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.”

About the Author
Archbishop Nathaniel (Lvov)

Arch­bish­op Nathaniel (Lvov)

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.

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