Friday, September 4, 2009
"In order the better to acquire this Carmelite spirit, St Teresa and more especially St John of the Cross, recommend that in all one's conduct one draw inspiration from the sentiments and the actions of Christ. Jesus is the model proposed by the heavenly Father Himself to all Christians, and all spiritual writers urge us to imitate Christ. But St John of the Cross seems to propose His life as a model which is especially appropriate for Carmel. 'I have said,' he writes, 'that Christ is the Way to go to the Father, and that this way is death to our nature in things both sensible and spiritual. I wish now to explain this.' He goes on to explain in masterly fashion how Jesus was a perfect model of renunciation and death to self, after which he concludes: 'The spiritual man must understand by this mystery of the way and the gate, that is Christ, through whom we must pass if we are to unite ourselves with God.'
Since absolute renunciation is the foundation of Carmelite life, it is evident why St John of the Cross insisted on this special aspect of the life of Christ, although it is not the only one which he has in view. In another place he wrote: 'Your greatest concern must be to enkindle in yourself an ardent and affectionate desire to imitate Christ in all His works. Strive, therefore, to accomplish each of them as the Lord Himself would do.' And again: 'Do nothing, say nothing which Christ would not do or say if He found Himself in the same situation as yourself.'
The mystic doctor evidently proposes the entire life of Christ for imitation by the Carmelite. The life of Christ was fundamentally contemplative. At the same time that He sojourned amongst us He enjoyed the vision of God, He lived in the bosom of the Father. His actions were directed towards God and had no other purpose that to please His Father. Then, too, the life of Christ, at least during the first thirty years, was a life of silence and of solitude. Even during His public life, He loved to retire to pray alone. These are the dispositions which are also characteristic of the Carmelite life.
It was, therefore, natural that St John of the Cross should recommend so especially that we be animated by the sentiments of Christ. We are the more successful in this, the more we become aware of Christ's presence in us and the more we become united to Him."
-- The Spirit and Prayer of Carmel by Fr François Jamart, ocd