|MOUNT CARMEL MAGAZINE|
A QUARTERLY REVIEW OF THE SPIRITUAL
Editorial Enquiries, Articles, Letters to: THE EDITOR,
Other Enquiries: fax: 01865 326478 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SUBSCRIPTIONS ARE NOW AVAILABLE ON-LINE AT Webpage: Carmelite Books
MOUNT CARMEL MAGAZINE
VOL. 61 NO.2 APRIL - JUNE 2013
IN THIS ISSUE
Remembering Our Origins: The Inspiration of the Carmelite
Message of the Superior General - For the 450th Anniversary
of the Teresian Reform
Voices of the Heart
Mary, Mother of Carmel: Our Model of Faith
The Mysteries of St Joseph: A Portrait of Relationship
A Call to a Deeper Love: The Letters of Zélie
and Louis Martin
Springs of Living Water
Spiritual Maternity and Carmel: A Gift to the Church
and the World
Père Jacques: The Story of a Vocation
The Exsultet: A Living Flame to the Honour of God
Food for the Journey - Books
The figure of the Beloved Disciple has a special resonance for all who wish to be close to Jesus. He is 'the disciple whom Jesus loved', we are told, the same disciple 'who had lain close to his breast at the [last] supper'. This image is used in Scripture of the closest and most tender of human relationships: that of mother and child; of husband and wife; and also of friends. Indeed, when John wants to find an image to express divine intimacy - the union between Jesus and his Father - he speaks of the Word as 'the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father'. Some of the modern translations fail to capture the deeper import of the phrase. It does not simply mean 'close to the Father's heart' or 'nearest to the Father's heart'. Rather, the image speaks to us of a whole dynamic thrust of love by the Son 'into' the Father, which is also identified as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love - an eternal communion, a sharing and fellowship between the Son and the Father. It speaks of movement.
The image, then, speaks to us of friendship. There can be no true friendship without love. We recall the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: 'No one has greater love than to lay down their life for their friends.' We note that Jesus did not simply lay down his life for his friends: he laid down his life in order that we might become his friends. Not because we were already his friends! St Paul expressed it perfectly when he said, 'While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.'
'I will no longer call you servants,' Jesus said, 'for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.' The Beloved Disciple who laid his head on the breast of Jesus represents every friend of Jesus, called to experience a deep personal relationship of love and friendship with the Lord.
When St Teresa wants to describe for us her understanding of prayer, she speaks of it as friendship: she calls prayer 'an intimate sharing between friends', and she adds that 'it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us'. This also speaks of solitude: a time 'to be alone'! The words of Teresa remind us of the teaching of Jesus in the gospel: 'When you pray, go into the inner room and shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.' For Teresa, the prayer of friends is a heart-to-heart, the love of one friend reaching out in response to the love of another. She reminds us again and again that prayer 'does not lie in thinking much but in loving much'. A true friend knows us just as we are, with all our splendid and lovable gifts and talents, and at the same time with all our weakness, brokenness and need of human support - someone who loves us and lets us relate with them just as we are. That is how Teresa would have us relate to God in prayer: just as we are. But primary is God's love for us, not our love for God.
We are told, significantly, that the disciple who rested his head on the breast of Jesus was 'the disciple whom Jesus loved'. Jesus first loved him - Jesus first loved us. 'In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us We love, because he first loved us.' 'You did not choose me; it was I who chose you,' Jesus tells his friends at the Last Supper. God is always standing at the door of the human heart - and pleading to enter. Holman Hunt captured the image for us beautifully in his painting The Light of the World, reflecting these words from Scripture: 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him ' As John of the Cross reminds us: 'if anyone is seeking God, the Beloved is seeking that person much more.'
