Tuesday, July 19, 2016

ELIJAH'S CUP

Elijah’s cup [Credit: Picture from the photographic archives of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York; Frank J. Darmstaedter]
Photo Source: Brittanica.com
Photo: R. Massaro

Carmelite Saint of the Day: St. Elijah


Please enjoy this post from the archives in honor of St. Elijah, whose feast we, as Carmelites, celebrate today.

The prophet Elijah is a Saint who is venerated by Carmelites throughout the world.  We celebrate his feast day on July 20th. He's considered the father of Carmelite spirituality. From the Carmelite Proper:

The Prophet Elijah appears in Scripture as a man of God who always lived in his presence and fought zealously for the worship of the one true God. He defended God's law in a solemn contest on Mount Carmel, and afterwards was given on Mount Horeb an intimate experience of the living God. The inspiration that was found in him from the very beginnings of the Order so pervade its whole history that the prophet may deservedly be called the founder of the Carmelite ideal.


While doing research for another article, I discovered that the prophet Elijah plays a role in the Seder meal celebrated by the Jewish people.  During the meal, four cups of wine are at table, and a fifth is poured and set aside as "Elijah's Cup."  

What is so special about Elijah's Cup? And what is the meaning behind the ceremony of his cup and wine?  Jewish people believe that it is a symbol for when Elijah will usher in the age of the Messiah. Thus, at the end of every Seder meal, a child goes to the door to see if the prophet is there. If the prophet does not arrive, the disappointed family pours the wine back into the bottle.  

It's very interesting to note that the Jewish people use wine and the Cup of Elijah as a symbol of their future redemption.  In our Catholic faith, we know the importance of Holy Communion; The Lord's precious Body and Blood that feeds and nourishes us. On the night of the Last Supper Jesus instituted this most Blessed Sacrament: 

...He likewise took a cup, gave thanks and passed it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them: "This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out on behalf of many..."
(Mark 14:23-24)


In the Book of Kings, the prophet Elijah is brought food and drink to sustain him for his journey, a prefigurement of the Holy Eucharist:

...he lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and jug of water... 
(1 Kings 19:5-6)


Photo: R. Massaro Carmelite Monastery Niagara Falls, Canada

Each time we are at Mass, as the cup of the precious Blood of Jesus is raised, perhaps we could pray for the Jewish people. May they be given the gift of faith to believe that Yeshua, Jesus, is the Messiah of whom the prophets spoke.  Let us ask the intercession of the holy prophet Elijah to intercede for the Jewish people.  May they come to believe in Jesus, receive his body and blood, and experience the true and living God, as we do, as Catholics, at each Mass.  





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Dr. Brant Pitre
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist
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the holy grail, the Lord's cup of his precious blood

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