Monday, January 21, 2008

Mount Carmel, Retreat of Contemplative life, Characterised in Elias - part 2

Today as through the rest of this week, we will continue reading of the lecture given by Bl Titus Brandsma O.Carm during his American lecture tour before WW2 on the subject of Carmelite spirituality and contemplative life of prayer as exemplified by St Elijah. The lecture is in practice excellent summary of the history and development of the Order and can profit those interested in Carmel history and spirituality to increase their knowledge and understanding of the spiritual richness of one of the greatest mendicant orders dedicated to Our Lady.

Double Spirit The first is the double portion of the inheritance of the Father, the portion of the first-born son, the portion of the privileged children. The Carmelites are the privileged children of the great prophet and ask from him the portion of the primogenitus. But only he who has the intention of maintaining the noble traditions of the house may ask this privileged portion. If we ask his double spirit in this sense, we have to be his first sons and to follow him as well as possible.Another sense is given to this double spirit: namely, the marvelous mixture of contemplative and active life in the great prophet. He was, above all, the great contemplative, but God called him many times from his contemplation to the active life and his place in the history of Israel is as one of its most untiring laborers. Abilt autem inde in montem Carmeli. He always returned to the solitude of the life of con-templation. So the Carmelites must be contemplatives, who from their active life always return to the contemplative as to the higher and better part of their vocation. However, the double spirit of the prophet is spoken of in a third sense as the harmonious union of the human exercise of virtue and the divine infusion of mystical life; the union of the via purgativa and illuminativa with the via unitiva. It is in this third sense that the old institution of the Order has taken the double spirit of Elias and this double spirit we must ask of Heaven. Our institution must reflect his double spirit; the life of the exercise of virtue in individual or social activity, founded on a life of prayer, and the life of continual practise of meditation, crowned by active contemplation or prayer of simplicity and that other spirit unspeakably more exalted: the mystical, real experience of God, even in this life. It must be the union of active and passive contemplation, the union of human endeavour and the infusion of the mystical life by God. Our sufferings and sacrifices, our labours and exercises in prayer and virtue will be rewarded by God with the beatifying vision of His love and greatness. So we may truly say that "the life of Elias is the shortest summary of the Order's life." But we immediately have to ask: What are the characteristics of this prophetical life?

Three-fold Basis of Elias' Life of Prayer When Elias was being taken away from the earth in a fiery chariot, Eliseus, his faithful disciple, begged of him the inheritance of his double spirit. In the mantle which he received and with which he covered his shoulders, Eliseus received the inheritance he had asked for. The Prophet's mantle was to him a symbol of an assurance, and through the miracles worked by this mantle his disciples understood that the spirit of Elias had descended on Eliseus. And just as Eliseus walked in the spirit and strength of Elias, so his disciples followed him. It is the same spirit the Order has ever striven to continue in its members. It ever sets before them the ideal of the double spirit and gives the promise of a double crown.