'He is such a fast God,' writes the poet R S Thomas, 'always before us and leaving as we arrive.' God is always advancing to meet us in love, to come into our lives - if we allow him. 'The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world He came unto his own, and his own did not receive him.' Our God is a God who is always longing to share his love: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love'; '[The Father] has blessed us in Christ He chose us in him before the foundation of the world He destined us in love to be his children through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will '
When Jesus calls his disciples 'friends' at the Last Supper, he tells them - and us also - of the conditions for true friendship: 'If you love me, you will keep my commandments You are my friends if you do what I command you.' Again, Teresa reminds us of this teaching when she says, in The Way of Perfection: 'everything I have advised you about in this book is directed towards the complete gift of ourselves to the Creator, the surrender of our wills to His.' And she is even more explicit in her later masterpiece, The Interior Castle: 'This union with God's will is the union I have desired all my life; it is the union I ask the Lord for always and the one that is clearest and safest.'
Teresa's words are like an invitation to resemble Mary, our model of prayer, who is with us at the heart of the church - as we prepare, like the early church, for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost: 'Such was the prayer and work of our Lady, the most glorious Virgin,' John of the Cross tells us, ' she was always moved by the Holy Spirit'. Her initial 'fiat' was not just an isolated moment in her life when the Spirit 'overshadowed' her at the Annunciation; it was her unending prayer as the perfect model of every praying disciple. 'For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.' And that same Spirit 'comes to help us in our weakness, because we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with longings too deep for words. And [the Father] who searches the human heart knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God.' Allow ourselves to surrender gently to the Spirit's action directing our lives according to God's will. That is how we prepare for Pentecost.
SPIRITUAL MATERNITY AND CARMEL:
A GIFT TO THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD
The author is a Secular Carmelite and an associate tutor with the Maryvale Institute, where she completed an MA in Pastoral and Educational Studies, for which she wrote a dissertation on Thérèse. A mother of six, she currently works at children's centres, providing support to new mothers. In this article, she begins by considering the nature of motherhood, which leads her to reflect on spiritual maternity - and how a Secular Carmelite can offer this gift to the Church and the world.
Motherhood and God
As Christians we know God as our Father, because this is how Jesus his Son taught us to address him. At the same time the idea of his motherhood, which is also found in Scripture, can offer us an insight into our relationship with God and into the Carmelite vocation. The prophet Isaiah, for example, tells us that God will console his people 'as a mother comforts her child' (Is 66:13), and Jesus addresses the people of Jerusalem using the image of a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings (cf. Mt 23:37).
Those who are called to the Carmelite Order also place themselves under the protection of Mary, the one chosen by God to be the mother of his Son. They cultivate a devotion to her as the 'Mother of the Order'. I write as a Secular Carmelite, whose spirituality links into my secular life. In this case it is the life of a wife and mother, of a stepmother and mother-in-law, who has spent many years working with families. I have also received a new dimension to my spiritual life, with the gift of a grandson; this has probably been the most unexpected joy of all, because I do not think that I could ever have anticipated the depth of love which I have for this little boy.
My own involvement with maternity led me to wonder whether we, as we give ourselves to Christ, can also offer the gift of 'spiritual maternity' to the Church and the world.
A generous love
In order to answer this question, I first considered the way in which natural motherhood can enhance our human nature. And I realised that it is easier to see and feel the effect of a mother's love than it is to define this love. I have watched it begin and grow in women I have cared for as a health visitor, and I have seen young, unsupported mothers give the same generous love to their children as those who have waited for their children through many empty years. Recent scientific studies confirm my intuition that this love is not only consoling, it is also essential. It is this earliest love relationship that nurtures the whole human personality. As I write this, though, I am aware of a similar birth of love and compassion in fathers, a topic which also deserves consideration.
I am not restricting the designation of 'mother' to those who are biological mothers. Although motherhood may involve conception, pregnancy and birth, these are not the only route to maternity. When a parish priest prayed for 'all mothers and all who take on a maternal role' on Mothering Sunday, I thought of all those people, married or single, secular or religious, who are led to take on a maternal role; I thought in particular of an unmarried friend who has spent many years giving children her maternal love.
