Monday, January 26, 2009

Marian Shrines in Holy Land - click for link to read part 1


After the Ascension of Christ a new era dawned for the Order of Elias. The Lessons for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel relate that many persons who had walked in the footsteps of Elias and Eliseus were made ready by John the Baptist to hail the coming of the Messiah, and on the day of Pentecost, being assured of the truth, they immediately embraced the Gospel, and writers of the early Church state that the hermits of Mt Carmel were efficient helpers of the Apostles in spreading the faith. In the Acts of the Apostles (11:12) reference is made to the coming of the Prophets from Jerusalem to Antioch. Enock, the hermit of Carmel established the monastic life in Alexandria under St Mark. Baronius, referring to to this, says that St Anthony was not the institutor of the monks, but that he re-established the institute of the Essenes, which had flourished under St Mark in Egypt. It is said that St Elpidius,

another hermit of Carmel, went with St James to Spain and was appointed by him the first Bishop of Toledo.

Venerable traditions of this time are full of sacred interest to all devotees of Mary, the "Queen, flower of Carmel". Long centuries before her coming, from the time of Elias, she was known, loved and honoured in Carmel. Some may wonder to hear of devotion to Mary nine hundred years before God gave her to the world, but it must be remembered that Mary was promised to mankind from the moment of original sin. Her image shines besides that of her Divine Son, lighting up even the darkness of paganism. Did not the Druids have a temple and an altar erected to the Virgin who was to bring forth. "Virgini pariturae." The ancients, who hardly knew the meaning of virginity, enshrined it in one of the most brilliant constellations of the Zodiac.
Sepphoris, the home of Joachim and Ann, is not far from Carmel,

and it is related that Mary, as a child, visited Carmel with her parents, which would not be strange since Carmel was a renowned place of pilgrimage. Later the Holy Family dwelt at Nazareth, which is only a day's journey from the holy mountain,

and it is said that on their return from Egypt they visited the pious hermits, filling their hearts with joy and peace. This is most probable, as Carmel lies on the direct route between Egypt and Nazareth.

The Roman Breviary relates that on the Feast of Pentecost the holy prophets, who were enlightened by the Apostles, met and conversed with Our Lady, and that on account of their singular love for her, they paid her the respect of building a little chapel,

Excavation site of the remains of the Chapel built by Mt Carmel's hermits in honour of Our Lady

the first that was ever raised in her honour, and which stood near the Grotto of Elias. For this reason the Mountain of Carmel, cradle of the Monastic life, became the fief of Mary and the sanctuary of contemplative spirit. The beautiful title "Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt Carmel" commonly bestowed upon the hermits and approved by the Holy See recalls the glorious origin and the unity of the Carmelite Order throughout the centuries. Later, July 16, 1251, the Holy Virgin crowned her favours by granting to her Carmelite Order the privilege of the Holy Scapular, in the person of St Simon Stock, an Englishman, who was then Prior General of the Carmelite Order.

After the death of Christ, Our Lady visited Mt Carmel, when as it is related, she with St John and some others of the Apostles went to Nazareth to show them where the Holy Family dwelt and narrated to them many touching incidents in the life of her Divine Son.

During the first three centuries the monastic institutions gave many saints and martyrs to the Church. St Telesphorus, eight Pope, and St Dionysius, twenty-fifth Pope, both lived on Carmel.

In the 4th century, with the reign of Constantin, monasticism flourished all over the Holy Land, and many of the great defenders of the Church against heresy came from Carmel, e.g. St Spiridon fought the Arians at the Council of Nice;

St Cyril of Alexandria uprooted the Nestorians and proved the Blessed Virgin to be the Mother of God;

Caprasius, Superior of the hermits of Carmel was the opponent of Eutyches; St Cyril of Jerusalem strove against Macedonius and his heresies;

and historians state that Palladius who opposed Pelagius and afterwards went to preach the Faith in Scotland and Ireland was a monk from Mt Carmel.

In 614 the Persians desecrated the Holy Places of Palestine and in 637 Islam overran the country. The hermits of Mt Carmel were persecuted and some of them fled to Europe. Leo IV, elected Pope in 847, granted a special indulgence to all who would assist by alms the persecuted hermits of Carmel,

and with this help they continued to exist until the time of the Crusaders, when a Latin element was introduced.

To be continued "The Latin Era"
Text based on the book "Marian Shrines in Mary's Land" by Fr Eugene Hoade.