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.
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”.
The Vigil Mass on Christmas Eve tells about how the birth of Jesus came about. The Gospel of Matthew 1:18-23 is read at this Mass. During the Christmas Eve Vigil we hear that, “She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” and that “God is with us.” No one could know God is charity, except through this most important event in all of history – the Incarnation.
On Christmas Day the Church celebrates three Masses. The first Mass is the Mass at Midnight. This is also known as the Angel’s Mass since the scripture passages are highlighted with the visit of angels. “The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord’. . . And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel praising God. . .” The Gospel reading is taken from Luke 2:1-14 which describes how the birth of Jesus took place.
Traditionally it is believed that Christ was born at midnight. Midnight is when it is darkest and this can be seen to represent spiritual darkness that is in the world. Only Christ, the Light of the world, can dispel this darkness. The birth of Jesus, the Word made flesh, has shown us the love of God. With allusions to Christ’s birth in our souls by grace – through the Word, God’s love is manifested and now tangible in this little baby who holds out his arms to us.
The Shepherd’s Mass or Mass at Dawn is celebrated early Christmas morning. Continuing with the theme of light, this Mass takes place at dawn when the natural light is increasing. The shepherds go to the crib to see the Christ child – a light in the darkness. In our consideration of these three Masses it would be incomplete without a visit to the creche, to see and worship the Infant Jesus.
The third Mass of the day is known as the Mass of the Divine Word. The Word is a light that shines in the darkness. The Word is life. The Word became flesh. The Word is God. The Word enlightens and dwells among us. (Jn 1:1-14) And the Word ushers in a new law.
This is how St. John of the Cross speaks of the new law of grace now that it has entered into time, explaining how we do not need to question God and have him reply as it was necessary in the Old Testament because:
“in this era of grace, now that the faith is established through Christ and the Gospel law made manifest, there is no reason for inquiring of him in this way, or expecting him to answer as before. In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word – and he has no more to say.” (The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II, 22. 3)
God has spoken through his Son. The Son speaks the Divine Word. We are to listen to that Word and carry the love that God has revealed into the dark places of our world.
If possible make plans to attend all three of these Christmas Masses. Reflect on these themes: angels, shepherds and the Divine Word. Worship the Infant Jesus, let his Word enter your heart and bring the law of light and love to our dark world.
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.
I have been using the Gospel readings for the day for my lectio divina. The readings of late have been from the Gospel of John chapter 6. The Bread of Life discourse has been a beautiful time of prayer for me.
I also came across a nice little book that I though I would share. It is called WRAP Yourself in Scripture. This little book, by Karen and Lawrence Dwyer, is a guide for reading, praying and reflecting on Scripture with journaling. I do find that I like to write things down, so the journaling aspect was attractive for me.
The book follows the traditional steps of lectio divina with the added twist of journaling. The advantage to journaling is that you can go back and review what God had inspired and admire what He is doing in your life. The review also helps to impress His inspiration on your soul. I also have found that journaling can help keep me focused. Besides, I seem to need to have something to do with my hands.