Nancy over at The Cloistered Heart has a lovely post on the Divine Office. Read about it here.
The heart stirs up an image of that organ which beats within the human body giving it life. It is the heart that preserves our earthly existence. It is also the heart that makes up that place deep within us that gives rise to emotions and desires particularly to love. The heart holds a place of prominence in the spirituality of a Carmelite. Since it is love of God and love of neighbor that are the focus of all our energies, the heart then holds a place of prominence in the spirituality of a Carmelite. For a Carmelite, God is the longing of the heart. Since a Carmelite longs for God deep within the heart, cultivation of this heart to love is necessary so that this heart will be open to those around them.
The Rule of St. Albert no. 19 mentions the heart and instructs us on how to cultivate the heart:
“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.”
It is from the Scriptures that we are to learn to love God and our neighbor. Our preeminent model for how to do this is Jesus. Meditation on the sacred texts will show us what He said and did. It will also reveal to us the well-ordered emotions of our Lord. From the Gospels we know that Jesus had a heart. He had a broken heart and tender emotions. There are also accounts demonstrating his feelings of forgiveness and love.
Luke 19: 1-10
“Zacchaeus…was seeking to see who Jesus was; but could not see him because of the crowd.” (vs 3)
Obstacles get in the way; they crowd out Jesus in my life and prevent me from seeing him. I want to see him. I am always seeking him, but many things crowd him out of my time.
“So he ran ahead a climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus.” (vs 4) Like Zacchaeus, I need to move away from the crowds, the obstacles, and change my perspective. This move will help me to see Jesus better.
Just like with Zacchaeus, Jesus wants me to spend time with him. He wants to come to my house. “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” (vs 5)
Reflecting on these scripture passages about Zacchaeus made me think about the importance of mental prayer and its place in the life of a Secular Discalced Carmelite. Our Constitutions state: “Carmelite Seculars will commit themselves daily to spending a time in the practice of mental prayer. This is the time to be with God and to strengthen their relationship with Him so that they can be true witnesses to His presence in the world.” [Cons.Sec. III, no. 21]
St. Teresa of Jesus explains mental prayer as “nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.” (Way of Perfection) And there is the key to all this seeking and climbing trees! I need to be alone with him, taking time to meet with him, to invite him in to my house and to enjoy his presence while developing a relationship with him.
In order to do this I can again look to our Constitutions. “The Carmelite Secular will make sure to have special times set apart for prayer, as times of greater awareness of the Lord’s presence and an interior space for a personal and intimate meeting with Him.” [Cons. Sec. III, no. 20] I need to have a special time set aside. This is going to require me to give away “half of my possessions” (Lk 19:8), those attachments that occupy my time and space that leave no room for Jesus!
I have many distractions that keep me from setting aside time each day for mental prayer. Many of these distractions are really attachments. What are your attachments? What keeps you from devoting yourself to God and making time for mental prayer each day?
Here it is evening. I have just finished evening prayer which closes with the following prayer:
But now it is evening, things have quieted down “the day is almost over”. It is time to urge the Lord to “stay with” me as I break open the Scriptures. Pouring over these words I will let him speak to me and set my “heart burning”.
As a Carmelite the Scriptures hold an important place in my daily life and prayer. Secular living does have an impact on the amount of time I can devote to this each day, but even a short amount of time spend in Scripture reading will help to foster love and devotion for the Lord.
Tomorrow I will arise early and go to Mass. There I will meet the Lord in the “breaking of the bread” and in hearing him speak as the priest “opens the scriptures to us” who have gathered to hear Mass. Another opportunity in my day for the Lord to “make himself known” and to be my “companion along the way”.
This Rule inspires Carmelites all over the world. It is one of the shortest of the great rules giving the Carmelites a Way of Life. It is obvious when reading the Rule that St. Albert lived every moment the Gospel, having internalized it so completely that the words of the Bible are used to express his thoughts. Writing the Rule for the hermits on Mount Carmel, it is quite notable that he relied on the Scriptures. The Rule is steeped in the Gospel’s message; though there are not any explicit passages quoted, there are many allusions to Sacred Scripture.
As Carmelites, we too should be personally familiar with the Scriptures in our daily encounter with them. Then as St. Albert says of St. Paul in number 20 of the Rule we may have “both the teaching and the example of Saint Paul the Apostle, into whose mouth Christ put his own words.” The sacred texts should be in our minds and expressed in our thoughts and words. As Carmelites our day is filled with opportunities to meditate on the Scriptures: Mass, Morning and Evening Prayer, Night Prayer and the practice of Lectio Divina.
you have given us a Rule of Life
according to the Gospel
to guide us on our journey
towards perfect love.
Help us always to keep watch
at our prayers, to live in
allegiance to Jesus Christ,
and to serve him
faithfully until death.
Through Christ Our Lord.
July 16th is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and is the principle feast for all who wear the Brown Scapular. The Brown Scapular is an outward sign of the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our sister, mother and queen. It is a symbol of her protection to the Carmelite Order which includes all its members and associates. Anyone who wears the scapular and practices the spirituality of the Carmelite Order has an affiliation to the Carmelite family and shares in the graces traditionally associated with the Brown Scapular.
Mulling over the Eternal Word and keeping the Truth in the heart…. read more of this great post by Dr. Anthony Lilles at Beginning to Pray