The Prophet Elijah: Knowing God by Participation

Each year on July 20 the Orthodox Church commemorates the Holy Prophet Elijah (9th Century BC).  Elijah is much loved and honored in the Orthodox Church because in his lifetime he experienced theosis in which God “becomes knowable to us by participation” (see 2 Peter 1:4). The Prophet Elijah appears with Christ on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration of Christ where Elijah contemplates the God who became flesh in order that we humans might participate in God.

Gregory the Sinaite (d. 1346AD) writes:

“Of old, Moses and Elijah, chosen to climb Mount Horeb [note: also known as Mount Sinai], both were driven to climb it at the proper time – the one, commanded beforehand to enter into the darkness and mist, to receive the Law on tablets, to become a lawgiver and the first of priest, and to be the most mystical witness of symbolic realities, in order to reveal them to others; the other called by a prophetic oracle to go quickly to Horeb, then ordered to go out of the cave, commanded to wrap himself in his sheepskin, and to see the great and mighty wind that crushes those who are led to pursue the way of peace – the earthquake that shakes the heart, the fire that purifies their powers – and finally allowed to contemplate the ‘gentle breeze’ of light, where God, in a way beyond our nature, becomes knowable to us by participation. God, through the consistent fulfillment of prophecy, guides us mystically along from afar and trains us towards knowledge of him.” (Light on the Mountain, pp 330-331)