze and voice of a refreshing wind she corrects the fiery storm of Elijah’s zeal, and she is joined in her efforts by a relative and great prophet who appears with spirit and great power. His zeal is no less than that of Elijah, but calls to repentance those whom he chastises for being the generation of vipers (Luke 3: 7), but does not resort to killing them. He, this new Elijah, was not frightened of his contemporary Jezebel (Herodias), but accepted martyrdom from her on the boundary of the Old and New Testaments in order to become the Forerunner of the Lord and witness to His Coming even in hell.
In this comparison of the Most Holy and Pure Virgin with the spiritual giants of the Old Testament we would like to touch upon another dilemma. Why did the Mother of God, the holiest of holies, more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, have to pass through the gates of death, partake of its bitterness, to which all humankind is subjected, when prophet Elijah avoided death and was taken up alive into heaven?
In order to answer this question we must keep in mind that the Lord always fulfills the sincere, mature and deep desires of His faithful servants. The Mother of God did not fear death, did not attempt to circumvent it, for she knew that it had been defeated by her Son and God. Most of all she wanted to be with Him in body and soul, with her beloved Son and Lord. And as the Church account of her Dormition tells us, she only asked one thing of the Lord: “that she not see the dark faces of the evil demons”, for they are abominable and vile. It is natural for chastity and humility to avoid encounters and even proximity to carriers of filth, impudence and shamelessness. And the Lord fulfills this chaste desire of His Holy Mother. She partakes of death by passing into His holy embrace, hidden from the view of the demons. Then He resurrects her on the third day after death, according to His own image, to remain with Him in both body and soul on the right hand of God’s throne.
The prophet Elijah does not want Jezebel to kill him because he fears death in general: for directly after he flees from her, he asks God to let him die. But he cannot reconcile himself with the power of evil, or the repugnant prophets who corrupted the people of God, nor with Jezebel, who rules over Israel. So the Lord does not wish to send His faithful servant into hades, which was inevitably tied with death in the Old Testament, to give him up to the enemies’ power, who are so much more vile and repugnant than the abominable pagan priests and the disgusting Jezebel.
The Lord takes him up alive into heaven, but the Church teaches us that when in the last times corruption will increase and love will be extinguished in many so that zeal for God will disappear, then there will appear two witnesses, two olive trees, two candlesticks (Rev. 11: 3,4) who will bear witness to God’s Truth among depraved mankind, inspiring courage in those who have remained faithful, perturbing and chastising the triumphant masses of the impudent enemies of God. By God’s allowance these two luminaries will be killed by Antichrist (Rev. 11:7) and will resurrect after three days. The Church teaches us that these two witnesses will be the holy Enoch and Elijah, those righteous of the Old Testament which did not partake of death for this very reason: to fulfill God’s work at the end of the ages when the moral capabilities of the human race will be severely depleted.
We are painfully witnessing this frightening moral degradation as never before. Does this mean that the time of the arrival of Prophet Elijah and righteous Enoch, the preachers of the Second Coming of Christ, is now close at hand? This we cannot say for certain, but we firmly believe that sooner or later such a time will come, and the earth will again hear the ominous voice, saying: As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand… How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. (3 Kings 18:15, 21, LXX) Many, many signs in our contemporary culture witness to the fact that we are not far from the time when that voice will be heard again. Perhaps even our generation will come face to face with the awe-inspiring, fiery prophet of God, who in Church hymnography is aptly named “the Forerunner of the Second Coming of Christ, the Glorious Prophet Elijah.”
Archbishop Nathaniel (Vasily Lvov prior to monastic tonsure) was a well educated and gifted preacher, an avid apologist for the Orthodox faith. One often finds his articles in Orthodox journals of the Russian diaspora. He was born in Moscow on August 30, 1906. During the Russian revolution his family fled to Harbin, China, where he studied theology at the St Vladimir Institute and was tonsured a monk in 1929. He took several missionary trips as the cell attendant of Archbishop Nestor, spending some time (1935–36) among Christians in Southern India. Upon returning to Harbin he became an archimandrite and joined the brotherhood of St Job of Pochaev in Ladomirovo (Carpatho-Russia) in 1939.
Metropolitan Anastassy of blessed memory elevated archimandrite Nathaniel to the rank of bishop in 1946, and assigned him to the diocese of Brussels and Western Europe. During the Second World War, Vladika Nathaniel (together with Vladika Vitaly Ustinov, the future Metropolitan of the Russian Church Abroad) played an active role in saving many Russian refugees in Germany from repatriation to the Soviet Union. He is especially remembered for kindness and love for his fellow man. His brief time as diocesan bishop in the United Kingdom is recounted in the book, Embassy, Emigrants, and Englishmen: The Three Hundred Year History of a Russian Orthodox Church in London.
In 1966 Vladika became the rector of the Monastery of St Job in Munich. In 1979 he was temporarily assigned to head the Austrian diocese. He became an archbishop in 1981. After a protracted illness, Vladika Nathaniel reposed on November 8, 1985 in Munich. A five volume collection of his writings was published by the Russian Orthodox Youth Committee in 1991.