“For contemplation is nothing else than a secret and peaceful and loving inflow of God, which, if not hampered, fires the soul in the spirit of love.” ~ Saint John of the Cross, O.C.D.
On Saturday, February 16th, I professed my Definitive Promises to the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Our OCDS Community gathered for a special day of grace and fellowship followed by a beautiful Mass officiated by our spiritual Father Dominic.
I was admitted to our OCDS Community in June 16th, 2012 and made my First Promise on April 25th, 2015. Over these years of spiritual formation and growth within my Carmelite family, I’ve been discerning my call to this rich spirituality and gift from God and I feel so grateful to my Beloved Lord to lead me into this blessed way.
I have a long way to go and so much to climb up the mountain of God, but with His grace and blessing and inspired by the Holy Spirit, I pray that I will continue faithfully to my journey in Carmel and be an instrument of God and His living flame of love in the world.
I’m eternally grateful, my Beloved Jesus, for calling me to Carmel!
O living flame, O living flame, O living flame, living flame of love!
How gently you wake in my heart. How tenderly you swell my heart with love, O living flame of love!
O lamps of fire, O living flame, O lamps of fire, our warmth and light!
Sweet cautery, delicate touch of life, sweet cautery, living flame of love!
O living flame, living flame of love O living flame, my living flame, My flame of love!
~ Based on “Living Flame of Love”, by St. John of the Cross, O.C.D.
O.C.D.S. (Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites)
“By the promise made to the community . . . the person becomes a full member of the Secular Order.” (Constitution 12) The promise is highly significant for Secular Carmelites and the process of formation moves the person toward making a life promise. The wording of the First Promise and the Definitive Promise differ only in the last phrase.
I, (name), inspired by the Holy Spirit, in response to God’s call, sincerely promise to the Superiors of the Order of the Teresian Carmel and to you my brothers and sisters, to tend toward evangelical perfection in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, obedience, and of the Beatitudes, according to the Constitutions of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, for three years [for the rest of my life]. I confidently entrust this, my Promise, to the Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Carmel.
A significant part of formation is coming to understand the commitment made by the promise. It is a promise to live in the spirit of the Beatitudes and in the spirit of chastity, poverty and obedience. Each of these commitments has a separate paragraph in the Constitutions of the Secular Order.
The commitment to the promise to live the spirit of the evangelical counsel of chastity
13. The promise of chastity reinforces the commitment to love God above all else, and to love others with the love God has for them. In this promise the Secular Carmelite seeks the freedom to love God and neighbour unselfishly giving witness to the divine intimacy promised by the beatitude “blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). The promise of chastity is a commitment to Christian love in its personal and social dimensions in order to create authentic community in the world. By this promise the Secular Carmelite also expresses the conscious desire to respect each person as required by God’s law and one’s state of life, as a single person or married or widowed. This promise does not prevent a change in state of life.
The commitment to the promise of live the spirit of the evangelical counsel of poverty
14. By the promise of poverty the Secular Carmelite expresses the desire to live in accordance with the Gospel and its values. In evangelical poverty there is a wealth of generosity, self-denial, and interior liberty and a dependence on Him who “Though rich, yet for our sake, became poor” (2 Co 8:9), and who “emptied Himself” (Ph 2:7), to be at the service of His brothers and sisters. The promise of poverty seeks an evangelical use of the goods of this world and of personal talents, as well as the exercise of personal responsibilities in society, in family, and work, confidently placing all in the hands of God. It also implies a commitment to the cause of justice so that the world itself responds to God’s plan. In combination with these, evangelical poverty recognizes personal limitations and surrenders them to God with confidence in His goodness and fidelity.
The commitment to the promise to live the spirit of the evangelical counsel of obedience
15. The promise of obedience is a pledge to live open to the will of God, “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Ac 17:28) imitating Christ who accepted the Father’s will and was “obedient unto death, death on a cross” (Ph 2:8). The promise of obedience is an exercise of faith leading to the search for God’s will in the events and challenges in society and our own personal life. For this reason the Secular Carmelite freely cooperates with those who have responsibility for guiding the community and the Order in discerning and accepting God’s ways: the Community’s Council, the Provincial and the General.
The commitment to the promise to live the spirit of the beatitudes
16. The beatitudes are a plan of action for life and a way to enter into relationship with the world, neighbours and co-workers, families and friends. By promising to live the beatitudes in daily life, Secular Carmelites seek to give evangelical witness as members of the Church and the Order, and by this witness invite the world to follow Christ: “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).