Similarly, I am not thinking only of ideal mothers. There are no perfect mothers in our world, and there are many who struggle to be the best they can be in adverse circumstances. These are still mothers, even when the tasks of motherhood are beyond them.
A nurturing role
I think that the maternal role is centred on the idea of nurture, which includes guidance, counsel and care for others. This care may be physical, emotional or spiritual as with spiritual guidance and direction. What seems to me essential is that a mother has a continuing loving awareness of her child. This develops over time, and in this way a mother grows as her children grow. This is important because who she is matters more than what she does. John of the Cross makes the same point regarding spiritual directors, when he tells us that the spirituality of the director is more important than the guidance he or she gives (cf. LF 3:30).
As the mother herself grows, she holds her child in her mind. This experience is visceral as well as intellectual: it relates to the body as well as to the mind. She feels an aching emptiness when separated from her child. 'I know how you feel,' a friend said to me when I had to leave my young child for the first time. 'In your mind you know he will be all right, but inside you something is missing.'
Perhaps this is because maternal love comes from the 'heart', just like God's love which flows from every part of his 'heart and soul' (Jer 32:41) - a heart that 'aches for us' with love. He loves us from his heart and holds us in his heart. And however powerful our maternal love, God's love is even stronger: 'Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!' (Is 49:15). And if we live in union with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we may offer others even more than our natural maternal love: we may also offer them our spiritual maternity.
Mary, the community and the world
Spiritual maternity is exemplified in the person of the Virgin Mary. As she stood at the foot of the Cross, Jesus gave her to his disciple John - who represents all of us - and he also gave John to Mary (cf. Jn 19:26-27), thus bestowing on her this new maternity. It is a ministry that requires our submission to God's will (cf. Lk 1:38) and dependence on Christ.
Those who are Secular Carmelites exercise their ministry in the context of 'the world'. We do not usually live within our communities, although the community offers prayerful support to its members as they take up their tasks. In order to serve our brothers and sisters as Jesus would, we pray to have his love for each one of them. If I cannot love them, I will not progress in my love for Christ. Likewise, if I do not grow in love for Christ, then I will have little to offer my community. To use St Paul's analogy of the body: if one of us is hurt, then the whole body is disabled (cf. 1Cor 12:26). Our fraternal love is essential: because our work of love, which transforms the Church and the world, is done by the whole Carmelite community in us.
Spiritual and natural maternity
Teresa of Avila admitted to feelings of compassion for spiritual people who have to live in the world (cf. L 37:11). Our identity as Secular Carmelites means that we may be called to meet many concrete needs as well as being 'spiritual mothers'. So, one person may have the care of young children or elderly parents, another may have a ministry with the sick, and a third may work in health or education, social work or commerce. Whatever the setting, the Secular Carmelite is called to combine 'natural' maternal love with spiritual maternity.
Self-offering without limits
Spiritual maternity may be less visible than the natural kind. It begins with the offering of ourselves to Christ, in the context of obedience to the Order and to the Church, 'for the sake of the Church and the world'. It includes a demanding commitment: to the Church, to communal and personal prayer, to meditation and contemplation. It involves prayer for our clergy as well as for the laity, and may include providing spiritual guidance, catechesis and evangelisation. At the same time, like all baptised Christians, a Carmelite should pray, and strive, to grow in love for God and others. As Teresa teaches us, our spiritual life should give birth to good works (cf. IC VII:4:6).
Our spiritual maternity will have no end. We can respond to the demands it places on us only with faith, hope and love - trusting in God's grace to enable us to meet these demands.
More being than doing
Whatever else she provides or does, a mother's presence brings solace, whether she is beside the cot, at the end of a phone line or at the foot of the cross. A mother carries her child, firstly in her womb and then in her arms, before setting him on his own two feet and watching him grow in independence. At the same time, that child is carried in her heart; she is always conscious of him, even if he is far away or dies. She never ceases to be his mother.
