Editorial 67/3 July 2019

July 2019 – From Mount Carmel Vol 67. No. 3

From the start of the second week of July, the Carmelite Priory in Boars Hill, Oxford will be abuzz with preparations for a major conference: the Scripture & Contemplative Spirituality Conference (July 12-14), hosted by the Centre for Applied Carmelite Spirituality. The main theme of this inaugural conference is Contemplative Biblical Spirituality: Carmel’s Gift to the World. It aims to present the richness of the Carmelite tradition and its rootedness in biblical spirituality, as well as to underscore Carmel’s universality and relevance for our contemporary world. As Thomas Merton aptly put it, ‘There is no member of the Church who does not owe something to Carmel.’ Indeed, this is what makes Carmel’s gift appealing to people of all Christian traditions. Carmel’s excellent way is rooted in, and draws from, the spring of living water that flows from the Word of God to quench the thirsty spirit (cf. Jn 7:37) and feed the famished soul.

The conference will feature spiritually enriching talks from internationally acclaimed speakers on the spiritual life as they unfold for us the rich wisdom of Carmelite spirituality. Dr Susan Muto, Dean of the Epiphany Academy of Formative Spirituality, whose article appears in this issue, will be speaking on ‘The Scriptural Roots of Carmelite Wisdom and Christian Spirituality in St John’s Sayings of Light and Love’; and Dr Margaret Barker, highly acclaimed Old Testament and Inter-testamental scholar, will speak on ‘The Temple Tradition of Seeking the Face of God in Ancient Judaism’. This topic is one that echoes the counsels of St Teresa of Jesus that ‘we should set our eyes on Christ’ (IC I:2:11); and again, ‘Fix your eyes on the Crucified and everything will become small for you’ (IC VII:4:8). St John of the Cross is of the same mind: ‘fix your eyes only on him’ (2A 22:6), he reminds us. These are statements that reveal something of who we are as Carmelites, people whose homeland is the land of the Bible and whose native language is the Scriptures.

Two very important archetypal figures in the Carmelite tradition, both of whom are featured in this issue of Mount Carmel, are key figures in the Scriptures: the prophet Elijah and Mary, the gospel woman of prayer. Elijah the prophet remains a constant reminder for all who share in the Carmelite spirit, the prophetic vocation of Carmel. This vocation is to make known for the people of our time God’s intention for us and for the world, which is captured so well in Jeremiah: ‘“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for well-being, and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”’ (Jer 29:11). Perhaps, in many societies where all sorts of ‘wellness’ programmes are on offer, the Carmelite Charism can open up its rich eight hundred-year-old tradition of prayer and offer it as a credible and more excellent way of journeying more deeply into communion with God in whom alone true and lasting peace – which makes for our shalom-wellbeing – can be found.

In Mary, with whom Carmelites enjoy a special relationship, we find a model for this journey towards wholeness and intimacy with God. From earliest times, Carmelites identified the Mother of Jesus as their sister who is there to guide, model and give compassionate support on the journey of the interior life. Mary, the gospel woman of prayer, is indeed the perfect examplar of one who listens to the word of God, treasures it and allows it to bring forth the fruits of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. This relationship of Mary and the Scriptures in the Carmelite tradition is explored in both Anne Harriss’ article and that of Fr Jimmy of blessed memory. Both are fitting contributions to this issue which celebrates Carmel’s biblical heritage, and part of that heritage is our unique Marian identity. Indeed, as we celebrate the great solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we can acclaim with joy: Totus Marianus Carmelus est – Carmel is all Mary’s!

The front cover picture is a painting by the American artist Howard Lyon. In it Mary is portrayed in a contemplative mood. She smiles as she reflects on the words spoken about her Son, the Word of God, whom she is carrying in her womb. In her is realised the ideal of Carmelite living – pondering the word of God day and night as our Rule, which itself is a beautiful mosaic of Scripture, exhorts us. Mary’s beautiful smile in the picture not only reflects the joy she feels when thinking of her Son, but seems to betray a little anxiety as she certainly did not clearly understand what the future might hold. Yet, to the same future she turns, confident and faithful.

We are fortunate at the Priory in Boars Hill as the coming days of the conference will be a fantastic opportunity for pondering the word, sharing, exploring, celebrating and growing together as family – a perfect spiritual and fraternal preparation for the great solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Be united with us in this. If you can come, it will be a great joy. If you can’t be present, you can still watch the LIVE STREAM as well as having the opportunity to watch the talks later at your convenience by registering on our website.

Wishing you a beautiful summer.

Happy feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel!

Alexander of Mary Queen Beauty of Carmel