Clean Thursday

10 March 2022

‘When the prophet Elijah had mounted the divine chariot of the virtues and was shining through fasting, he was taken up to the heights of heaven. Emulate him, my humble soul and fast from every wickedness, envy and strife, and from beguiling sensual pleasures, so that you may escape the dire, enduring pain of Gehenna, crying to Christ: “Lord, glory to you”’ (stikhiro, Vespers, Thursday of first week).

Once again, in a calm and humble manner, the hymn-writer urges himself- as an exemplification of every believing Christian- to turn to and emulate the immense personality of the prophet Elijah. On the one hand, Elijah belongs to the Old Testament, but he’s also praised repeatedly in the New by the Lord, whose Second Coming he will herald through a special mission. Why should we emulate this particular prophet? Because it was he who was taken up into the heavens after striving to acquire the divine virtues and living in the light of the fast. In other words, the hymnographer considers the prophet to be an example who shows the direct route which leads to heaven: the divine virtues and fasting. But he immediately points to the real meaning of fasting: abstention from wickedness, envy, hostility and from a carnal attitude to life that makes us lose ourselves and our faith. If we follow the prophet, then, this will remove us from the pain of punishment and create in us a spirit of praise for the Lord.