Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

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Cousins in the Family – Reflections for Advent 2017

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First cousins can form closely knit family ties when living in the same neighborhood and growing up together with frequent interaction. If one is fortunate to have amicable first cousins, family outings and planned celebrations provide memorable childhood memories.

In St. Luke’s account of the announcement to Mary that she is chosen to become the Mother of God, the archangel Gabriel also brings word of her cousin Elizabeth. She too, is to bear a child and is six months pregnant. Stepping out in faith, Mary freely gives her consent to God’s plan for her. She then prepares to journey quickly to her aged cousin that she might be of assistance. In the light of such unusual happenings, one can admire the remarkable act of self-giving on Mary’s part! At the exchange of greetings between the two women, the infant John is stirred in Elizabeth’s womb and sanctified in preparation for his own mission as precursor. He will grow in wisdom and knowledge and will prove faithful to the end of his unique role. Elizabeth claims our attention for the joy of motherhood is hers also. Of particular notice is her deference to her young cousin Mary, whom she joyfully recognizes as the one chosen to be mother of the Messiah. Elizabeth, the elder and wife of the priest, Zachary, defers to Mary, the younger. These two cousins both upholding each other will continue to pray and work together for the next three months. We are not told whether or not Mary remained for the happy occasion of the birth of John the Baptist.

The scriptures tell us little of the childhood of both Jesus and John. One wonders how Elizabeth and Zachary managed to hide baby John from the slaughter of the Innocents while Mary and Joseph are instructed to flee into Egypt.

The Renaissance artist, Murillo (1677-1682), depicts the scene of the two young cousins, each roughly clad and interacting. Jesus handles a shepherd’s crook while gazing at a full grown sheep close by. He, himself, will later be pointed out by John as the Lamb of God. However, in this scene, Jesus is slightly bent forward while drinking from a shell held by John. Both the shell and shepherd’s crook permit the viewer to identify each cousin. The picture is entitled “Children of the Shell” and one might suppose they are age three to five years old. Such a tender pastoral image is in markedly contrast to the actual violent death awaiting both.

Both cousins leave the family shelter to begin their distinct ministries. John, the precursor, takes up residence in the wilderness resembling Elijah, the prophet. All this to better focus on his mission and free himself from trivialities and unnecessary distractions. St. Mark opens his gospel account used on the 2nd Sunday of Advent, with the ruddy appearance of John coming forth in full view to announce the coming of the kingdom. Fully aware of who he is as precursor, he calls to repentance and invites one and all to conversion of heart through a ritual baptism of water signifying cleansing and change. When Jesus presents himself for Baptism, John, like his mother, Elizabeth, defers to Mary’s Son. The two cousins meet in humble deference to each other. Both are given confirmation of the role of Jesus through the appearance of a dove and the voice of the Father.

Although a figure of importance and sought out by the people, John remains true to his role as precursor and rejects any notion of messiahship. He gladly leads his own disciples to Jesus. The words, “He must increase and I must decrease” echo in the heart for this season of Advent and on into Christmas. Repeating this sentence often can serve to prepare one to celebrate Christ’s coming into our world of darkness. John the Baptist, his cousin, proves a fine companion along the way pointing to Light Himself.


Ghanders-rhapsody-tulip
Written by a Carmelite Sister
Email – rhapsodee17@gmail.com

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Saving God's Word

Holy Bible

One of the great joys of my life in Carmel is moving through the cycle of the liturgical year as we relive the great mysteries of salvation history. Following the cycle of designated readings deepens within me such a relish for God’s word. Our Carmelite way of life with its focus on meditation day and night on God’s word stands in relief and flows into a natural rhythm like breathing. As a Carmelite, one might say that it becomes con-natural.

Sacred Scripture is filled with character studies of real people sharing the same dynamics of human existence as ourselves. Mysteriously, inspired by the Holy Spirit, a whole library of literature provides both structure and diversity as the pen of some sacred writer scrawls across a piece of parchment. This remarkable account of the formation of salvation history is my story and I do well to claim it daily!

Admiring the lyrical beauty of poetry and becoming versed in the metaphorical and symbolic language clothing the word of God came become euphoric while at other times quieting, calming and reassuring. The kingdom of God makes its presence felt, recognized touching the immanent and obvious or soaring to transcendent spheres in invisible mystery; that “ruah” (Hebrew) breath of the Holy Spirit in mighty wind or delicate whispering breeze. For the famished Christian, a whole banquet is spread; wisdom and insight to the willing listener and avid learner. Spirit searches the breadth and scope of creation anxious to abide in such a one when humbly solicited. There within He quietly without utterance, takes delight forming and shaping us to mirror the Incarnate Word so that the Father can truly say this one in all uniqueness is formed to our image and likeness. In the words of Ps 119:160, “Your every word is enduring; all your righteous judgments are forever.”


Ghanders-rhapsody-tulip
Written by a Carmelite Sister
Email – rhapsodee17@gmail.com

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Reflections - Mary’s Assumption or Dormition - August 17, 2017

Titian's Assumption of Mary

Reflecting on Mary’s Assumption into heaven or Dormition (Eastern Churches) meaning her gentle falling asleep, I always feel a little bereft or left behind as it were to continue on without her in this pilgrimage of faith. Her Assumption into heaven, now a dogma of faith, seems only fitting to one so faithful. Perhaps, it was her own yearning to be reunited with her Son that drew forth her last breath. Renowned artists have set forth their best efforts to capture the scene with touches of majesty. The liturgy climaxes with her coronation one week later. Throughout the week following this solemnity, in the liturgy of the hours, the final antiphon at night prayer may change to Hail Queen of Heaven. Is this Queen Mother honored by being received at the right hand of her Son? In the first book of Kings (2:19) Bathsheba, the mother of King Solomon sits at his right on the throne he provided for her. Would that the two brother apostles, James and John, together with their mother been a little reflective on this past event before making their request for obtaining for themselves honored places in the kingdom! However the audacious request was made, the surprising answer of Jesus to them and subsequent instruction to all his disciples is weightier in gold than all that Solomon was able to amass for his magnificent palace and throne. (Matt.20:20-28) The words of the Magnificat placed on Mary’s lips in St. Luke’s account of her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, is for her as Queen, Mother and Sister and ourselves as well, a timeless and fitting refrain of praise and thanksgiving for the gift of her glorious bodily Assumption into heaven and subsequent feast of her Coronation on August 22nd.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold from now on will all ages call me blessed.” (Lk1:46-48)

Ghanders-rhapsody-tulip

Written by a Carmelite Sister
Email – rhapsodee17@gmail.com



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