July 16, 2008

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

1251 - Solemnity - July 16th
Today, the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel,
Is the great feast of the Carmelite Order.

     As the Mother of the Redeemer, Mary has a special place in the life of the Church and each Christian. She helps lead us to Jesus and as at the wedding feast of Cana, she pleads for us with her Son. Each religious community also gives her a special place in its life and spirituality, honoring her according to its charism. In Carmel Mary has always held a singular place.
     Mary is the primary patron of the Order of Carmel under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Order of Carmel began on Mount Carmel under the patronage of Our Lady. In the thirteenth century, crusaders, fighting to free the Holy Land from the control of the Turks, realized at Mount Carmel that the first and unending battle for the Church is spiritual. Laying their arms and armor at the foot of the mountain, they ascended it to live as monks fighting to win souls to Christ in solitude and prayer. Taking as their Father and inspiration the Old Testament Prophet Elijah, who had on that very mountain a millennia ago defeated the enemies of God and returned the people of Israel to worship of the one true God, the monks erected a chapel in honor of our Lady of Mount Carmel and took her as their patron. Mary truly became the Lady of Mount Carmel for she reigned in the hearts of these crusaders turned monks by their special consecration and imitation of her. The first Carmelites sought to imitate Mary in her life in Nazareth. They saw as their ideal her silence, solitude, poverty, and especially her close intimacy with Jesus.

     With Mary as patron and ideal of Carmel, she also became the Beauty and Flower of Carmel, the Flos Carmeli. In Mary's perfect “YES”, the Church sees itself brought to perfection. Her splendid purity and loving humility adorn the Church in the eyes of her Divine Spouse. So Mary gives her own beauty to the order of Carmel. Carmelites rely on Mary, their Mother, to bestow on them her own virtue and merit. By her scapular, Mary clothes her children in Carmel with her very self.
     Thus Carmelites see Mary as Mother in the order of grace and honor her under the title Mother of Divine Grace. Carmelites wish to continue on earth the filial love and affection of Jesus toward His Mother. This filial relationship means that Carmelites see all grace as coming to them from Jesus through the loving hands of their Mother. Mary became Mother of Divine Grace itself at Calvary when she held to her heart her dead Son, immolated to become the Fountain of all grace.
     This Divine Grace, which comes to us through Mary, guides us through life as a star guides a ship through the tumultuous sea. Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, is another title for Mary that is very special to Carmelites. It beautifully describes the role of Mary for us, a shining light guiding us in the right way to the Father amidst the storms of life.
     The Church has bestowed many titles on Our Blessed Mother, each one highlighting a different aspect of her beauty and virtue. Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Flower of Carmel, Mother of Divine Grace, and Star of the Sea are the titles, which have long been beloved by Carmelites.
     The Sacred Scriptures speak of the beauty of Mount Carmel where the Prophet Elijah defended the faith of Israel in the living God. There, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, under the title of "Saint Mary of Mount Carmel" the Order of Carmelites had its formal beginning. From the fourteenth century this title, recalling the countless blessings of its patroness, began to be solemnly celebrated, first in England and then gradually throughout the whole Order. It attained its supreme place from the beginning of the seventeenth century when the General Chapter declared it to be the principal feast of the Order, and Paul V recognized it as the feast of the Scapular Confraternity.

     Carmelites see in the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and model of the Church, the perfect image of all that they want and hope to be. For this reason, Carmelites have always thought of Mary as the Patron of the Order, its Mother and Splendor; she is constantly before their eyes and in their hearts as "the Virgin Most Pure." Looking to her, and living in spiritual intimacy with her, we learn to stand before God, and with one another, as the Lord's brothers and sisters. Mary lives among us, as mother and sister, attentive to our needs; along with us she waits and hopes, suffers and rejoices. The scapular is a sign of Mary's permanent and constant motherly love for Carmelite brothers and sisters. By their devotion to the scapular, faithful to a tradition in the Order, especially since the 16th century, Carmelites express the loving closeness of Mary to the people of God; it is a sign of consecration to Mary, a means of uniting the faithful to the Order, and an effective and popular means of evangelization.
     Hermits lived on Mount Carmel near the Fountain of Elijah (northern Israel) in the 12th century. They had a chapel dedicated to Our Lady. By the 13th century they became known as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” They soon celebrated a special Mass and Office in honor of Mary. In 1726 it became a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For centuries the Carmelites have seen themselves as specially related to Mary. Their great saints and theologians have promoted devotion to her and often championed the mystery of her Immaculate Conception.
     St. Teresa of Avila called Carmel “the Order of the Virgin.” St. John of the Cross; credited Mary with saving him from drowning as a child, leading him to Carmel and helping him escape from prison. St. Theresa of the Child Jesus believed that Mary cured her from illness. On her First Communion she dedicated her life to Mary. During the last days of her life she frequently spoke of Mary.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
     The early hermits on Mount Carmel quickly became known as "The Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel" because their little chapel was dedicated to her. The Marian title meant a great deal to the brothers and influenced the spirit by which they tried to live the Gospel message. Many of the older religious orders pick out a special facet of Our Lord's life or teaching, which they want to emphasize and keep alive. From early in their history the Carmelites took on the role of emphasizing the love that Jesus has for his mother, and they have tried to keep that love alive and active in the world. In doing so, they are true to the simplicity of the Gospel where we find that because Jesus loved her, he listened to the implicit prayer of Mary at Cana and again, because he loved her, almost his last words on earth were words of love and concern for her. Mary loved and ministered to Jesus while he was on earth. She is also the mother of the Body of Christ, which is the Church; since we are the Church, she is our mother. As our mother she intercedes for us, showing the same love and concern for the Church as she did for Jesus.

     At the Annunciation, this ordinary young Jewish girl is confronted with her extraordinary vocation. After her prudent concern has been laid to rest, she responds with tremendous faith, hope and love. Faith enabled her to live each day with its worries and fears without doubting the providence of God. Hope filled her with supreme confidence that the promises of God would be fulfilled even when she stood at the foot of the cross. Love possessed her so completely that she was full of grace, full of love and this impelled her to give a loving service to others, to her cousin Elizabeth and to the couple at their wedding in Cana.
     For Carmelites, therefore, Mary is the mother who continues to love and care. She is the model of unobtrusive, gentle, loving service to others. In a very special way she is also the model of quiet, intimate prayer for she pondered all things in her heart and she persevered in prayer with the disciples.
     The fact that Carmelites are a worldwide community with Mary for their mother has given the Order its distinctive family spirit. Visitors who come to stay in Carmelite houses for a few days expecting to meet austere, remote "monks" are surprised to find very ordinary, approachable men, living a fairly ordinary family life with its joys and sorrows and sometimes its family tensions which have to be resolved in a spirit of Christian love. The Church sees the wearing of the brown scapular as an outward sign that the person wearing it wants to try and live the Gospel message taking Mary as mother and model and being united with others as members of the family of Carmel. The desire to love Mary as Jesus loved her, the desire to take her as the model Christian and the desire to live a simple, sincere, unselfish family life are factors which play a very significant part in the life of a Carmelite.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to read my posts and to comment on them. God Bless!