F. Elijah and Mary
46. In the footsteps of the prophet Elijah
Some pilgrims, coming from the west to the Holy Land, chose Mount Carmel as the place in which to live as hermits in community. They settled near the spring known as 'Elijah's spring' (149), thus continuing a long tradition of monastic and eremitic presence.
The memory of the prophet is still alive in this place: the prophet burning with zeal for his God, whose word is a flaming torch; the prophet who stands in God's presence, ever ready to serve him and to obey his Word; the prophet who points to the true God so that the people may no longer stand with their feet in two camps; the prophet who exhorts his people to choose to focus their existence on God alone; the prophet who is attentive both to the voice of God and to the cry of the poor, who knows how to defend both the rights of the one God and those of God's beloved ones, the weakest and the last.
Carmelites remember, and in some ways relive, the prophet's experience. He hid in the desert in times of dryness and faced the challenge of the false prophets of a dead idol, which was incapable of giving life. He journeyed back through the desert to Mount Horeb, to meet the Lord in new and unexpected ways, and to understand that God is present even where he appears to be absent. Carmelites share in Elijah's thirst for justice and know themselves to be, like Elisha, heirs to the mantle that fell from heaven, from the chariot engulfed in flames.
47. Near Elijah's spring
From Elijah's spring,(150) the Carmelite hermits set out on the long journey charted by St Albert's Rule - a path that stretches through time to us. For them, and for those who followed them, Elijah thus became the first to incarnate the ideal of life which had motivated them to leave their homes. They felt themselves to be in some sense his children, heirs to a spiritual heritage which in various ways had been handed down to them.
They collected Jewish and Christian tales about Elijah; they reinterpreted them and made them their own. Thus Elijah, who in monastic tradition was already considered the first monk and the model for contemplatives, became for Carmelites the prototype of mystics, and the prophet intent on singing and teaching the praise of God to a community of disciples; the defender of God's rights, and the champion of the weakest and the least. The Carmelites of those early days, like the Carmelites of today, spoke of Elijah as their "Father" - not in any historical or physical sense, but in view of the values which he represents.
48. Mary guides us on our journey
In dedicating their oratory to Mary, the Mother of the Lord, the first Carmelites chose her as their patroness and entrusted themselves to her, consecrating their lives entirely to her service and to her praise - expressed primarily in their life, more than in their rituals.(151)
Throughout their history, Carmelites have experienced and celebrated in song the constant and caring presence of their mother and patroness. Mary, the mystical star of Mount Carmel, protects her children, clothes them, and guides them along paths which lead to the joy of the transforming encounter with God.(152) She who first enjoyed the experience of full union with God in Christ helps us to discover the beauty of our call, and supports us in the arduous ascent to "the peak of the mountain which is Christ the Lord."(153)
Wearing the scapular, we recall Mary's protection as we entrust ourselves to her. Her feasts provide opportunities to give thanks to the Lord for the gift of Mary who is "more Mother than Queen."(154)
49. Journeying with Mary
On the journey towards God, Carmelites recognise the Virgin Most Pure as their sister, the new woman who allowed herself to be transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit. Mary, pilgrim in faith, becomes for them a sign of all that they desire to be in the Church.(155)
The young woman who heard the angel's words in Nazareth and welcomed the Word of God introduces us to the mystery of the Son of God and teaches obedience to the Spirit, which leads us to adhere fully to the will of the Father. As she hurries to visit Elisabeth, Mary's example teaches us how to serve others in charity, the essential way of building community. Mary the mother of God, who presents the God-child to us in Bethlehem, invites us to become "God-bearers"(156) in all the circumstances of life. Mary fleeing to Egypt, with the Child and St. Joseph, points to the paths of asceticism and purification, the necessary gate to the contemplative experience of God. Mary keeping and pondering all things in her heart teaches us to seek and to recognise the signs of God's presence in the ordinary events of daily life, and to become disciples of the Lord by listening to the Word and putting into practice. In Cana, attentive to human needs, Mary points to Jesus as the one who gives the new wine of salvation, and invites us to do what he says. At the foot of the cross, Mary teaches us to be faithful to the end, whatever the consequences. Received by the disciples as their mother, she becomes the model of the praying Church, always open to receive and to share the gift of the Spirit.
Carmelites have a close and intimate relationship with Mary. She is our Mother and Sister, who is present in our personal lives and in our communities.
149 For this article and the following, see Costitutions, 26.
150 Cf. Rule, 1.
151 Cf. Constitutions, 27.
152 Cf. Preface II of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.
153 Cf. Collect of the Mass for the Solemn Commemoration of the B.V. Mary of Mount Carmel; see also Paul VI, Allocution of 22 June 1967, in AASLIX (30 Sept. 1967), No. 12, 779.
154 St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Last Conversations, 21 August, 3.
155 Cf. Preface I of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.
156 Bl. Titus Brandsma, Lecture to the Marian Congress of Tangerloo (August 1936); Carmelite Mysticism. Historical Sketches, Chicago (Ill.), 1936, Lecture IV, 52-53.