Today at mass I noticed something interesting in the first reading (1 Kings 17:17-24) about the way the son of the widow was raised from the dead.
...he stretched himself out upon the child three times and called out to the LORD: “O LORD, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child.” The LORD heard the prayer of Elijah; the life breath returned to the child’s body and he revived.****
Why did Elijah "stretch out upon the child?" Is there some symbolism I should be aware of here? Obviously God could have chosen to accomplish this miracle in any number of ways, so why this way?
For the same reason that Paul stretched himself out on Eutychus, who fell from an upper story and died. That was how it was revealed to them that they should raise one back to life.
Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)
7 And on the first day of the week, when we were assembled to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, being to depart on the morrow: and he continued his speech until midnight.
8 And there were a great number of lamps in the upper chamber where we were assembled.
9 And a certain young man named Eutychus, sitting on the window, being oppressed with a deep sleep, (as Paul was long preaching,) by occasion of his sleep fell from the third loft down, and was taken up dead.
10 To whom, when Paul had gone down, he laid himself upon him, and embracing him, said: Be not troubled, for his soul is in him.
[quote="GodsMissionary, post:4, topic:329268"]
That doesn't answer the question. They put themselves on the alter, asking God to give this one life, and take theirs instead, and meant it with genuine intention.
I am not at all certain that you can get that from the scripture itself.
A quick google search turns up not much but some commentaries saying, more or less, we don't know why. Here is one that might be helpful:
Why did he stretch himself over the child three times? The text does not tell us, but this was undoubtedly symbolic, in some way, perhaps of his faith, of his willingness to identify himself with this child, and an evidence of his humility. But above all, the repetition with the repeated prayer, reminds us that it is persistence in prayer that often leads to answers to our prayers. It is important to note that it was the prayer of faith--the voice of Elijah crying out to God--and not the symbolic acts that brought about the answer to this prayer. As James tells us in James 5:15, it is the prayer of faith that restores the sick.
Our priest said that Paul "stretched out over the child" showing that the reviving of the child came through him not from him. After laying on the child ST Paul prayed to God for the healing 3 times. Three being the number of perfection. Compare that to the way Christ revived the person in a similar situation where Christ just said to the person "arise"
Cool reading! Paired in Sunday’s liturgy with Jesus resurrecting the widow of Nain’s son (Elijah and his “total full body prayer” and pleading … and Jesus’ mere word accomplishing a similar (temporary but astonishing) resurrection).
I will preface by saying "I don’t know …". I don’t know if Elijah knew – but just did it.
Elijah didn’t even have scriptural insights to guide him like:
Ezekiel 44:19 When they are to go out to the people in the outer court, they shall take off the garments in which they ministered and leave them in the chambers of the sanctuary, putting on other garments; thus they will not transmit holiness to the people with their garments.
… though miracles were later worked via his cloak. He could not have known a similar holiness and power were contained in the bones of his successor, Elisha - later effecting a resurrection of a dead body!
**“Scientific Aside” I ponder in relation to this: **
I’m reminded of Kirlean Photography. These show “aura’s” around living things - even plants. I don’t know what the aura IS (heat? electrical field?) but one can see it under such a microscope.
Curiously, when a living leaf of a plant is viewed (I saw a maple leaf so) it has a glowing outline all around it - yet when the same leaf is CUT - the shape of that aura remains unchanged! It projects the same complete shape of the uncut leaf !
Human beings have such “auras” in Kirlean photography too - where phantom limbs that have been cut off show up! Somewhat explaining the phenomena where amputees sometimes complain of an itch they cannot scratch!
We know that warmth is conveyed from body to body in an embrace - and more than this.
There’s artificial respiration (as one poster referred to).
MAYBE Elijah was doing some of this while in that position (i.e all the details of the physical activity were not reported or critical to the reporting of the miracle - whereas the PRAYER, faith, and persistence of Elijah - and its result - WERE reported).
The main point is that it was God’s power that resurrected the boy - but through the faithful intercession of the prophet.
Stretching out of the body symbolically? Maybe that is total commitment to prayer - which is more than JUST symbolic. The three times recalls Elijah’s persistence in belief (compare to his remaining in prayer until the drought ended).
Why did GOD accomplish the miracle in this way? He was asked. In faith. Unselfishly for another. Persistently. And (apparently) it pleased Him to do so! Perhaps it was part of His plan all along! Or His plans are not so rigid that He can’t in love alter a detail in favor of blessing His children’s prayers (Jesus’ teachings about prayer would agree with this - perhaps going further!).
The widow’s complaint reveals that she thought Elijah (and his holiness?) had something to do with the death of the son in the first place. As in the history of Israel, sometimes a sinful person DID get too close to something holy and perish!
Not arguing that or any point with her Elijah goes into ardent prayer with the Lord conveying similar sentiments and letting HIS own will be known … that the boy be returned to life and given back to the mother .
For Chapter 17 context remember that:
Elijah was sent by GOD to that widow and town.
She gave Elijah almost the last of her (and that same son’s!) food.
Once she had - Elijah worked the miracle of the never ending supply to that woman and son of flour and oil “until” the drought that was plaguing the country was lifted!
She was his hostess when this calamity befell her and her son.
After the second miracle (her son being raised) she (ends the chapter when she) says …
1 Kings 17:24
“Now indeed I know that you you are a man of God,” the woman replied to Elijah. “The word of the LORD comes truly from your mouth.”
So maybe her having doubts about his heaven-sent office even after a previous miracle
DID have something to do with her son being “taken from her” in the first place? Did God
lay out all these details - or was this just the way it happened until He intervened in His “free” creation per Elijah’s prayer? :hmmm:
Sorry for all the “I don’t knows”. Or am I? Pondering the things of God in one’s heart sincerely - and seeking as to find are good things. My GUESS about the details is that Elijah was guided even as he was praying as to what to do - and his prayer “was heard”.
And that it was the prayer and God’s power that worked the miracle - though perhaps his posture, persistence, faith, and clean spirit or generosity all had a part in the miracle.
This we know. It (this physical posture) was mentioned in holy scripture for some reason. :)[/size] Your attending to, and looking deeply into this caused ME to be blessed by your posting UntimelyBourn.
Wow thank you everyone for such great responses! Initially I was thinking of it along the lines of God using Elijah’s body as a conduit to breathe life into the boy, which could possibly be true, but I find the idea of Elijah prostrating over the boy out of reverence to God more convincing, given that he did this before he called out to God to revive the boy.
As I have learned it, the #3 is symbolic of “God’s actions.” The widow’s son dies. Elijah prays in confidence to the Lord and stretches himself over the child three times. This may conjur up images of the Trinity. The laying over the body may also be cooperation with God in warming the body. Paul in Acts 20:10 performs the same function as does the Prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 4:34. In that verse it actually states that the body became warm. All 3 actions recall a resurrection. All 3 actions recall how God can take life and restore life through Prophets or Apostles. In the case of Elijah, the reputation of the Prophet is enhanced and a confirmation from the widow verifies for sure now that he is a Man of God, that the word of the Lord, truly proceeds from him. Hope this helps.