FLOWER OF CARMEL


(*the origin history of the devotion in scripture and tradition)
O Beautiful Flower of Carmel, Most Fruitful Vine, Splendour of Heaven, holy and singular, who brought forth the Son of God, still ever remaining a pure virgin, assist us in our necessity!
- Prayer to Our Lady of Mount Carmel
M A N T L E
Strongest of armor,
We trust in thy might:
Under thy mantle,
Hard press’d in the fight,
we call to thee.

- Flos Carmeli (listen)
*Mount Carmel, situated between Tyre and Caesarea, stretches about 15 miles across Palestine, and is about 20 miles from Nazareth (1). The holiness of this mountain has endured to the present day, and it is revered as a holy mountain by Christians, Jews, and Muslims (2). The word “Carmel” in Hebrew means, “Garden, a beautiful hill, a choice orchard, a high cultivated ground” (3). Carmel (Karmel, Greek) more precisely means “Garden of God” (from Karmel, is derived kerem – garden; and ‘el – the Divine name, meaning “the vineyard or garden of God”) (4). To describe the beauty and fruitfulness of Carmel, one author describes, “I have not found in Galilee, nor along the coast, nor in the plain, any flower that I did not find on Carmel” (5).
Carmel so prominent in Scripture bears symbolic meaning for Carmelites and for the world. Elijah, the prophet of Mount Carmel, was a witness to the living God, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today” (1 Kings 18:15). This message that “one’s life is consecrated to the glory of God” is a primary characteristic of the tradition of Carmel. Carmel is prophetic in that it stands for the “super-eminence” of the life of intimacy with God (6). Before his encounter with God, Elijah first had to come to the awareness and experience of his weakness and helplessness, as he cried to God, “Yahweh, I have had enough. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4). In weakness, God is drawn to His children, as a parent to a helpless infant. When we are aware of weakness and emptiness, we are ready to depend on God and be filled by Him (7). This humility and dependence is central to Carmel.
The Biblical references to Carmel, illustrate the unique beauty of this holy mountain, as well as its spiritual significance. From Scripture there are several themes associated with Mount Carmel, which will be pertinent to understanding its significance. The themes and Scriptural references mentioned briefly will be explored in greater depth at the conclusion of this discussion on Carmel in our present day.
1) Place of gathering of God’s children where He conquers evil and idolatry:
“Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the four hundred and fifty prophets of Ba’al and the four hundred prophets of Ashe’rah, who eat at Jez’ebel’s table.” So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel, and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel … Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and the said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God” (1 Kings 18:19 ff).
2) Place of fruitfulness and beauty:
Your head crowns you like Carmel, and your flowing locks are like purple; a king is held captive in the tresses (Song 7:5).
… it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God (Is 35:2).
“I will restore Israel to his pasture, and he shall feed on Carmel and in Bashan, and his desire shall be satisfied on the hills of E’phraim and in Gilead” (Jer 50:19).
3) Place of union with God:
So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Eli’jah went up to the top of Carmel; and he bowed himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees (1 Kings 18:42).
Elijah, Patriarch of Carmel
The Order of Carmel traces its routes to the prophet Elijah who dwelt on Mount Carmel, and is often regarded as the founder and first patriarch of the Order of Carmel dating back to 850 B.C. (8). On Mount Carmel there is a grotto known as the “Grotto of the Prophet” which is believed to have served as an oratory for Elijah, and attached to this grotto is a chapel erected to Our Lady of Mount Carmel which dates back to 83 A.D. (9). Elijah heard the voice of the Lord telling him to go and drink of the stream (1 Kings 17:2-5). He obeyed the voice of the Lord, and was chosen by God as a leader to bring Israelites back to Him (10). According to tradition, Elijah beheld a manifestation of a “type” of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “the little cloud like a man’s hand” arising out of the sea (1 Kings 18:44) (11), and some have traced the title of Mary “Star of the Sea” to this vision of Elijah.
Much can be known about Elijah from his significant role in the history of salvation. According to many saints, he is a model of virtue, and is often referred to as the “chief of Prophets” (12). In the Old Testament Elijah first is mentioned in 1 Kings 17:1 and is last seen in 2 Kings 2:13 when he is taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot. Elijah is a prophet to point the way of the true religion of Israel verses the pagan gods. Elijah was the prophet and instrument of God to preserve the true religion of Israel and to restore the people to the covenant with God. He sought to bring the truth of God’s Word to burn the hardness out of the people’s hearts and he proclaimed the truth, calling them to repentance, to turn from false gods. His life of prayer, contemplation and love of Our Lord, disposed him to bring God’s Word in purity to the Israelites (13).
The conflict between Elijah and Ahab culminated on Mount Carmel. During a long drought, Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al each offered a sacrifice. They determined that the God that answers by fire is the true God. The prophets of Ba’al called upon their god from morning until evening to no avail. Elijah, rebuilt the altar of the Lord with twelve stones, prepared a holocaust and even surrounded it with water. He cried out to the Lord “Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that thou, O Lord, art God, and that thou hast turned their hearts back.” In the midst of the drought, the Lord consumed the sacrifice and the true God was revealed. The drought ended and the God of Israel was acknowledged as the true God. After this triumph, which revealed God’s power and glory, Elijah then went up to the top of Mount Carmel, bowed himself down, putting his face between his knees (cf. 1 Kings 18:17-46).
