Since man’s life on earth is a time of trial, and all who would live devotedly in Christ must undergo persecution, and the devil your foe is on the prowl like a roaring lion looking for prey to devour, you must use every care to clothe yourselves in God’s armor so that you may be ready to withstand the enemy’s ambush.
Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; and the victory lies in this — your faith. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord’s word for accompaniment. (Rule of St. Albert #18-19)
Albert Avogadro was born in Italy in the middle of the twelfth century. He became a Canon Regular of the Holy Cross and was elected prior in 1180. In 1184, he was named Bishop of Bobbio and of Vercelli in 1185. In 1205 he became Patriarch of Jerusalem. Sometime between 1206 and 1214 he was approached by the hermits living on Mount Carmel with the request that he would prepare for them a written rule of life based on the traditional patterns of their contemplative communal life. This rule became known as the “primitive Rule”.
During a procession on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, St. Albert, who had been in the Holy Land for nine years now, was suddenly approached by a man in the crowd and stabbed three times. Dressed in liturgical vestments St. Albert dies on the spot asking for forgiveness for his attacker.
From the Rule of St. Albert:
“Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how everyone, whatever his station or the kind of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ — how, pure in heart and steadfast in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of the Master.” (#2)
“Each one of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering the Lord’s law day and night and keeping watch at his prayers unless attending to some other duty.” (#10)
The entire rule can be found at ~ http://www.ocd.pcn.net/ocds_Aen.htm
Today, September 14th , is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The cross is more than ever a sign of contradiction.
“The followers of the Antichrist show it far more dishonor than did the Persians who stole it. They desecrate the images of the cross, and they make every effort to tear the cross out of the hearts of Christians. All too often they have succeeded even with those who, like us, once vowed to bear Christ’s cross after him. Therefore, the Savior today looks at us, solemnly probing us, and asks each one of us: Will you remain faithful to the Crucified?”
In this particular writing, reflecting on the Elevation of the Cross, St. Teresa Benedicta asks Carmelites to consider what they have promised. Those in the Secular Carmelite Order have promised to “tend toward evangelical perfection in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, obedience, and of the Beatitudes, according to the Constitutions of the Secular Order of the Discalced Carmelites”.
St. Teresa Benedicta uses her reflections of Christ on the Cross to expound on the virtues of obedience, poverty and chastity.
“Before you hangs the Savior on the cross, because he became obedient unto death on the cross. He came into the world not to do his own will, but his Father’s will.” To practice the virtue of obedience in imitation of Jesus, we are to have the same attitude. We have come into this world to do the Father’s will. Therefore, we are to renounce our own will. As a matter of fact, we should have no will of our own. We should have no other desire except to fulfill the will of God. This means we must listen! Listen as He speaks to us through our Rule and Constitutions. Listen as He speaks through the mouth of our superiors: of the Order, of the community’s council, of our pastors, of our spouse, and of our families. Listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks gently in our hearts. All this listening means we have to daily, even hourly, crucify our will and self-love. This “demands your obedience because your human will is blind and weak.”
“The Savior hangs naked and destitute before you on the cross because he has chosen poverty.” To practice the virtue of poverty we must renounce earthly goods and gratefully receive whatever God sends to us. We are to be joyful in doing without. Our Holy Founding Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus, tells us we are to be unconcerned about our body, which makes so many demands with its selfish inclinations. We are not to be concerned about today or tomorrow. “He demands poverty because hands must be empty of earth’s goods to receive the goods of heaven.”
“ The Savior hangs before you with a pierced heart. He has spilled his heart’s blood to win your heart.” To come to such holy chastity we are to have a heart free of desires of this earth. Jesus is to be our desire. Let him be the object of our thoughts, longings, wishes and desires. “He demands chastity because only the heart detached from all earthly love is free for the love of God.”
“What you have promised is indeed beyond you own weak, human power, But it is not beyond the power of the Almighty – this power will become yours if you entrust yourself to him.”
“The arms of the Crucified are spread out to draw you to his heart. He wants your life in order to give you his.”
Ave Crux, Spes unica!
(Take and adapted from: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, The Hidden Life p. 94-95, ICS Publications, Vol. IV The Collected Works of Edith Stein)