Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ave Crux, Spes Unica (Hail Cross, Only Hope)

 September 14th
 The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a big feast in the Carmelite calendar.  It is designated in the Rule of Carmel as the beginning of the "grand fast" "You are to fast everyday, except Sundays, from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter Day, unless bodily sickness or feebleness, or some other good reason, demand a dispensation from the fast; for necessity overrides every law." (Rule, Chapter 16).  In 1247, this article of the Rule was mitigated (or relaxed) because of the change in the lifestyle of Carmelites.  When Carmelites returned to Europe from the Holy Land and began to have active ministries (mendicant lifestyle), the Pope at that time mitigated the Rule of Albert.  The result is that not all communities of Carmel practice the grand fast although individual members may decide to practice it.
The article below was written by St. Edith Stein on September 14, 1941. The theme of her writing was directed to her fellow religious who were to renew their vows on the occasion of the Feast.  Even though the thoughts and language pertain to religious life and the religious vows, it is very appropriate for meditation by any baptized person.  We share a common baptism and common consecration.  Religious consecration is the living to the full of our consecration at baptism.  Therefore, I judged that this is a very worthy article to read during this great feast we celebrate.  The call to obedience, poverty and chastity may be different in the lay-state, but we are all called to differing degrees to practice these counsels according to our state in life.  Every time you read the word "vows", add to it the words "baptismal vows" and you will surely find out that these words were also meant for you.  When St. Teresa Benedicta spoke about the "world is in flames," I couldn't help but reflect that she might as well be describing the times we live in!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Why I Love You, Mary!

O Mary, how fortunate I am to call you mine,
My only treasure in this changing world.
Such tenderness.. that is your name,
Your gentleness is unsurpassed.
My heart leaps up when I think of you,
And all my sorrows melt like the snow,
With filial longing I turn to you, upon your knees
I pour out cares only you would know.
A bond between us in time was forged,
Infinite source of blessings untold!

Your eyes ever watchful to snatch me from dangers,
Your ears ever careful to hear silent whispers.
Your hands ever present to touch and to comfort.
My heart so delights in contemplating you,
To know that in heaven I have a mother like you!
If they only know the love you have for men,
Like me, they too, will be proud of their claim.

When I was small I did not really know you,
To be the mother you proved yourself to be.
With great solicitude you came and searched for me,
As you did with Jesus on that three day journey.
How lucky I was that one day you found me,
That memorable July so imprinted in my memory!

Mount Carmel! Oh how I love her!
To me she embodies my Queen and my Lady.
She is forever my true destiny, the lot
God himself has marked out for me.
Deep in Carmel's bosom  will I cling,
Forever hopeful of the promise she brings.
Deep in her thickets I will not shy away,
For with the thorns lie the rose's true beauty.

Carmel! Mary! To me they are one,
And for that very reason, 
A Carmelite I am.

Nativity of Mary

St. Anne with the Child Mary

The Catholic Church celebrates Mary's birthday on September 8th. This is of great significance, not only as a devotional celebration of the birth of our Mother in heaven, but a significant event in the life of the Church. Mary's birth is the beginning of the redemptive work of God since from her was born Jesus, our Redeemer. The whole Church rejoices as we thank God for having sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to deliver those who are subjected to the Law, as St. Paul exclaims in his letter to the Galatians. It is fitting that we celebrate because through this humble woman, conceived without sin because she was to become the Mother of God, you and I were redeemed. It was because God prepared her from the beginning of time to be the Ark of the Covenant, that our redemption was wrought.

The events of Mary's nativity are wrapped in silence. We do not know anything about it because Scriptures do not mention it. What we have about this event comes from the apocryphal Gospel of St. James, a protoevangelium at the end of the second century. We have learned from this apocryphal narrative that St. Anne and St. Joachim conceived the child Mary in their old age. That she was presented in the temple when she was a young girl and lived in the temple area with the Templar virgins. The book by the Venerable Anne Emmerich also mentions this time in our Lady's life.

I think that the very lack of information about our Lady's birth speaks volumes. Everything about Mary is wrapped in silence. We wish there was more written about her in Scriptures so we can take them piece by piece and meditate on them. But this in itself should be enough for us. Mary's life is a hidden life and a humble life.  Hers was a life of silent joys and sorrows, silent adoration and sacrifices. The Holy Rosary is the compendium of the Gospel.  By meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary we meditate on the life of Mary as well since the life of Mary is so intricately linked to the mystery of her Son Jesus.  This feast we celebrate on September 8th is an invitation to live a hidden life, a life known to God alone. Our stations in life vary, our responsibilities take us to different directions and demand of us different courses of actions. But aside from living busy lives," we must also develop an interior and hidden life open to God alone. There, we enter from time to time to be one with the God who dwells within.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Vision of Saint Helena

August 18 is the feast of St. Helena.  She is my patron saint and so I would like to pay her tribute even though she is not liturgically mentioned in the current Roman Catholic calendar. There are many versions of St. Helena's story especially her origins. I love her story, her total dedication to Christianity and her legendary reputation of finding the True Cross of Crucifixion. I was delighted to know the significance of this name in my religious life. I had no idea that St. Helena had a lot more connection with the Carmelites than I originally thought. Tradition affirms that the Empress Helena constructed a monastery in honor of Elijah on Mount Carmel. The site which it arose seems to be that of the present lighthouse, on the terrace of the Head of Carmel, as might be attested by some archaeological finds held to be from the Late Empire, after Justinian. St. Helena also established the Holy Sepulcher Rite used by the Carmelites during their stay in the Holy Land. It was also pointed out to me by a Carmelite Nun that "Helena" in Greek means "light." Therefore, my religious name means "Light of Mary" (Helena of Mary). I wrote this reflection when I was still a Novice and it expresses my sentiments to my Patron Saint.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Transfiguration

"Jesus took Peter, James and his brother John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. He was transfigured before their eyes. His face became as dazzling as the sun, his clothes as radiant as light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them conversing with him. Upon this, Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, how good it is for us to be here! ...He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them. Out of the cloud came a voice which said, "This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests. Listen to him." When they heard this the disciples fell forward on the ground, overcome with fear. Jesus came toward them and laying his hand on them, said "Get up!Do not be afraid." When they looked up they did not see anyone but Jesus...."