Similarly, our vocation requires us to hold each person in our hearts; and, as we live in Christ, this means we also hold them in our prayer. This may seem to be an overwhelming task, but we can see how it may be done from the autobiography of Thérèse of Lisieux (cf. SS, p. 194). Here we learn that, as she identifies herself with the love of Jesus, so she discovers that there is, in a sense, no need to pray for those whom she loves: for they, too, will be drawn with her 'into the shoreless ocean of [His] love' (SS, p. 254). If we trust the word of this Carmelite saint and Doctor of the Church, we can be confident that our union with Christ will also draw others to him.
Obedience and trust
Foremost among our models of trust in God is the Blessed Virgin Mary, and she will help us to grow in confidence in Christ. She is the model of one who offers her spiritual maternity for all who need it, and she helps us to give the same gift of spiritual motherhood to those who are placed in our care. She carried Jesus, unseen, in her body and in her heart. Although he was formed by her, as well as by his heavenly Father, she never points to herself but draws us ever closer to him and counsels us to obey him. So, for example, she says to the servants at the wedding feast of Cana: 'Do whatever he tells you' (Jn 2:5); she says this, knowing that when we do trust and obey him, he will open our eyes to see just who he is.
In a similar way we are called to help others, including our brothers and sisters in Carmel, into a closer relationship with the Lord. This mission, of course, reaches beyond the Carmelite community - into the whole Church and, through the Church, into the world. Again, it is what we are, more than what we do, that has the most effect: because our desire for Christ is the very centre of our calling. We love Christ because he, in obedience to the Father, loved us first and loved us unto death. Love unites us with him, and we bear fruit through this union (cf. Jn 15:1-11).
We may not be aware of the fruits of our spiritual maternity. We may undertake many activities for others but, faced with their suffering which we cannot ease, all we may have to offer is a loving awareness like Mary's as she stood at the foot of the Cross. The results of such love lie beyond our understanding.
Again, we can look to the example of St Thérèse, as she offered herself to the Church. She longed to do many things but was aware of her own limitations. Then she considered St Paul's discussion of service in the Church and his description of love, in his First Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 1Cor 12-13) - and there, she found her vocation as love in the heart of the Church (cf. SS, p. 194). She was appointed to help form the novices, and she gave spiritual guidance to sisters, priests and missionaries; but her greatest gift to the Church was the offering she made of herself to Jesus Christ. Through her generous love she shared something of his Passion and willingly entered into a terrible experience of darkness, which she offered to God for the salvation of others.
All this brings us back to the question posed at the beginning of this article: as to whether, as we give ourselves to Christ, we can also offer the gift of 'spiritual maternity' to the Church and the world. I would suggest that we can, if we do so in the way that Mary did. Her spiritual maternity was the fruit of her submission to God and trust in Jesus. If we say 'yes' to our ministry and also 'remain in Christ' (Jn 15:4), then even though we may doubt our own ability to be spiritual as well as natural mothers, we will bear fruit. Such fruit can nurture our Order, our Church and the world.
SPRINGS OF LIVING WATER
As I live, says the King,
whose name is the Lord of hosts,
one is coming
like Tabor among the mountains,
and like Carmel by the sea.
Homeland of the heart
On top of the grey limestone of modern Mount Carmel, rising
from the promontory like a rugged outcropping of stone, stands a large rectangular
building surmounted by a Byzantine cupola. It could readily be mistaken
for a fortress peering out over the sea, but it is, in fact, a monastery
of Carmelite friars. This building represents another dimension in the history
of Mount Carmel: the story of a religious order founded on that mountain
and nurtured in the contemplative traditions of prayer and solitude by the
hermits who lived there over the centuries. The present monastery, constructed
in 1836, is the fifth Carmelite monastery constructed on that site, and
it can trace its lineage back to the first chapel of St Berthold in the
twelfth century, and by a type of synthetic ancestry, back to the cave dwellings
of Elijah and Elisha. The Carmelite story spans centuries and reaches around
the world, but it has its beginnings on this Palestinian mountain which
must always remain the homeland of the heart for every Carmelite.
