The exceptionality of the celebration in honor of the prophet Elijah in the Orthodox tradition, among other things, is that his memory is perhaps the only holiday in honor of the Old Testament men and women, the memory of which is truly celebrated throughout the liturgical year. Apart from John the Baptist, who, in the words of the Lord himself, “the greatest of those born of women” (Matt. 11:11), none of the biblical saints is no longer honored with real veneration in the worship of today’s Orthodoxy.
With the names of the biblical Saints, Abraham, Moses, Lot, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and each of the minor prophets, some according to a certain principle, others not, are, as it were, the church year is “coded”.
The memory of many of these prophets is, as it were, deliberately celebrated in the period before Christmas. The memory of others, Ezekiel, Elisha, Elijah, others, fell on the summer, which, we recall, ended the church year. This is a paraphrase of Lana del Rey's “summertime sadness” and holiness. This remembrance, important in theological terms, was extremely dear to many saints, and to the people of the Middle Ages.
Byzantine emperors, and other rulers, saw themselves as heirs of the Old Testament kings. Relics, tombs, and other shrines, and their location was known and revered by the church people. Evidence of this is the detailed liturgical services to the prophets, written and left by famous ancient hymnographers, and preserved in our existing liturgical books.
Let us remember that the Fathers of the Church, from the earliest Justin and Irenaeus, to the classical Basil the Great and Augustine, do not quote and even almost never mention each other, but know the Bible by heart and constantly mention the words of Scripture and the Prophets. It is obvious that significant texts of the Bible were kept in their memory, they drank the texts of the Bible like the water of the Feast of Baptism, fed on them as the Communion of the holy mysteries of Christ. From here, prophesying anticipating Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), "reverence for life" was born!
Now, from all this former splendor of the perception of the biblical music of “Creation and His God”, only Elijah the Prophet remains, in worship, icons in the temple, and even weather phenomena in thunder. "Ride the lighting," as Metallica sang.
In a certain way, it is not at all accidental that Tradition perceives Elijah as a prophet-precursor of the Second Coming of Christ. At the time when the Scriptures will be forgotten, according to the Apocalypse, he will be one of those to whom the word and the power of signs will be given to torment those who dwell on the earth (Rev. 10:10). How wonderful in its unbearable authenticity is the essence of divine prophecy!