“At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave, where he took shelter.
But the word of the LORD came to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” (1 Kings 19, 11-16)
Some 30 years ago, as a younger man I climbed that mountain, Sinai, on a memorable tour with Fr. Donald Senior. We rose about 2 AM to begin the climb in the dark, guided up the rocky winding path by a guide with a flashlight. Bedouins offered a camel ride for anyone who couldn’t make it, almost 7,000 feet up.
We arrived at the barren top at sunrise. I remember the silence of the place, the bare rock, the absence of plants or trees or any sign of life. The guide pointed to a speck of green down aways, “Elijah’s cave,” he said. We left before the sun was high; too hot to stay there long.
The scriptural story says Elijah was told to “stand outside on the mountain before the Lord,” and he experienced a strong wind, an earthquake, fire, but God was not in any of these. Then, in the silence, he heard a “tiny whispering sound” and he hid his face before God.
“A tiny whispering sound.” That’s the way God spoke to Elijah and that’s the way God speaks to us. Elijah pours out his woes to God. He’s a fugitive, fighting for his life, with no chance against Ahab and Jezebel.
But God whispers to Elijah. Go down the mountain and go north again. Your enemies won’t stop you. There’s a mission I have for you; I’ll be with you. In the silence Elijah heard God.
In the silence of the Eucharist, God also whispers.