Peter-Thomas Rohrbach, OCD, Journey to Carith
Through the ages
How gladly would I become a child again, and go to school once more in this humble and sublime school of Nazareth: close to Mary, I wish I could make a fresh start at learning the true science of life and the higher wisdom of divine truths
First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us, besieged as we are by so many uplifted voices, the general noise and uproar, in our seething and over-sensitised modern life.
May the silence of Nazareth teach us recollection, inwardness, the disposition to listen to good inspirations and the teachings of true masters. May it teach us the need for and the value of preparation, of study, of meditation, of personal inner life, of the prayer which God alone sees in secret.
Next, there is a lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach
us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty,
and its sacred and inviolable character. Let us learn from Nazareth that
the formation received at home is gentle and irreplaceable. Let us learn
the prime importance of the role of the family in the social order.
Pope Paul VI, Address of January 5, 1964
Love silence and prayer, for that is the essence of Carmelite
life. Ask the Queen of Carmel, our Mother, to teach you to adore Jesus in
profound recollection; she so loves her daughters in Carmel, her privileged
order, and she is our foremost patron. Pray also to our seraphic Mother
Saint Teresa, who loved so much that she died of love! Ask her for her passion
for God, for souls, for the Carmelite must be apostolic; all her prayers,
all her sacrifices tend to this! Are you familiar with Saint John of the
Cross? He is our Father who went so far into the depths of the Divinity!
Before him, I should have spoken to you of Saint Elijah, our first Father;
you can see that our order is very ancient since it goes back to the prophets.
Ah, I wish I could sing all its glories!
Elizabeth of the Trinity, Letter 136
The great Teresian Carmelite family is present in the world
in many forms. The nucleus of this family is the Order of Discalced Carmelites
- the friars, the enclosed nuns, the seculars. It is the one Order with
the same charism. The Order is nourished by the long tradition of Carmel,
expressed in the Rule of Saint Albert and the doctrine of the Carmelite
Doctors of the Church and the Order's other saints.
Constitutions of the Secular Order of the Teresian Carmel, Preface
Ever ancient, ever new
The [Carmelite] Order is privileged to honour as a model
and example the great Prophet [Elijah] of the Old Testament and to regard
his life as the expression of the life lived in Carmel's school. Upon this
model Carmel built its own school which sees in contemplation the highest
St Teresa and St John of the Cross are the great masters in
the spiritual life of this school. They are the great examples of Carmel's
mystic life and the most widely known. But beside these great outstanding
personages, there is such a large body of mystical writers, men and women,
that Carmel takes a front rank among the writers and leaders of the spiritual
life. The ancient history of the Order shows us that this special election
to the mystical life revealed itself from the beginning
Titus Brandsma, O Carm, Carmelite Mysticism
All of us who wear this holy habit of Carmel are called
to prayer and contemplation. This call explains our origin; we are the descendants
of men who felt this call, of those holy fathers on Mount Carmel who in
such great solitude and contempt for the world sought this treasure, this
precious pearl of contemplation that we are speaking about.
Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, V:1:2
In September or October of 1568 the young Carmelite Juan
de Yepes, whose name in religion until then had been John of St Matthias,
took up his abode in the poor hovel of Duruelo, where he was to be the foundation
and cornerstone of the Teresian reform. On November 28, with two companions,
he bound himself by vow to observe the primitive Rule and took the title
of the Cross. This was a symbol of what he sought when he left his home
monastery and thereby publicly broke with its mitigated observance. It also
symbolised what he had already practised there, in that he had personal
permission to live according to the primitive Rule. At the same time, the
change of title expressed an essential distinguishing mark of the Reform:
to follow Christ on the Way of the Cross. Participation in Christ's cross
was to be the life of the Discalced Carmelites.
