By Jane Ackerman. Members of the three monotheistic faiths have always told stories of what the prophet Elijah has done and is still expected to do in sacred history. He is perhaps most appreciated by members of the Carmelite Order, known for its contemplative and pastoral orientation.
Elijah is considered their legendary founder and traditional patron. Carmelites rank him as one of their greatest spiritual models. Their coat of arms displays his flaming sword, Mount Carmel, and Elijah's proclamation, "With zeal I have been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts." This book inquires into this deep appreciation. It examines the linkage between the Order and the prophet over time.
Beginning with the oldest knowledge we have about Elijah, coming from Scripture, Elijah Prophet of Carmel briefly sketches his role in the three faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It then turns to what the distant, but influential, Christian antecedents of the Carmelite Order, the desert hermits and the early Fathers, wrote about the zealous man of God.
As the Carmelite Order was founded, achieved its corporate identity, and changed over time, so did its views of its legendary model. Interaction between storytelling about Elijah and Carmelites' understanding of themselves continues even to the present. As thoughts from the past about the prophet continue to influence them, both Teresian Carmelites and Carmelites of the Ancient Observance of our times are developing a brand-new tradition of him, the tradition of Elijah's double charism.
Jane Ackerman is Associate Professor of Religion at The University of Tulsa. She has published articles on Saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross and has made a comparative translation of both recensions of Saint John's The Living Flame of Love.
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