(originally appeared in a late June, 2010 Rector’s Message)
This week’s first reading is about the way in which the mantle is passed: it describes how Elijah was caught up into a whirlwind and taken up into heaven, while Elisha stood by watching. As he was watching, the cloak, the outward garment, the symbol of his prophetic office, the mantle fell from Elijah upon Elisha. The mantle is still worn as part of the vestments of the Orthodox clergy, it most resembles what we would call the cope.
As we near the Fourth of July, next weekend, we might be reminded how we wear many mantles—the mantle of freedom such as we enjoy as citizens of these United States is but one of them. But we also wear the mantle of God in Jesus Christ as the contemporary heirs of the prophets and the apostles. If we ask ourselves whose but ours might be the voice of freedom in the world in which we live, how much more might we ask ourselves whose but ours would be the voice of the love of God in Jesus Christ apart from ours? If we might wish how the mission of the Church might better meet the needs of the people of our time, whose voice but yours might be the instrument by which those who do not know his love and compassion?
We are the heirs of the prophets and the apostles. It is the cloak of the Grace of God that enfolds and surrounds us, that protects us and comforts us. It is the mantle of the Holy Spirit that is upon us. If we’re still waiting for someone else to take that mantle and wear it, then we’re fooling ourselves. The mantle has been passed to us, and it most certainly has not passed from us.