The Ascension of the Prophet Elijah (2 Kings 2:11-14)

At the conclusion of his earthly ministry Prophet Elijah is accompanied by his disciple Elisha when he is suddenly taken up to heaven alive in a whirlwind by a chariot with horses of fire. On his way to Heaven, Elijah throws down his mantle to Elisha, who describes Elijah as “father.” We learn many things from this blessed event.

St Irenaeus of Lyons states that this event is proof of the possibility of the Resurrection. It shows that nothing stands in the way of the assumption of the body into heaven for those who are alive. It also has significance for the bodily assumption of the Theotokos after her Dormition.

In discussing St Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, St John Chrysostom said that the translation of Elijah is an example of the importance of faith, as God’s blessings are beyond human comprehension and reason: “Tell me, how did Elijah ascend in a chariot of fire? Fire burns, it does not carry aloft. How does he live for such a long time? In what place is he? Why was this done? … Behold how God taught us little by little … He instructed us, not by words, but by actions.” St Ambrose writes that the chariot of Elijah and the fire are not seen by us, but are prepared so that the “just may ascend, the innocent be borne forth, and life may not know death.”

In calling Elijah “father” Elisha shows us that the relationship of spiritual father and child is not an invention by the Church, but one which is present throughout the Old Testament. Finally, the mantle of Elijah falling to Elisha is also of significance, as it is one of the ways by which Elisha was shown to be the successor of Elijah and through it he worked many miracles. This emphasises the power of items belonging to holy people.

Source: Lychnos July-August 2019