O Lord, grant that I may seek You, not only at certain moments during the day, but also at every instant of my life.
~ Divine Intimacy
A soul who longs for a life of intimacy with God is not satisfied to limit its relations with Him to the time of prayer, but tries to extend them throughout the whole day. This is a rightful desire, for one who loves tries to prolong continuously his relations with the beloved. This is true, therefore, of a soul who loves God; and its desire is the more easily realized, since God Himself is always with us; He is always present and working in us. We are treating, it is true, of a presence which is spiritual and invisible; it is, however, real and not merely affective and moral, as is the presence of a loved one in the heart and mind of a lover.
If God is always with us, why can we not be always in continual contact with him? This contact is realized by thought and love, but much more by the latter than by the former. In fact, it is impossible to be always thinking of God, partly because the mind becomes tired and partly because our many occupations demand all the application of our intellect, which cannot pay attention to two different things at the same time. The heart, on the other hand, can always love, even when the mind is busy elsewhere; and it never grows weary of tending toward the object of its love. Since supernatural love does not consist in sentiment, but in an intimate orientation of the will toward God, we know that this turning is possible, even during the performance of duties which absorb all our attention. The will can strengthen this orientation of itself toward God precisely by the desire to fulfill each duty for love of Him, to please Him and give glory to Him. St. Thomas says that the heart can always tend Godward by “the desire of charity,” that is, by the desire to love Him, to serve Him, and to be united to Him in every action. “Prayer is nothing but a desire of the heart; if your desire is continuous, your prayer is continuous. Do you wish never to cease praying? Then never cease desiring” (St. Augustine).
~ A Meditation by Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.
The traffic goes on and on. Talk about rush hour!
Lord, I don’t want it to be this way, I long for stillness for both of us, for us to meet and embrace in a holy emptiness filled with your Spirit. I don’t want these endless, trivial interruptions, these mundane comments, this sheer nonsense— like confetti thrown all over us as we walk away from the consecration of our nuptials, into the world and our work there.
You are very patient. You take no notice of my repetitive slogans. My captive mind that reiterates so boringly these matters of no moment and dallies down side roads looking at silly signposts and place names, seeming to disregard you.
I say “seeming” for all the time I am so deeply and intricately intertwined with you, so absolutely yours, (as you are mine) that there’s no separation now for all eternity.
Early on in my conversion the Lord placed in my heart the desire to learn about the Desert Fathers. I read about the life of Saint Anthony the Great, also called St. Anthony of Egypt, whose feast day we celebrate today. He became known as both the father and founder of desert monasticism. Along the way, I also learned about the Desert Mothers and the vast treasure of information they have left to us through their words and written instructions for our spiritual formation. I learned about them through books, films, and talking to spiritual mentors. That period of my life came before I joined my Lay Carmelite community. I had this deep intense desire to learn more about the lives of these champions of the faith—the Desert Fathers and Mothers . Their lives and wisdom were so inspiring to me. At one point I felt a deep calling to go to the desert, to live in solitude for awhile. I didn’t understand why I felt this intense calling in my heart. I did ask the Lord, how can this be possible? I’m married and have children. I live in the world but I felt I was not part of it, everything was a distraction to me. I had this constant desire of being alone with God. Little did I know that the Lord was calling me to be part of the spiritual family of Lay Carmelites. It wasn’t clear to me at that time, God was transforming me and preparing me for that. I began to attend spiritual retreats regularly, and found myself immerse in His presence all the time. My soul was being fed and my relationship with God grew stronger every day. Later on I found this treasure of infinite grace in Carmel. He was leading me by the hand to His own garden, to His solitude, to His heart. So then I can live in the world—in the ‘market place’ and by His grace reflect His light to others.
Praise the Lord forever! To Him be the glory for ever and ever!
Here I share a short documentary of Father Lazarus, a Coptic monk living in solitude inspired by the life of Saint Anthony The Great. The cave he lives is very close in proximity of St. Antony’s cave and Saint Anthony’s monastery in Egypt.
I hope you enjoy it!
“The truly intelligent man pursues one sole objective: to obey and to conform to the God of all. With this single aim in view, he disciplines his soul, and whatever he may encounter in the course of his life, he gives thanks to God for the compass and depth of His providential ordering of all things. For it is absurd to be grateful to doctors who give us bitter and unpleasant medicines to cure our bodies, and yet to be ungrateful to God for what appears to us to be harsh, not grasping that all we encounter is for our benefit and in accordance with His providence. For knowledge of God and faith in Him is the salvation and perfection of the soul.”
