02 August 2018

The Muhraqa Monastery: where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal

The Muhraqa Monastery is on Mount Carmel, 480 meters above sea level. It is a holy place, important for the three religions, where you can feel the gentle breeze of the Lord.

Archaeology, Culture, and other Religions

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Muhraqa is an Arabic term meaning "sacrifice" and apparently that area on Mount Carmel marks the life of the prophet Elijah, especially in the episode described in Chapter 18 of the first book of the Kings, when Elijah challenged the 450 false prophets of Baal. Medieval Jewish sources testify that the place is venerated by Jews and Muslims. A holy place which evokes the profound question of Elijah: "How long will you limp from both feet? If the Lord is the true God, follow Him; but if He is Baal, follow Him. (1Rs 18,21).


Stella Maris Monastery - Monte Carmelo

"It is a meeting place of the three religions. In a country of such deep tensions, we have the sensitivity of this climate, we have the sensitivity of this atmosphere, we can feel this beautiful peace. This is a place of prayer, where you can meet the one God and where we must take a stand and not swing: we are with God or against God. This is the strong message of the Prophet Elijah."
The Muhraqa Monastery has been under the custody of Discalced Carmelites since 1846 and it is located 480 meters above sea level in the Esdrelon or Jezreel Valley. The patio is home to a grand statue of the prophet Elijah.
On the sides and on the way out of the chapel, there is the biblical episode of Elijah with the prophets of Baal written in Arabic and Hebrew. The shrine refers to the story in which Elijah was comforted by an angel. The altar is made of 12 stones and it recalls the verses that tell of the time when Elijah built the altar of the Lord: "And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name" (1Rs 18:31).


Stella Maris Monastery - Monte Carmelo
"It is a biblical place, a holy place first and foremost for the Jews. But here there are also testimonies of the Byzantine era, when hermits came to light their candles around 1200. And it has been found a place with twelve stones, with a cistern which is considered the altar of Elijah.”

A shrine which inspires contemplation, even in the beautiful views overlooking the Mediterranean and Galilee. Elijah, whose mission was to restore the covenant between God and the people of Israel, is the protagonist of meaningful scenes in the Scriptures, such as when he ascends to heaven on a chariot of fire. However, he experienced the Lord even in the gentle breeze. The one who inspired the Carmelite order is considered the "Father of contemplatives".


Stella Maris Monastery - Monte Carmelo

"It is important to observe that, since the prophet Elijah, for his goodness, embraced God, he eventually discovered that God is present in all the little things. For us Carmelites, this gentle breeze is a symbol of contemplation.