Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go back, eat and drink; for I hear the sound of rain.’ While Ahab went back…Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel and bowed down to the earth, putting his face between his knees. ‘Now go up’, he told his servant, ‘and look out to the sea.’ He went up and looked. ‘There is nothing at all’ he said. ‘Go back seven times’ Elijah said. The seventh time, the servant said, ‘Now there is a cloud, small as a man’s hand, rising from the sea.’
1 Kings 18: 41-44
. . .
I imagine I am not the first person to notice that Elijah says he hears the sound of rain long before the cloud appears over the horizon. Does he say he hears it because he’s confident that it will come? Or does he have super-hearing? (I admit I am thinking of the bionic woman, which dates me.)
My question is really whether Elijah hears the sound of rain by faith. I can’t think of another way to read it–though that may just be a failure of my imagination. The failure is easily explained: about to embark on a major transition (moving back to the US for a year), I yearn for some prophetic reasurrance that the promised ‘rain’ will come. The psalm set for today (at least the passage to be read in Mass) ends: ‘The hills are girded with joy.’ I want to know that the rain will come, that the hills (not that I expect to see many hills roundabout us in Indiana) will be ‘girded with joy.’
There is a kind of blankness ahead, bare hills and sky color of diffuse light, as it is well before dawn. I suppose this is what the promise looks like: a clean white page of time, waiting for its ‘potentate’ to fill it with his brightness and colors. And so I must wait, too: go back and eat and drink, and wait for the rain to fall.