THE DOORS OF CARMEL
The doors that are opened in Carmel are numerous, almost unending, because the human heart, searching for God, carries an insatiable longing for complete openness to God. We long for that complete oneness with God which will be our eternal happiness. In Carmel, a life of prayer, we seek, unconditionally, that union with God characterized by a love for Christ which grows and blossoms with every attempt to live in the likeness of Jesus, even to death on a Cross.
The main door to union with God is Christ Himself. His call to those who enter Carmel is to prayer, self-sacrifice, union with God as witnessed in that ardent love of God which knows no bounds in surrendering to God’s will in every-day life in community.
I will be sharing with you on a regular basis the doors of Carmelite living for those who are discerning a vocation to Carmel. My purpose is to invite you to seek God under the guidance of Saints Teresa of Jesus, John of the Cross and other Carmelite saints such as St. Therese, St. Teresa Benedicta, Elizabeth of the Trinity and others. These are the heralds of a life in union with the God who calls us to live as Jesus has shown us. Let us open, then, the main door, the door to Christ, through whom all must pass on the journey to union with God in love.
Jesus Christ, the Beautiful, the True, the Good, is the Father’s delight and thus should be our first delight. What greater joy is there than to contemplate the life of Jesus who is the joy of all the Saints? The life of Carmel is primarily a union with Jesus and His passion, death and resurrection. We strive to live in His Presence, to share in His dying and rising, to surrender to His Holy Spirit in whatever God asks of us. How else shall love be expressed than in prayer and self-giving? We in Carmel strive to do this through the components of our common life: the daily celebration of the Eucharist, two specified hours of personal prayer each day, recitation in common of the Church’s prayer in the Divine Office, and a life of service to one another in a loving communion. Jesus Christ fills our day. We, in turn, are filled by Christ to love one another as He has shown.
Open the door of your heart to Jesus Christ and He will transform it into His likeness. To live Jesus is to become beautiful, true and good…
“Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent a leader, who went ahead of us to be the first to suffer, can endure all things. The Lord helps us, strengthens us, and never fails. He is a true friend. And I see clearly, and I saw afterward, that God desires that if we are going to please Him and receive His great favors, we must do so through the most sacred humanity of Christ, in whom He takes His delight.” The Book of Teresa’s Life, Chapter 22, no. 6
Read St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 1: 15-23, 2: 1-10.
The Doors of Carmel
The life of Carmel centers on prayer, a communion with God and intercession for the good of the Church and all peoples. Felt by us or not, prayer permeates a life given over to God. Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, draws us to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him, the heart or motive of prayer. Time for personal prayer from the heart is provided each day of our Carmelite life by one hour in the morning and another hour in the afternoon reserved for this communion with God.
I will speak of this form of mental prayer now and in a subsequent writing deal with another form of prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the daily recitation of the Church’s formal prayer.
What do we understand as mental prayer or personal communion with God in an atmosphere of silence and solitude? It is primarily spending time with God each day and listening to the Spirit moving us to know God through a union with Jesus Christ and an imitation of His obedience to the Father for the salvation of everyone.
In prayer we must first listen, holding ourselves open to whatever God will ask of us. “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”. This waiting on the Lord is itself a form of self-surrender to whatever God wills to communicate to us. Our hearts can be set aflame with love, in pondering the immense love Jesus Christ has shown us in dying on the Cross and rising to new life for our salvation. Remaining in that love disposes us to be led by God toward a deeper union with Jesus in our daily lives. This is how personal prayer transforms us.
We may need to start with some words of Sacred Scripture, opening us to the life and deeds of Jesus. Pondering the Lord’s words disposes us to learn His ways and to plead for the grace of understanding, so that our hearts may be moved to imitate Jesus’ complete surrender to the Father’s will. “Father, your will be done”.
This daily prayerful communion with God is transformative. Being with a friend creates a oneness, a likeness in shared values and growth in love. “Lord, show us your Face”.
The gift of contemplative prayer will change our ways of thinking, of acting, so that we “no longer live but Christ Jesus lives in us”. We will become true interceders for the needs of the Church and all peoples. Prayer has become apostolic.
The Carmelite grows in that self-giving love which takes into prayer the needs of all people. Love knows no bounds. God is asking us to remain in His love…prayer is the door into the mystery of God.
The Doors of Carmel
The prayer of the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours is recited daily in common in our Carmelite monasteries. Here in Latrobe we sing many of the parts on Solemnities.
This liturgical prayer, in the life of Carmel, holds a prominent place next to our personal hours of mental prayer. “By tradition going back to early Christian times, the divine office is devised so that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praises of God. Therefore, when this wonderful song of praise is rightly performed by priests and others who are deputed for this purpose by the Church’s ordinance, or by the faithful praying together with the priest in the approved form, then it is truly the voice of the bride addressed to her bridegroom; it is the very prayer which Christ himself, together with his body, addresses to the Father. Hence all who render this service are not only fulfilling a duty of the Church, but also are sharing in the greatest honor of Christ’s spouse, for by offering these praises to God they are standing before God’s throne in the name of the Church their Mother.” (The Liturgical Documents)
Next to the celebration of the Eucharist, the Divine Office enhances our life of prayer in Carmel so that personal mental prayer is nourished by the Scriptures, especially the Psalms. We are the voice of the Church praising God from day to night. This prayer of the Church reminds us of our union with all the faithful and in petition for their needs as, throughout the world; voices are raised to God in some part of the world each hour. “Blessed be the Lord who hears our prayer and comes to our aid”.