Friday, March 24, 2006

(An Introductory reflection to the Carmelite Rule)

By Fr. Pete Manilag, Jr, O Carm
TOC National Spiritual Director

It is inspiring to meet or encounter people in our modern times who are seriously discerning to live an ancient rule of life, the Carmelite Rule or the Rule of St. Albert. This shows the relevance of this document in our quest for a meaningful and holy life in the modern times, in our present situation of crisis and conflicts, in the midst of confusion where we are being led to as individuals and as a people and in the urgent call to be authentic witnesses in our present world characterized by partiality or lack of commitment. This reflects the human desire to live in the presence of God and to experience joy within ourselves. This is the desire that binds the Carmelites of old to the lives of the Carmelites of our times. This is the desire that moved the first Carmelites to live in a solitary place; it is what moved the saints of Carmel to live in God’s presence. This is what transcends our affiliation to first, second or third order of Carmel. This desire signifies our oneness, our common lives, our common dreams and aspirations, our common death and resurrection with the Lord. We live in a common journey towards fullness of life with God. Because of this, I am comfortable to address you as my sisters and brothers.

We are convinced that Carmel’s rule of life is a guide to holiness. It is because many of faithful Carmelites had lived it and find this primitive rule as a sign that truly points us to God. This is a living document that continues to inspire and move us in our journey towards union with God. This document challenges us to allow ourselves to be possessed by the presence of God. To be able to love in the love of God, to want what God wants. Any interpretation of this document that is driven by personal biases defeats its very meaning. Let this document talk to us, challenge us and move us in an ongoing process of transformation to God.

Carmel’s rule of life is addressed to spiritually mature people. This short document enables us to be attentive and open to cooperate with the movement of the Holy Spirit. This facilitates our growing process and moves us in the journey to transformation. Nevertheless, immature interpretation of the rule will lead us to nowhere, to many lapses, to many failings and to rigidity.

Attentiveness to our religious experience or the presence of God in our lives is the very spirit of the Carmel’s rule of life. The Holy Spirit is the supreme guide or the supreme rule of life that leads us to the real meaning as children of God. This attitude also enables us to recognize that God loved us first. That God is present in the lives of the first Carmelites even before the document was written. I believe also that God is present in our lives even before reading this document or any other documents like the Rule of Third Order of Carmel and Statutes.

We have to bear in our mind and heart that the rule of life was handed by the Patriarch of Jerusalem to the first Carmelites as an affirmation of the life they lived and as an ongoing reminder for them to be faithful to the very spirit of the first community. The rule as a document is an articulation of the lived spirituality of Carmel. The Carmelite Rule reflects something of the lived experience of the hermits on Mt. Carmel prior to drawing up of a codified set of formal document, which has come to us as the Rule of St. Albert. This is not theory to be proved but the truth of life that has to be lived and nourished. Therefore, the lives of the first Carmelites serve as the rule for us today. They are our living guide, models of living a life of intimacy with God, of prayer and solitude and of Contemplation.

Their experience of God awakens our own experience of God. Let us be attentive to the God in our heart, the One who assures that He is with us till the end of time, the God in all moments of our lives and the One who is present even in His seeming absence.

Let our journey in Carmel continue. We have begun in God’s presence, we move towards the fullness of our lives in God’s presence.

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