Thursday, November 17, 2011

Stained Glass Scapulars-Reflections on the Secular Carmelite Rule

Article 9:

Taking into account the origins of Carmel and the Tersian charism, the fundamental elements of the vocation of Teresian Secular Carmelites can be summarized as follows:

a)  "to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ." supported by the imitation and patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose way of life is, for Carmel, a model of being conformed to Christ.

b)  to seek a mysterious union with God; by way of contemplation and apostolic activity, indissolubly joined together, for service to the Church;

I will stop at this point today and post on the other three points of Article 9 in the future.

For now, let us consider point b: to seek a mysterious union with God...  Do you like a good mystery?  Or do you dislike trying to figure things out bit-by-bit?  Because of our human nature, we like to have things made perfectly clear to us.  This can be the case in our spiritual lives as well. We will not make much progress if we are constantly trying to figure out the mysterious ways of  God's will  for us.  Even St. John of the Cross warns us that we can put up a roadblock to advancing in prayer because of our futile effort to figure out God. 

The point of our Rule states "to seek" this mystery.  We must take an active part in this intimate relationship with the Beloved. We must seek him out while in prayer, while at work, while at home, while sleeping, while breathing...this seeking of the mysterious union with God should become a perpetual desire of our heart, not something that comes to mind occasionally. 

The next part of point b is that we seek this union with God by way of contemplation.  This may actually seem funny if we think about it.  For what other way would there be to seek union with God if not by prayer and contemplation?  Even St. Teresa of Jesus seems a  little perplexed when speaking of the soul as the castle and the door by which we enter this castle as prayer, she states "As far as I can understand, the door of entry into this castle is prayer and meditation..."(IC, Chap.1, No. 7). Yes, to communicate with God one needs to pray. 

Our Secular Carmelite Rule takes this relationship even deeper by saying to seek God by way of contemplation, yet we know that contemplation is a total gift from God, a type of prayer of the heart that we are not able to produce on our own. Then the next part of the exhortation: apostolic activity, indissolubly joined together for service to the Church.  Uh Oh!  Now I may have to leave this special place of prayer and actually go out and help my family, my neighbor, my co-workers.  This could get ugly!  Can't I go back to prayer?  Yes, of course, good and faithful Carmelite.  There is a time for prayer and a time for service.  May we be given the wisdom to know the difference!

As secular Carmelites we are to seek the face of God in prayer on behalf of the Church, so while our mission is one of prayer and contemplation, we must share the fruit of our prayer and be witnesses and missionaries in the world. This missionary work should begin at home. Let us be good witnesses to the love of God in our families, our family of Carmel, at work, at our parish and in the marketplace. There are no exceptions--we never take a break from trying to respond in charity.

Article 9 summarized: prayer and work on behalf of the Church.  Let us be faithful to this marriage of contemplation and service. Let us pray for each other.

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, OCDS

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