Hold fast to the Rule, and to the faith of the Church, and to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Perhaps there is little more to be said than beyond offering this encouragement: Hold fast to the Rule, and to the faith of the Church, and to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. This life is filled with times of struggles, uncertainty and weariness. There are times when we, and our faith, are being tested. At others, we are being challenged and feel the pangs of growth, of the Lord transforming us into a more clear and life-like image of his very own likeness--this is the Dark Night and Ascent of Mt. Carmel that John of the Cross has described for us; that journey and way along the slopes of perfection that can be long and arduous at times, but as we know from our daily life and the normal way of things, significant rewards require significant work and investment. And as a good friend reminded me in one of my darker hours: “No cross, no Crown.” That the rewards of heaven and the fruit of a life of perfection come through such times of toil and hardship. Not even the Son of God could escape this mystery of things: “Father, I pray that if possible, take this cup from me...but only that your will is done”; even he, the one who himself conquered death and was raised by his own power, could not have been raised the King of Heaven without such suffering; that the Son of Man, to be raised in Glory, was to be handed over, tortured, abused, mocked and sacrificed for our sins.
Live with an avowed purpose.
A rich man came to the Lord and said, “Master, I follow the law in every way and listen to every word of your teaching. What further must I do to inherit eternal life?” And the Lord said in reply, “Go and sell everything that you own and give it to the poor, the hungry and those in need. Then return to me and you shall inherit the Kingdom.”
In another place, our Lord also tells the story of a man who had been possessed by a demon, but the demon had been expelled from this man and sent away. While he was away, the demon scoured the countryside, finding more demons who joined him. One day, this demon saw the man walking in a field, and finding this man’s heart still empty, the demon entered him again with the many other demons that he had gathered with him. And so the man, having once been possessed by a single demon, was now worse than he had been before.
"It is to me, however, that you have come for a rule of life in keeping with your avowed purpose, a rule you may hold fast to henceforward; and therefore:"--The Rule, chapter 3
It seems as though there may be little to say about this chapter, and not much that could be profound. Here, seems to be a legalistic clause; a chapter that needs to be included for the sake of inclusion and not for any significant purpose in itself. It can appear that Albert is simply saying: "You asked me for a Rule, a way of life. Here it is. Follow it." Yet, if we keep in mind what he has already written, there may be a few nuggets of treasure even here.
"Many and varied are the ways..." but "it is to me, however, that you have come..."
Albert has recognized that the hermits on Mt. Carmel had an endless number of options of people and traditions to turn toward in establishing their way of life. They could have even turned toward one the "saintly forefathers," using their wisdom and foundation to perhaps draft a Rule for the brothers, or even to the small gathering of Eastern monks who lived nearby. Yet, turning to one of the others is not what the hermits of Mt. Carmel did. (This idea is a recognition that the Spiritual Directory also makes, that many are called to the vocation and work of consecrated religious life, within this call, some have chosen a particular way and path, which is a life in Carmel.)
Accept the Rule according to and regardless of your station and place in life.
We can neither forget, nor overlook, a basic principle that to reap the full harvest of the Rule, one needs to profess the vowed life as a brother or sister in the Order. What St. Albert has written are prescriptions for a Way of Life that if lived in its fullest capacity, results in one taking on the burdens and obligations of consecrated life, and the Order, so long as it remains true and loyal to this consecration, exists for the purpose of helping and aiding the brothers and sisters in living out this life. That we can neither forget nor overlook this basic principle does not mean, however, that those living outside the Order cannot also live a life in allegiance to Christ and glean from the wisdom and ways provided by this Rule, and so also, in varying degrees and measures, also experience the rewards and fruit of Carmel; all who love Christ, regardless of their station or place in life, can taste of the fruit of perfection. There will be some outside of the Order, who experience this perfection and love of Christ more than many inside the Order. What matters most is not that a person has merely spoken the words of profession or can claim the institutional membership of having signed one’s name, but the measure and degree to which a person gives his life to Christ and to a life in love and allegiance to him; it is the Rule itself which bears the wisdom of St. Albert’s journey with Christ, and while tailored to the conditions and the lives of the monks gathered around the spring on Mt. Carmel, its wisdom and fruit holds true to all people and all Christians who seek a life in allegiance to him.
Read the works of our saintly forebears
One of the greatest gifts I have experienced in my Catholic faith is the knowledge and understanding that we are not alone in this journey. I am not referring merely to our friends, family and people I see gathered each week around the altar; nor am I referring to the words of a good friend, who although separated by an ocean, often says “good-bye” with the words, “See you at the altar.” There is one Body in Christ, and this Body is not merely some institutional union of a worldwide organization, nor is it simply an invisible spiritual union for us to imagine that all believers in Christ share a common belief, heritage, and inheritance. Through the Eucharist, this Body becomes truly a singular body of the faithful, bound in ways that go beyond our shared humanity: that we walk together, hand-in-hand, fully participating in the work of salvation. In this body, we experience the moments of crucifixion, of Peter’s denial and the betrayal of Judas, along with the joy of the women at the emptied tomb, the cleansing of forgiveness and sanctifying Grace of baptism, in no way less than the experiences of our daily and ordinary life. As one body, united in Christ, we enter the union and unity of the Holy Trinity. We become more than brothers and sisters, born to a common family, in a common walk, sharing our daily struggles and the discovery of God’s very Being. There is a gift and grace of this Body that is much more and greater than even these things--something that is more clearly seen and remembered in the Eastern practices of our faith. In the one Body of Christ, we are united in both space and time.
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.