May I wish you all a very happy Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This is the Order's principal celebration of our identification with Mary and the values she lived by.
She reminds us of that attentive listening to the Word and trying to make sense of it in our lives. She recalls that we struggle with and ponder on God's will every day as we make our choices. She shows us that the way to human fulfillment is to do God's will. This feast day helps us to refocus our lives on the person of Jesus Christ and the mission he has entrusted to us.
I hope that over the next few weeks you will all find some time for personal reflection and relaxation.
In the latest summer newsletter, Fr Kevin Alban, reflected on Mary's place in our lives. As we prepare for the feast day tomorrow, we have reprinted this reflection below:
"I would like to take the opportunity in this newsletter to reflect on Mary’s place in our lives.
We are all very familiar with her role as mother – of Jesus, of the Church, and of each one of us. She intercedes for us with her Son and watches over us with a mother’s protection. However, in recent years we have rediscovered a Carmelite tradition of calling her also our sister.
Interestingly, Pope Paul VI in the very ceremony that he proclaimed Mary as the Mother of the Church on November 21, 1964, also drew attention to her role as sister: “…she is, however, very near to us. A daughter of Adam like us, she is therefore our Sister by the bonds of nature.”
What is the importance to us of this human connection to Mary? She is the guarantee of Christ’s true humanity. He had a true human body which is distinct from his divinity and therefore not just an apparent body, yet Christ was not divine merely because God’s spirit dwelt within him and therefore he was not adopted in any sense, but truly God. If Christ’s humanity were only apparent, then human salvation would not be real either. In giving flesh to Christ, Mary gives what all humanity possesses.
The force of calling Mary “sister” is very significant for a clear understanding of the reality of human salvation and it is not simply a reminder that Mary was human and gives an example to humanity, but that the flesh she gave to the Word of God is the reason why humanity is truly redeemed.
Mary is the connection between the reality of the Incarnation in Christ truly taking on human flesh and the reality of human salvation in that her flesh which she gives to Christ is common to humanity.
In the Carmelite tradition, the dedication of the hermits of their first oratory to Mary is a way of celebrating their imitation of her virtues from the beginning. The connection between Mary and the hermits is later expressed in the Institute of the First Monks (a late medieval text) in the title “sister”, again denoting this shared commitment.
About 100 years after the Institute, the Dutch Carmelite, Arnold Bostius, presents a comprehensive portrait of the relationship between Mary and the Carmelite Order. He continues to use Ribot’s title of sister for Mary as a sign of the common ground between the Virgin and the Carmelites: “so dignified, so holy, to have a sister, a mother, a spouse and a patron.” Bostius also uses sister in a more liturgical context, using the title in a number of hymns. For example, “O to me you are a sister”, “O my bride, sister”, “O sister who descends on Carmel”.
The common vocation shared with Mary leads Bostius to endow the title sister with an intimacy and sense of community which distinguishes his Mariology and is at the root of a flowering in devotion and theology in the 17th century in the “Mystical Marian” school of the reform of Touraine.
I hope that this short explanation of Mary as our sister serves to deepen our appreciation of Mary in our lives."