"Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how everyone, whatever his station or the kind of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ--how, pure in heart and stout in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of his Master."
There are several very important and highly meaningful things in this chapter. "Many and varied" recognizes that there are many traditions and ways of living in Christ. This is not to suggest that many and varied are the religions of the world and that each of these religions are equally true and untrue, but "Many and varied" are the ways of living daily in Christ such that there is not one single tradition or standard way of living as a good Christian (to live in Christ remains essential); "everyone, whatever his station" is called to receive the Lord, just as he called tax collectors, dined with Pharisees, healed the families of Roman soldiers, touched the leprous, opened the ears of the dumb and welcomed his betrayer with a kiss.
Meditate on the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
We begin our Christian life, baptized in the “The name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” yet I often wonder in modern times if we truly appreciate the importance of this Name or how much emphasis we really place on the Name of God under which we were baptized.
The priest begins mass: “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of the Father and Grace of the Holy Spirit be with each of you.” And we respond: “And with your spirit.” How many of us accept the greeting? And how many of us expect him to then say “Good morning.” Do we realize that we have just been greeted in the most profound way, and with the strongest blessing that can be given to someone, or even remember how powerful of a statement it is to claim One name of God in three?
"Albert, called by God's fervor to be Patriarch of the Church in Jerusalem, bids health in the Lord
and the blessing of the Holy Spirit to his beloved sons in Christ, B.,
and the other hermits under obedience to him, who live near the spring on Mount Carmel."
I have heard a lot said about the writing of our Rule in the form of a letter, much conjecture about who brother "B." really was, why Patriarch Albert did not use his full name and who precisely were these hermits, but I have not yet heard anyone mention the most interesting part of this opening: The Rule, from the very beginning and first greeting, is trinitarian. Albert does not merely greet his brothers in Christ, as one could easily and often expect from such a letter, but in the name of the Lord, the Holy Spirit and as sons in Christ.
He greets the community of hermits, and us, just as we are baptized into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I do not know if this was an intentional move by Albert-- it is hard to imagine that anything he wrote was not done intentionally-- but in either case, he is greeting the brothers into their new way of life according to the same way that they had entered and were received into their first life in Christ and under the same name of God.
And so we begin our life, and perhaps it would be fitting to include these words in our profession of vows, with this simple greeting in the name of our One God, that our life from here forward enjoy good health in the Lord, in the blessing of the Holy Spirit as his beloved sons in Christ.
For whom is the Rule written? For those who find in it a Way that is worth devoting their life to in the pursuit and desire to love and live a life of love in Christ. Beyond the cloisters and beyond the brothers and sisters of vowed consecrated life, this Way of Life has profound meaning and can be lived in the midst of the secular world--as the thousands of Third Order members and millions of Christian lives have witnessed to.
Here, this series diverges in two directions: exploring the Rule in its fullest expression within the vowed Order and leading adapting its wisdom and inspiration to life outside the Order. The original reflections, written during the desert experience within the Order, are reflections on the Rule for life as a vowed member of the Order, and specifically within the context of the American province of the Order of Carmelites. It should also be pointed out that these thoughts are within the ancient observance of the Order, and not the Discalced Carmelites. While I firmly believe that our observances are equal, as are the various Rites within the Church, I also know that there are those who like to label one over the other and may so disregard things they do not want to hear. This Way of Life, however, is not so easy, that we can lay aside those difficult and uncomfortable things as more appropriate to another Order. There is but one Rule to which we have professed a vow of obedience to, and our question is: What is the Rule saying to us in this Western, 21st century.
In reading the Rule and trying to transfer it into a contemporary context, there remains a very significant question: For whom is the Rule written? Is it written for cloistered monks, hidden away from public ministry and the concerns and temptations of modern life; for vowed religious with the supports and structures of a common community life? Was it written solely for the brothers living in the caves of Mt. Carmel, or for the mendicant friars as they moved into European cities and away from the primitive seclusion of the desert? Was the Rule specifically written for life in the 13th Century, a time before industry, digital technologies, and even the printing press, when one lived on food and water that the land provided, when travel was mostly by foot and seclusion into the cell could not be interrupted by the internet, televisions, radios, telephones or text messages?
The opening of the letter is addressed to the hermits “who live near the spring on Mt. Carmel.” This is a very important point. The Carmelite Rule is the only Rule in the Roman Catholic tradition that is addressed to a particular place. There is no mention of those who wish to follow a particular founder; only reference to a Brother B. as a leader of the brothers who first had written to St. Albert and to whom he is responding. Rather than being founded by an individual and Rule Giver, the Carmelites were founded according to a place and named accordingly: the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel.
is a series of reflections on the Carmelite Rule, the quintessential letter of St. Albert of Jerusalem which has lead Christians to a life in allegiance with Christ and the Perfection of Love for more than 800 years. The blog brings the tenants of this ancient Way of Life into a contemporary context.
At the heart is a Way of Life, in the tradition of Elijah, that leads us to stand in the presence of the One who Loved us first and in a most perfect way; and to be transformed into one who loves more perfectly.