The Story of Mt. Carmel
Fr. Scott A. Haynes
To understand today’s feast in honor of Our Lady of Mt Carmel we have to go back to the Old Testament and to that dramatic confrontation between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal. This battle of the gods took place in Mount Carmel. As we read about it in the Book of Kings, we learn that Ahab, King of Israel at that time, married a wicked woman named Jezebel, who brought new gods into Israel and killed all the prophets of the Lord she could find. The only prophet who survived was Elijah.
One day, Elijah went to King Ahab and warned him that God was going to punish the people and the land, for they had murdered the holy prophets of God and started worshiping false gods—idols. Elijah said, “there will be no rain or dew here until I call for it.” And then Elijah walked away.
He disappeared. Then for three years there was no rain – the Israelites were being punished for their idolatry. Elijah had a mission. As God’s prophet his job was to banish idolatry and show to the Israelites that Lord God is indeed the true and omnipotent God.
Elijah told King Ahab to gather the people of Israel on Mount Carmel. There he proposed a contest between him alone and the 450 pagan priests. They would erect an altar and place a sacrifice – a bull cut into pieces – upon it and pray to their respective gods to send fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. Whoever would answer with fire to consume the sacrifice -the gods of the pagans (Baal) or Lord God of Israel - was truly true God.
Elijah won in this dramatic confrontation. Despite hours of praying, the priests of Baal were not rewarded with fire while after only a single earnest prayer from Elijah, the Lord God answered with a blistering fire. Thus, the people of Israel fell on their knees crying
“The Lord is our God.”
The Book of Kings goes on to say that, after the fire consumed the sacrifice of Elijah. Scripture tells us:
“Seize the prophets of Baal; don't let any of them get away!”
The people seized them all, and Elijah led them down to Kishon Brook and killed them. Then Elijah said … I hear the roar of rain pproaching…[and so] Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel, where he bowed down to thae ground, with his head between his knees.
He said to his servant, “Go and look toward the sea.” The servant went and returned, saying, “I didn't see a thing.” Seven times in all Elijah told him to go and look. The seventh time he returned and said,
“I saw a little cloud no bigger than a man's hand, coming up from the sea.”
Notice that the Bible tells us that Elijah sent his servant Gehazi up to look out over the sea seven times. In Hebrew the word "seven" is sheba. We always hear that seven means it is a perfect number.
But the word "seven" (in Hebrew sheba) means "a covenant". So on the seventh time, the servant Gehazi sees the cloud rising up out of the sea, the cloud that is going to bring the rain that ends the drought that had been for three years and is going to water the earth. That cloud symbolizes Our Lady, the one who brings the rain, the one who brings the dew to our parched and lifeless souls to be able to bring forth new life.
Jesus is the covenant carried in the womb of Our Lady just as the rain is carried in the cloud and then bursts forth upon the earth. So too, Our Lady is the one who carries that covenant of Our Lord and brings Him to each one of our souls.
The Bible tells us that the little cloud rising from the sea came in the shape of a human foot (1 Kings 18:44). Genesis 3:15 states:
“I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”
So the cloud in the shape of the foot represents Mary—whose heel crushes the serpent Satan.
If you swim in the sea you probably got sea water in your mouth. It is salty. Sea water is unfit to drink. But rain water is pure and immaculate. The rain coming from the crowd represented Jesus Christ as Isaiah says,
“Let the clouds rain from above the Just One.”