He was told by the Lord, to “Go forth and stand upon the mount before the Lord” (1 Kings 19:11). A great wind passed him by, an earthquake, and a fire; but the Lord was not in these, but rather “…after the fire, a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave” (1 Kings 19:12, 13). Elijah was told by our Lord that he is not alone and that all of Israel has not forsaken the Lord, that there are 7,000 in Israel who have not bowed to Ba’al. (1 Kings 19:18). This history speaks a great magnitude of the spirit of Elijah, the founder and patriarch of the Order of Carmel. His charism reveals a singular devotion and love for Our Lord, zeal for the salvation of souls and a deep life of prayer.
History of the Order of Carmel (“the Carmelites”)
A brief sketch of the history of the Carmelite Order reveals its origins beginning with Elijah and continuing an unbroken tradition throughout history. This continuity demonstrates the heritage of the Order to the Old Testament, and Our Lady’s special protection for her children of Carmel. In tracing the history of the order of Carmel from Elijah, Josephus of Antioch speaks of “pious solitaries” of Mount Carmel following Elijah’s tradition, who through prayer, penance, and evangelization, assisted the Apostles in spreading the faith throughout Palestine, Samaria, Galilee (14). St. John the Baptist bridged the Old to the New Testament, as he lived the spirit of Carmel in the desert as a hermit. In silence and solitude, he prepared the way for the Lord (15). The Spirit of Carmel allows the love of God to increase in us, so that like St. John the Baptist, we can say, “He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn 3:30) (16).
In the year 259, St. Dionysius (who was later raised to the Chair of St. Peter) lived on Mount Carmel and followed the example of the leaders of the religious life, who lived in huts near the Jordan (17). Many other saints embraced the life of Carmel, recognizing Elijah as their spiritual leader and founder devoting themselves to lives of prayer and penance however they were not yet called “Carmelites” (18).
In 847 Pope Leo IV granted special indulgences to all those who assisted the persecuted solitaries of Mount Carmel (those who had fled to the mountain when the Persian army invaded Palestine) (19). Under the Pontificate of Alexander III, Aymeric of Malifay (of France) was sent to the Holy Land as Legate of the Apostolic See, during which time he visited Mount Carmel. He took these monks under his special protection and erected all the monasteries in the Holy Land that were founded by the monks of Carmel, into a unified congregation. He exhorted the religious to a strict observance of the rules they observed (which he translated from Greek to Latin) (20). St. Berthold of Malifay was appointed the first Latin Prior General of the order, followed by St. Brocard (21). The Order spread and St. Brocard petitioned St. Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem and apostolic delegate in the East, to develop a rule for the Order. In 1207 he presented the monks of Carmel with a rule, addressed to, “the Brethren who dwell on Mount Carmel near the fountain of Elijah,” which embodied the traditions of Elijah and his predecessor Elisha (22).
The order spread quickly however, in 1215 Pope Innocent III issued a decree to prevent the establishment of new religious orders in the Church, in order to minimize confusion. Pope Honorius III, who succeeded Innocent III, was asked to suppress the Order, as many believed they followed a new religious rule. He was about to carry this out through a bull, however, he received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary who warned him to the take the Order of Carmel under his special protection, to honor and favor “her Order” and to confirm their rule. In obedience to this vision, in a bull dated January 30, 1226, he gave approbation to the order, “The Rule of the Hermits of Mount Carmel” (23). As the order grew in the West, it declined in the East as a result of the attacks of the Saracens, around the year 1244 (24). Upon their establishment in Europe, they were included among the Mendicant friars. St. Simon Stock, an Englishman, was one of the first to join the order newly established in England. Soon after he was ordained a priest he went to Mount Carmel to live for six years, and upon his return he was elected Prior General (25).
In the 16th century, St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) and St. John of the Cross (both from Spain) inaugurated a reform of the Carmelite Order, aimed at returning to the original observance of the primitive Carmelite rule established by St. Albert. In 1562 St. Teresa established the Monastery of St. Joseph, which was the first monastery of the reform. Between the years of 1567-1582 there were fifteen monasteries for nuns and monks established (26).
Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Brown Scapular
The Scapular was given from Our Lady of Mount Carmel to St. Simon Stock who was the Prior General of the order at the time of the revelation on July 16th, 1251. The Order of Carmel was enduring difficulties, and he prayed fervently to Our Lady for help, “Flower of Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, Mother of the Son of God. Amiable Mother, ever Virgin, give to thy children of Carmel the privilege of thy protection, star of the Sea.” At this prayer, Our Lady appeared to him, holding the Brown Scapular in her hands, saying to him, “This will be the sign of the privilege that I have obtained for thee and for the children of Carmel; whoever dies clothed with this habit will be preserved from the eternal flames” (27). Our Lady told St. Simon that he only had to send a deputation to the Holy Father (Pope Innocent IV) and that he would not fail to assist the Order (28).
All the baptized may receive the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Through enrollment in the Scapular, one acknowledges that he is called by God to be united in the spiritual family of Carmel, consecrated in love, to the Virgin Mary (29). The Scapular of Mount Carmel is a form of the religious habit of the Carmelite Order and it is a sign of a maternal relationship with the Mother of God. Those who are closed with Scapular and entrust themselves to the Virgin Mary: entrust themselves to her protection, have recourse to her maternal intercession, and are mindful of the primacy of the spiritual life. The Scapular garment is a reminder that through baptism we have been “clothed in Christ, with the assistance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who helps her children to conform our lives to the Word Incarnate, that we may arrive in our heavenly homeland wearing our nuptial garb”
FLOWER OF CARMEL FLOWER OF CARMEL Reviewed by Francisco Nascimento on 18:46 Rating: 5

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