Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Threw His Mantle On Him

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Keraza Magazine issue 11-12 March 25, 2016

The story of calling Elisha is among the most amazing call stories in the Holy Bible, yet with all its minute details, it is not far from the story of God's call to each one of us. When Elijah the Prophet passed by Elisha, he "threw his mantle on him" (1 Kings 19:19). This is the prophets' mantle, made of hair, and amazingly, this is the mantle in which Elijah wrapped his face when he met God on the mount, that is, this mantle bore two strengths: the power of asceticism and austerity, and the power to stand in the presence of God. Thus it split the Jordan River twice, once by Elijah and another by Elisha.

In those days, Elijah throwing his mantle on Elisha bore two meanings. The first was an invitation to join prophets' service, and the second was adoption (a person would throw his mantle on a child to indicate adoption). Perhaps this is why Elisha cried out, when Elijah ascended, "My father, my father" (2 Kings 2:12). Although this story is historic, it does not lack a prophetic feature. Elijah is symbolic of God, while Elisha is symbolic of humanity. Elijah passing by Elisha in the field where he was plowing is symbolic of the incarnation of Christ, who passed over to us, to our world, taking what is ours and giving us what is His, that is, He threw His mantle on us for us to become children of God through adoption through Him.

As for throwing the mantle as a sign of calling to the service, it resembles the call to monasticism and full consecration. New Testament monastic vows found their roots in Elisha, the Old Testament prophet. His vow of celibacy was revealed when he asked Elijah: "Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you"; he did not say "kiss my wife and children." His vow of obedience was revealed when "he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant." As for the vow of voluntary poverty, he "took a yoke of oxen [which he had owned and used in plowing] and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen's equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate" (1 Kings 19:20-21). Owning twelve yoke of oxen at that time was an indicator of great wealth. Elisha left all, to unite with the One; he left the father and mother, the career, and the wealth soon on receiving the call. Not only that, but he slew a yoke of oxen, and used the yoke and wooden equipment as fuel for the fire, to roast the meat, to feed the people, as a sign of his true resolve and genuine intention not to look back or return to the world. Perhaps Elisha's struggle in the field, and remaining behind with the twelfth yoke of oxen is what made it easier for Elijah to call him. The struggling humble heart, which places itself last of all is ready to hear the voice saying, "Friend, go up higher" (Luke 14:10).

Now our Lord, You who threw Your mantle upon us, and made us Your children through adoption, Who continue to throw it upon us each day, knocking on our doors to call us to leave all vanities of the world, and detach from every person, we beseech You O our Father, to give us Elisha's detached heart and his spirit, fervent in love for You, lest the call pass us by and we lose the prize.

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

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