Edith Stein, The Science of the Cross
The one family
Our Order resembles a classroom in which we acquire this
practice of virtue, or a large family in which the members strive together
toward a common goal with greater facility than is possible to individual
effort. In the spiritual life, no more than in ordinary life, can we dispense
with education, with teachers and with guidance. It is an exception when
God does not call in the human aid of a community or of an Order to lift
His elect to the heights of sanctity. That is why it is so significant that
there are schools of mysticism in the Church each with its own traditions,
each following a different road, but all emanating from one central point,
which is God Himself, and leading to one goal, again not distinct from God.
God has willed in Nature a great richness and diversity. In the spiritual
life He also wills a variety, adapted to the diversity of talents and the
richness of forms under which He communicates His graces. So also in His
prescience He called the Order of Mount Carmel into being and overwhelmed
it with graces. Its function would be to form a school of mystical life,
with a very personal stamp which the leaders of the Order would preserve
in order that the Order would answer its peculiar vocation. When God transplants
into the garden of Carmel the young seedlings that will open for Him like
flowers; when He calls to the Order so many fresh young souls, glowing with
zeal, then He desires that the Order care for these souls.
Titus Brandsma, O Carm, Carmelite Mysticism
[Edith] simply ran to Carmel like a child into its mother's
arms, blithe and singing, without ever regretting later, even for a moment,
this almost blind eagerness
She felt entirely at home in heart and
Archabbot Raphael Walzer (Edith Stein's spiritual director),
in Teresia Renata Posselt, OCD, Edith Stein
I explained once more by what road I had reached this point,
how the thought of Carmel had never left me; I spent eight years as a teacher
with the Dominican nuns in Speyer, was intimately connected with the entire
convent, and yet was unable to enter; I considered Beuron the antechamber
of heaven, yet it never entered my mind to become a Benedictine nun; it
always seemed to me that the Lord was saving something for me in Carmel
which I could find there and nowhere else.
Edith Stein, How I Came to the Cologne Carmel
All must be friends, all must be loved, all must be held
dear, all must be helped.
Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, 4:7
A Carmelite sacrifices everything, even the pure joy of
hugging to herself those dearest to her on earth, since the cloister no
longer allows her to embrace her own family. But do you think that on that
account things are sad here in our convents? You can't imagine my surprise
at this; since I thought they'd be joyful, but that's nothing compared to
what they are
There is such a great union and trust among us, that
we're all as if we belonged to the same family.
Teresa of the Andes, Letter 136
The universal family
Carmel is a community of human beings who reveal God to
other human beings. There should be a Carmel in every city
see God through these human beings who live for him and him alone.
Père Jacques, OCD, Listen to the Silence
A Carmelite is a sister to priests.
Teresa of the Andes, Letter 63
Following Jesus as members of the Secular Order is expressed
by the promise to strive for evangelical perfection in the spirit of the
evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience and through the
beatitudes. By means of this promise, the member's baptismal commitment
is strengthened for the service of God's plan in the world. This promise
is a pledge to pursue personal holiness, which necessarily carries with
it a commitment to serving the Church in faithfulness to the Teresian Carmelite
Constitutions of the Secular Order of the Teresian Carmel, # 11
Since 'the zeal of a Carmelite embraces the whole world',
I hope with the grace of God to be useful to more than two missionaries
and I could not forget to pray for all without casting aside simple priests
whose mission at times is as difficult to carry out as that of apostles
preaching to the infidels. Finally, I want to be a daughter of the Church
as our holy Mother St Teresa was and to pray for the Holy Father's intentions
which I know embrace the whole universe. This is the general purpose of
Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
MOUNT CARMEL VOL 61. NO.2
APRIL - JUNE 2013