The Mountain of Carmel is the biblical place where Israel had to choose between serving the true and living God or the false, idol gods. On Carmel, the prophet Elijah showed the power of God as fire coming down from heaven consuming the altar sacrifice. (See 1 Kings 18)
Carmel means ‘garden land of plenty’ and in Jeremiah 2:7, God says, “I brought you to the land of Carmel that may enjoy its fruits and its rich bounty.”
For the Carmelite Order, life is a steep climb up the mystical Mt. Carmel to God Himself. What drives the climb is this inborn, hardwired emptiness that God has placed in the human heart, an emptiness that only God can fill. The meaning of life is God alone can make us truly happy.
What makes the climb steep is that one is always tempted to fill that ‘emptiness’ with everything else other than God. Since that emptiness is infinite as God alone is infinite, the danger lies in trying to fill the infinite emptiness with any finite thing. One will always be disappointed.
This is what makes the climb a journey through darkness, a dark night. At the end of the day, no finite thing - no human relationship, no human achievement or possession, however great - can ever fill that emptiness inside.
This is the Carmelite insight on life:
There will come a time when all the lights that now makes sense of our world will burn out and we are in darkness. At that time, all that we can hold on to is faith.
There will come a time when nothing will make sense and we are the edge of human reason. At that time, all that we can hold on to is faith.
There will come a time when our questions will be left unanswered, when we can no longer ‘feel’ God’s presence or his love for us. At that time, all that we can hold on to is faith.
It is dangerous territory because there is always that alternative which is despair. In order to persevere, our only guide is faith.
It’s not a question of “IF it happens”… but “WHEN it happens.” It might be brought about by the death of a loved one, the breakdown of a relationship, the loss of a job, the destruction of a reputation, whatever it is. When it does happen, the Carmelite Saints teach us that it is not a curse by God. It is a hidden blessing, a blessing by night, an invitation to realize that only God can make us happy. When times are rough, it requires a strong faith, a strong leaning on God notwithstanding the circumstances.
This faith is driven by love - the love of God for us and our love for him. This is what gives us hope: that notwithstanding how long the darkness may last, notwithstanding how steep the climb may be, God always loves us, God is always in control, and that if we are faithful, God will fill that emptiness with his glory.
Ultimately, the Carmelite spirituality is a worldview and life path rooted in faith, hope, and love.
And our primary model in this dark climb is She whose emptiness made possible the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel.
This is the call and invitation of our Lady of Mt. Carmel: to keep choosing God by way of faith, hope and love, notwithstanding one’s circumstances. This is the habit - an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary - of the Scapular given by the Blessed Virgin to her Carmelite children.
Our holy Carmelite Saints, pray for us.
Our Holy Virgin Mother, Queen and Beauty of Mt. Carmel, pray for us.