Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

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Surprise Visits

Easter resurrection

Among the joys of Eastertide, I find delight in reflecting on and as it were reliving the surprise visits of the Risen Jesus. Being surprised at eventful times in our lives can reside for a long time in the memory and be conjured up and rehearsed whenever desired.

In the gospel accounts read during the Easter octave there is the surprise of finding the stone rolled back from an empty tomb, two white clad angels and a grieving Mary of Magdala whom the Risen Lord calls by name. Jesus’ sudden appearances to the apostles huddled together in the upper room behind locked doors is also startling…and he even asked for something to eat! Not to be passed over, is the mysterious traveling companion joining two distraught disciples on the way to Emmaus and his sudden vanishing act at table upon being recognized. The invitation to Thomas, personally called forth to see, touch and believe is both joyous and humbling. By the time of the lavish catch of fish and prepared charcoal breakfast by the Sea of Galilee, no one dares to question the reality of his presence. Each surprise visit holds an array of nuanced emotions and questions enveloped in mystery. The disciples themselves, must have recalled and spoken numerous times as they shared together their experiences and feelings. Later, they would recount these experiences to others as they preached and gave witness to Jesus risen.

The gospels also relate other accounts of his appearances to Peter himself, the rock and subsequently, to James. On no occasion does he proceed to scold or dwell on their flight after the betrayal in the garden leaving him all alone to face the fearful ordeal of trial and crucifixion. Instead, he only chides them for their disbelief. After displaying his wounds in hand and feet, he even asks them for something to eat. It is easy to imagine their amazement and steadied gaze as they watch him take each bite of a morsel of baked fish or whatever. And the interior questioning stirring their minds like, “can one who passes through closed locked doors and also vanishes from sight really be eating, swallowing food?” This whole new way of presence is both admirable and mysterious. Only after the descent of the Holy Spirit on each of them will the whole of it come together in their minds. Then they will be transformed and readied to proclaim the message.

As we share meals together with family, community and friends there is or can be that warmth and glow of presence, of support, of shared experiences. On special occasions this becomes even more memorable. Although the externals of time and place differ now, we too can know personally the real presence of the Risen Lord in his glorified body when we receive him in the Eucharist. And what joy it is to know that each one of us is called personally by name. Fittingly, St. John of the Cross in his Spiritual Canticle, (stanza 15) has the bride soul call her Beloved - The supper that refreshes and deepens love.

Ghanders-rhapsody-tulipWritten by a Carmelite Sister | April 20, 2018
Email – rhapsodee17@gmail.com

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Cousins in the Family – Reflections for Advent 2017


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.

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.”

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

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