~ Saint Anthony the Great
“When you close the doors to your dwelling and are alone you should know that there is present with you the angel whom God has appointed for each man…This angel, who is sleepless and cannot be deceived, is always present with you; he sees all things and is not hindered by darkness. You should know, too, that with him is God, who is in every place; for there is no place and nothing material in which God is not, since He is greater than all things and holds all men in His hand.”
~ Saint Anthony the Great
“One who knows oneself, knows God: and one who knows God is worthy to worship Him as is right. Therefore, my beloveds in the Lord, know yourselves.”
~ Saint Anthony the Great
Saint Anthony the Great, pray for us and the whole world!
When the Magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” ~ Matthew 2:13-15
The silence of those years away from the familiarity of the Promised Land, of the love of family and the community.
Those “unknown years” to humans but not to God. Those years were reserved especially for you and Joseph, Holy Mother!
Those days, weeks and months were filled with the scorching sun of the day in the desert, very cold nights and the uncertainty of each day. Yet, you continued your journey faithfully in union with your Beloved Child.
Donkey, donkey! would you whisper in my ear the secrets of those precious and sacred moments you witnessed of the Holy Family those unknown years?
How many moments of awe and wonder were lived—while others were lived ordinarily like every family but with a deep and serene trust in the Almighty. A family following the will of God.
As I meditate on these mysteries, I realize I have much to learn from them. There are no revelations in Holy Scripture about those silent years. God wanted it that way. Truth has a way of revealing itself. We need to be aware of those moments of grace while we meditate in the mysteries of God, praying constantly for guidance and for His holy will to be done in us.
Beloved Lord Jesus, teach me to live in a contemplative way, always walking by Your side along the journey of my life so I can learn to discern my way.
Mary, Joseph, teach me to ponder all the things of God in my heart. The journey through Egypt is the journey of our life. We are destined to walk every day with our God, with our Beloved Brother Jesus Christ. He guides our way with His light—through Truth and Life. Saying less and listening more to the gentle voice of the Spirit, is my prayer in my life journey. Not being concerned about what tomorrow brings, but living every day with absolute trust in my Beloved.
What does it mean to trust and to live a faithful life with God? It means to do His will every day but first I need to be open to listen to the voice of Love. Embracing the precious gift of every present moment. Giving praise and thanksgiving to the Master of creation and of my heart—my heart beating to His, is the greatest miracle!
The purified heart has been finally and fully claimed by God can, paradoxically, become progressively purer and more fulfilled in him right till the moment of death. This is because God himself expands its capacity with his inpouring love, fills the enlarged space with more love, which expands it further—and so the process goes on. But never without our full consent. A helpful prayer is “My God, penetrate and possess me to the uttermost—and don’t take notice when I squeal in pain.”
It is fear of suffering that holds back so many from the unqualified gift of themselves to God, so that he can do whatever he likes with them. But has he not promised he will match every trial with enough grace to bear it? Of course this may well mean that part of the trial will be the experience of desperately needing more, and more, and more grace.
However, this in itself provokes a constant plea for what we know we cannot endure without. It engenders intimate knowledge of our own helplessness—“Without Christ I can do nothing” (cf. John 15:5)—coupled with a reckless confidence—“With God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.”
The truth is that grace can be flooding into us while we remain unaware of it and experience no comfort. This happens because we are only too prone to think, as soon as we realize we are over-coming, “Aha! I’m getting somewhere! I’ve conquered! How brave and strong I am! How far I’ve advanced in virtue! I hope everyone else is noticing this!”
Such self-congratulations and the tendency to various forms of self-exaltation arise from those buried roots that only the passive purgations can eradicate. So God’s work progresses in direct relation to our humble receptivity to grace, and humility, as is well known by the humble, comes above all through dire humilations. What appears to be the curse of being refused the grace we need is really the blessing of being given it in abundance, but minus the extra grace of the awareness to enjoy it. Being what we are, this last grace would engender pride. Only those with great humility dare say, “He who is mighty has done great things to me” (Luke 1:49).
Candle and Pinecone Sequence
This flame’s shape is like a spear— or else a dagger—leaving wounds concealed behind the bulwark of the living flames of love, which do not burn.
