Statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the infant Jesus by Michael Clark at Friar's Corner, "The Friars", Aylesford, Kent
On the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 16th July 2020, the Prior Provincial of the British Province of Carmelites, Fr. Kevin Alban, O.Carm., has written the following message:
Dear members and friends of the Carmelite Family,
On the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Mass we read from St. John’s Gospel the poignant and iconic incident of the Mother of Jesus at the Foot of the Cross:
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman, this is your son.' Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother.' And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home. (John 19:25-27)
This scene has given rise to productions in the visual arts and in music, so moving and profound an image does it present.
Crucifixion scene painted by Adam Kossowski, "The Friars", Aylesford, Kent
However, to appreciate it fully, we must connect it with the only other appearance of the Mother of Jesus in John’s gospel at the Wedding Feast at Cana. In that scene Jesus’ mother encourages him to begin his ministry and show his concern for the young couple who are about to see their banquet ruined. This scene is, however, more than a lesson in how to cope with embarrassing social occasions. The key words are when Mary turns to the waiters and says: “Do whatever he tells you.” They are words that echo the fundamental relationship of the people of Israel and God himself – the obedience implied in the covenant that Moses announces.
At the foot of the Cross, Jesus’ mother witnesses the climax of her son’s ministry, and his concern now is for her directly. No longer does Jesus give his instructions to the waiters, but now he instructs the Beloved Disciple and his own mother. She must exercise her maternal role over the new community, symbolised by that disciple. He in turn must treat her as a mother with the same care and concern that Jesus showed. Both commands are quite challenging. She arrives at the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion accompanied by her sister, by Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. She must now move from the place she occupies with her relatives and friends to a new role at the heart of the praying Church, as Luke describes it. In the midst of the horror and grief of the crucifixion how does she react? What are her feelings and reactions? One of the most striking aspects of this scene is her silence. At Cana she spoke, she asked, she told the servants to listen to her son. Now she is silent, faced with her dying son who now instructs her. But her silence is a fertile one. When we see her in the Upper Room in The Acts of the Apostles, we understand that she has clearly taken her son’s words to heart and obeys his command.
There are many ways we can relate to the figure of Mary and her place in the saving death and resurrection of her son. I would suggest that she helps us move from a passive role of looking at the Resurrection to a more active one of engaging with it. We do contemplate the mystery of the Risen Lord and that is an important part of our prayer life. At the same time, Mary reminds us that the Resurrection challenges us in a number of ways. It tests the way we think about this mystery in our lives. It makes us think about our role in the Church. It asks us to change our lives. And Mary can be a model for all these demands.
I wish you all a very happy feast day!
With every blessing,
Kevin Alban O. Carm.
Text: Kevin Alban, O.Carm.
Photography: Johan Bergström-Allen, T.O.C.