Monday, January 28, 2008

Mount Carmel, Retreat on Contemplative life, Characterised by Elias, Part 7

Today I post the last part of 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.

The Deep-Red Rose Clustering Over Carmel Symbolic of Elias In conclusion, we should like to see the great Prophet Elias in Carmel's garden like a red rose, and not only the great Prophet but also those who follow him, climbing (symbol of the exercise of virtue) along the mountain, through the caves and grottos of Carmel, interlacing it with a girdle of fire. These red roses are the symbol of ardent love that burns in Elias and his disciples. It is the most remarkable characteristic of their spiritual life. It is the fire by which, like the Prophet and St. Teresa of Avila, the disciples became seraphim. Yet, we choose that symbol of the rose - the deep-red rambler-rose. I see it spreading over the whole mountain and setting it all aflame. The last flower we shall gather during these lectures in the garden of Carmel will be none other than the rose that bloomed in our own times and which trails around the mountain. That last flower will be the "Little Flower" who, shedding her petals far and wide, has developed to the utmost the symbol of the red rose. May you all be like the red rambler-roses climbing along Carmel, burning in the fire of love like our great exemplar, Elias, scattering the petals of the flowers of your virtue, like the Little Flower, over those who live with you. Elijah was venerated as the daring champion of Gods cause: "I am burnt up with zeal for the Lord God of Hosts". Six pieces of spiritual armor are described in the rule of the Order; the cincture is the symbol of purity, indispensable for one who desires to reach the holy mountain of the vision of God: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God". The corselet which protects the vital parts of the body represents good thoughts: "Holy thoughts will protect you". The breastplate which covers the whole body represents justice, a well regulated life, the observance of the commandments and duties of daily life. The shield is faith; for a living faith is the best safeguard for the spiritual life. The helmet symbolizes hope, confidence in God, which gives us the right to walk with freedom and confidence. Finally, the sword indicates conversation with God which as a double edge blade comes to our aid and defends us in all our difficulties. Bl John Soreth first great reformer of Carmel characterised by love of simplicity, poverty, solitude and prayer. St Mary Magdalen de Pazzi - obtained permission to live according to primitive rule. The relationship between Carthusians and Carmelites was based on the Charterhouse role as spiritual master for Carmel. History tells us how much the Carthusians favored Ruysbroeck's mysticism and the spirituality of the Devotio Moderna in general; because of their love for solitude and the contemplative life, they served as an example and a stimulus for the Carmelites who aspired to a more strict observance. The contact between the Carmelite nuns, their spiritual Fathers and the masters of the Devotio Moderna was not merely occasional; it was a matter more of a common spirit. In a very striking way Father Martin, S. J., has demonstrated that the terminology and images of Ruysbroeck and St. Teresa are closely related and sometimes even identified. Above we established some analogous relationships between Bl. John Soreth and the writers of the Devotio Moderna. This is, it seems, an additional and very significant indication of the middle and conciliatory position which the Carmelite school has taken between the different schools. Thus equilibrium is maintained between the school of acquired contemplation and that of infused contemplation. John is careful to note that perfection does not consist in ecstatic phenomena but in union with God who lives in us. This fire, which burns in us, sets us aflame, and the flame of our love is united to Divine Love which enflames our heart. It is necessary that Carmelites understand this vocation and prepare for it. As a means of arriving at the dispositions required by God, John counsels a form of prayer which the Franciscan Henry Herp especially honored, namely, aspiration. It has four degrees: inhaling God, exhaling God, living in God, living by God. Entirely filled with God, we must hunger and thirst for God without ceasing and open our mouth to breathe God. We should start by offering ourselves and every creature to God. As Bl. John Soreth already showed, contemplation by its nature should elevate us to God. But we must not delay in the admiration of the marvels of nature; this is only a step by which we must mount. In view of God's riches, let us ask him to enrich us, for in the measure that he gives himself to us, he renders us unceasingly more like to himself. We should collaborate in his action by uniting ourselves ever more intimately to him; and we should forever rejoice over this union with God. The kingdom of God which is within us -- the old comparison of the "the soul's spark " -- must be extended without interruption or end by occupying us completely. All Carmelites, Brothers and Sisters of the Order of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, in order to be faithful to their vocation should do their very utmost to go, under the guidance of the saintly hermit and prophet Elijah, across the desert of this life up to the Mt. Horeb of the vision of God, strengthened by the heavenly nourishment which is shown on the altar.