On the outermost wall of the meditation chapel, at the foot of the slate steps by which the Sisters enter the Chapel, hangs a large icon of the prophet Elijah, surrounded by the saints of Carmel. This icon, like the one of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, was created by Sr. Marie Celeste of Reno Carmel for our renovated Chapel.
Elijah stands on the promontory of Carmel, his hands raised, and palms extended in the traditional posture of the “Ecclesia orans” (the church at prayer), reminding all who come that we are called to prayer as our preeminent work. Elijah is enclosed in a figure which could be interpreted as the “vine of Carmel,” the “living flame” of John of the Cross, and perhaps even the “harp of the Holy Spirit” spoken of by Saint Ephraim, one of the early Church Fathers. This “blossoming vine,” a title used in the early Carmelite hymn Flos Carmeli, reminds us of the presence of the Mother of God at the heart of Carmel. The vine is rooted in the fertile soil of Mount Carmel.
The circle, symbol of eternity, of plenitude, of the cycles of life, is full of rain. The power of Elijah’s prayer to both withhold and bring about rain is attested in Scripture. A passage from Isaiah also comes to mind: “For just as from the heavens the rains…come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful…so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11). God’s word fell upon the good soil of each Carmelite saint and bore abundant fruit. This same Word is spoken in your heart and mine –indeed in every human heart. May the saints of Carmel intercede for us, that we may hear the Word of God and respond to it with our lives.