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The Carmelite is called to be a contemplative

The Prior General of the Carmelite Order, Fr. Joseph Chalmers, O.Carm., has written…..

We are told in the Constitutions of the Carmelite Order (art. 14), approved in 1995, that Carmelites follow Christ above all by commiting themselves to searching for the face of the Living God (the contemplative dimension of life), to community and to service in the midst of the people. These values are intimately related to one another. They are united by means of the experience of the desert. Carmelites are committed to make of Christ crucified, naked and emptied, the foundation of their lives.

The Carmelite is called to be a contemplative. Contemplatives do not only live in enclosed monasteries. There are many contemplatives who live in the midst of a very busy world. The word “contemplative” does not refer to a state but a way of relating to God. God’s desire is to unite with us in a way which is beyond the power of human words to describe. I think that what God wants to give us is beautifully summed up in the following reading from the letter to the Ephesians:

This then is what I pray, kneeling before the Father from whom every family whether spiritual or natural takes its name, that out of His infinite glory He may grant you the power, through His Spirit, for your hidden self to grow strong so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith and then planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until knowing the love of Christ which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God. Glory be to Him who wants to do far more for us than we could possibly ask for or imagine. Glory be to Him in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3: 14-21)

The writer wants us to be filled with the utter fullness of God. To be filled with the utter fullness of God is to be a mystic. Mysticism or contemplation is not for an elite few: it is for everyone. Remember the prophetic words of Karl Rahner, “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not be a Christian at all.” To be a mystic means to become an intimate friend of God. This is the call we receive in baptism and mysticism or contemplation is the full flowering of the baptismal grace. In our world we are witnessing a thirst for prayer, a thirst for God. Carmelite spirituality can lead people to the source of living water where their thirst can be quenched. As Carmelites we are not only expected to be good parish priests or teachers but also and above all we are expected to be able to lead people in their search for God. We are expected to speak of God from our own experience.