Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Carmelite way is a journey of the heart

"The Carmelite way is a journey of the heart. It is like the exodus experience of God's people and their meeting with Yahweh in the wilderness as described in Deutoronomy. 'Remember how Yahweh your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and to test you in order to know your inmost heart' (Dt 8:2). This exodus theme runs all through the poetry and commentaries of John of the Cross: 'One dark night, / fired with love's urgent longings... / I went out unseen, / my house being now all stilled' (DN, stanza 1; italics mine). And again: 'I went out calling you, but you were gone' (SC, stanza 1; italics mine). On their desert march, the Israelites encounter a transcendent God who challenges them with the radical demands of his covenant: 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt... You shall have no other gods before me' (Ex 20:2-3).

Salvation history repeats itself in the story of Elijah. The prophet confronts the people again with these same radical demands. They are wavering, dithering, 'hobbling now on one foot, now on another
 (1Kgs 18:21), vacillating and yielding to the lure of false gods. He challenges them to conversion: 'If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, follow him' (1Kgs 18:21). Their choice is clear and uncompromising: 'The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God' (1Kgs 18:39).

In this sense, too, Carmelite asceticism is radical, but it is never rigid, stark or insensitive. It is like falling in love: meeting someone special who captivates and kindles a passion deeper than other, lesser loves. Then, all these other affections gradually fall into place. It is like discovering the gospel 'pearl of great price', the 'treasure hidden in a field'. It is a question of priorities: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might' (Dt 6:5). It costs all, as Paul explains: 'What we have to do is give up everything that does not lead to God' (Tit 2:12)."

-- The Carmelite Charism: Exploring the Biblical Roots by Fr James McCaffrey, ocd

1 comment:

Mark said...

Thanks. I found this very helpful.