Lights illuminate our darknesses and flames give warmth—though the uncircumspect receive what could be stigmata, exposed or else concealed in heart, or brain, or bloodless hands.
This flame’s symmetry is like a spear’s keen blade or else a dagger, small but dangerous, shaped to deal out penetrating wounds mysteriously secret, all of them deep buried in the heart’s blind fastnesses spousal gifts from those living flames of love.
The purpose of the dark night, according to St. John of the cross, is to lead us into the full day of perfect loving union with the Trinity. This means that we merge with Christ in all his resurrection glory and joy, though in this life these attributes will manifest themselves only intermittently and mutedly, for we are still confined by the limitations of our physical existence. Faith in the reality of this full union, hope that Jesus will lead us into it if only we follow him trustingly all the way to the tomb, and the unconditional love of our as yet imperfect hearts—these are the attributes that through the dark night “join Beloved with lover, lover transformed in the Beloved,” as John puts it in his poem, “In one dark night.”
During these necessarily passive nights, grace penetrates all levels of our inner being to eliminate every trace of sin. It invades—as long as we stay receptive—those deeply rooted, perverted tendencies for which we are not personally responsible, but which do influence our behavior and attitudes in numerous unloving and even evil ways (At this stage of the spiritual journey there is no deliberate evil action, but indeliberate blindness to others’ serious needs can well operate because of some hidden complex of insecurity, anxiety, or the like).
Pulling Up Roots
In the so-called “active nights,” we purposefully do what we can, with the help of grace, to accomplish the cleansing, and in fact we must persevere in such activity till death. In the passive nights, divine help and activity penetrate where we cannot to reach those stubbornly embedded roots of sin so that they are either wrenched out or dissolved away.
To use a gardening analogy—we can easily deal with bedding plants, whether flowers or vegetables, using handforks and trowels or larger forks and spades. If we labor hard enough, we can even dig up some of the bigger shrubs and small tress with perhaps a heavier shovel and fork and a grubbing tool.
But what do we do about an oak or pine tree? True, it can be cut down and the stump burned out, using more advanced power tools and a number of skilled helpers. But say for some good reason we want to have the whole tree taken out by the roots. In that case, outside help and implements like tractors, mechanical diggers, and maybe explosives, together with experts to use them, have to be employed. We can only stand back and let it happen, though it is true we ourselves have initiated the procedure. For whatever reason, we want it done.
Similarly, in the deeper passive nights, we have to invite God in to do the work for us, because our own tools and strength are inadequate. This invitation may itself be more passive than active, in that we may not clearly realize in the intellect what our heart is saying to God, but its motive is always love and only love.
This means we do not want to be cleansed just so we can self-righteously admire our own virtues and, satisfied with what we see, set about planning our exact place in heaven (near the throne, of course), much as we would choose prime site for our palatial new home with all modern conveniences. Nor does it mean our chief motive is an urgent desire to escape the pains of hell.
Rather, the love motive wants the ultimate cleansing for quite different ends. It longs to be used by God to give him honor and glory and to share in Christ’s redemptive work for others, to become perfectly adaptable tool for Jesus to use in his ongoing work in the world. It wants to be a channel cleared of all debris and pollution so that, through it, divine love can pour living waters into the world for healing of humanity’s wounds. It longs for every obstruction to this in-and-out flowing to be removed, if need be by divine force and through its own agony.
It wants to be made a kind of compelling advertisement for the power of divine grace over human weakness. In its humility and self-awareness of its own inadequacy and unworthiness, it wants others to see it as it is and exclaim. “If God can do that for her—and we all know what she’s like—then there is hope for me!” It wants these others to catch its own insatiable thirst for grace and so become reckless in their longing for God and their readiness to suffer all and even die in order to be purged and so reach full love-union with him.
~ A Reflection by Barbara Dent, O.C.D.S.
The soul cannot come to this union without great purity, and this purity is not gained without great detachment from every created thing and sharp mortification. This is signified by the stripping of the Bride of her mantle and by her being wounded by night as she sought and went after her Spouse; for the new mantle which belonged to the betrothal could not be put on until the old mantle was stripped off. Wherefore, he that refuses to go forth in the night aforementioned to seek the Beloved, and to be stripped of his own will and to be mortified, but seeks him upon his bed and at his own convenience, as did the Bride, will not succeed in finding him. For this soul says of itself that it found him by going forth in the dark and with yearnings of love. (Dark Night 2:24:4).