Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mount Carmel, Retreat of Contemplative life, Characterised in Elias - part 4

Today and 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.

Detachment from the World, Including Mortification, Abstinence and Poverty. We may truly say that the life of high contemplation of the Prophet was not only founded on the practice of all virtues, but that this practice and exercise of prayer and virtue - heroic virtue - accompany and follow his visions and mystical graces. These mystical graces are a free gift of God, but God did not grant them without asking great and heroic virtue as a human disposition and preparation.
Combination of Liturgical and Contemplative Prayer
. But after all, prayer is the chief characteristic of the great Prophet. His life is steeped in it. So St. James teaches that he is the great example of continual prayer. And we see in the prayer of Elias a providential union of oral and liturgical prayer with the prayer of meditation and contemplation -- contemplation in its double sense, active and passive.
We may see in him an example of liturgical prayer, for the singing of God's praises was an important item in the school of Prophets. The word, "Prophet," in the ancient law had a wider meaning than we attach to it now. It was used to describe not only one who pro-phesied, one who had been given that special gift of God, but also one who sang the praise of God together with others, usually seven times a day. At an earlier period of Israel's history, we are told, Saul was among the prophets, not in the sense that he had the gift of prophecy, but that he joined in the singing of the praises of God in these distinct groups. Elias was the Prophet in all the meanings of the term. He had a school and disciples not in one place, but in many, and most probably led them in prayer at fixed times. So we may say that liturgical prayer comes to us from a very ancient tradition, even though it is secondary to the deeper prayer of meditation and contemplation. Our Order is not an Order of liturgical prayer, like the old Eastern Order of the Basilians or the Western Order of the Benedictines, but liturgical prayer has a special confirmation in our own Rite and must always hold a high place in our living with God. The Rule calls us together to the choir to say the Office in community, liturgically. St. Teresa, in her love for liturgical prayer, would so impregnate it with holy thoughts, that it, too, in a sense, would become contemplative prayer, prayer of active contemplation. The influence and attraction of simple and devout Carmelite liturgical life has always been great. More than one Carmel on the continent has been founded because of it.