Elijah and Mary
Attempting to follow
Christ more closely, Carmelites find inspiration in the Old Testament
prophet, Elijah, and in the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Prophet Elijah
was kept alive especially on Mount Carmel where he challenged the
people to stop hobbling first on one foot and then on the other
but to choose who is God in Israel - Yahweh or Baal. According to
the story, which can be found in the First Book of Kings, chapter
18, Elijahs sacrifice was consumed by fire from heaven which
proved to the people that Yahweh was the true God.
Elijah in the Presence
of the Lord on Mount Horeb
Elijah made himself available
for Gods work and was sent into various situations to proclaim
Gods word. Elijah undertook a long journey through the desert
where he began to despair. He sat down under a bush and wished he
were dead but God would not allow him to die and prodded him to
continue his journey to Mount Horeb. When he arrived there, God
became present to Elijah. God came not with the signs usual in the
Old Testament of fire, earthquake and mighty wind but in the sound
of a gentle breeze. Elijah was sent back to his people to carry
out Gods will.
From Elijah, Carmelites
learn to listen for the voice of God in the unexpected and in silence.
They seek to allow the Word of God to shape their minds and hearts
so that the way they live and the things they do may be prophetic
and therefore faithful to the memory of father Elijah.
The Blessed Virgin
The first hermits on
Mount Carmel built a church in the middle of their cells. This was
the center of their lives where they converged each day to celebrate
Mass together. This little church they named in honor of Our Lady.
By this fact the first group of Carmelites took her as their patroness,
promising her their faithful service and expecting her protection
and favor. They were proud to bear the title of Brothers of
the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and they defended
this title with vigor when their right to it was challenged.
Mary, Ever Ready
to Accomplish the Wish of God
Mary consented to Gods
will when she was asked to be the mother of the Savior. She pondered
on the events of her life and was able to see in them the hand of
God at work. Mary did not become proud about her unique vocation,
but instead praised God for looking on her lowliness and doing great
things in her. She was with Jesus at the beginning of his public
ministry when, at the marriage feast at Cana, she made known to
him the simple need, They have no wine. She was with
him as he died and there became the mother of all believers. At
the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles we find Mary gathered
in the upper room praying with the other disciples waiting for the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For Carmelites, Mary is a constant
presence in their lives, guiding and protecting them as they seek
to follow Christ.
The brown scapular has
for many centuries summed up the Carmelites relationship with
Our Lady. The scapular is a piece of cloth based on the traditional
Carmelite friars garb. Wearing the scapular is a sign of consecration
to Mary, the Mother of God, and is a symbol showing that the person
is putting on the virtues of Mary and is being protected by her.
Mary symbolizes for the Carmelite everything that we hope for -
to enter into an intimate relationship with Christ, being totally
open to Gods will and having our lives transformed by the
Word of God. Carmelites have always thought of Mary as the Patroness
of the Order, its Mother and Splendor. They seek to live in spiritual
intimacy with her so that they can learn from her how to live as
Elijah and Mary are inspirational
figures for all Carmelites. They play a very important part in the
life and spirituality of the Order which sees itself as belonging
to Mary and looks to Elijah as their spiritual father.