Carmel in the World Magazine
Carmel in the World
2012. Volume LI, Number 2
- A Living Heritage
- Resurrection Liturgy and Spirituality in the Tradition of the Carmelite Order (below)
- Thérèse, Spirituality of Imperfection: Finding strength in weakness
- The Dark Night of Pain
- Christian or Carmelite Spirituality?
- An Update from the Carmelites of Timor-Leste
- Carmel Around the World
- Final Message of the 2011 General Congregation of the Carmelite Family
Resurrection liturgy and Spirituality in the Tradition of the Carmelite Order
Dr. Arie G. Kallenberg
As appears from what has already been said in the first part of this article, for the first centuries of their existence, the Carmelites devoted much attention to the Resurrection of the Lord. The daily encounter with the Risen Lord must certainly have influenced their spirituality. The constant confrontation in the liturgy with the Resurrection of the Lord, via Votive Masses and liturgical celebrations throughout the entire year, culminating in the Solemn Commemoration of the Resurrection on the last Sunday before Advent, left no room for the idea of a static Resurrection, reported to have occurred centuries before in history. On the contrary, the dynamic encounter with the ever-Risen One was thrust upon those who celebrated the Carmelite liturgy, for Christ constantly makes Himself present in the liturgy, and He offers a daily opportunity to rise again with Himself from the lethargy of death, and even from the incapacity to rise.
Throughout the centuries, many Carmelites penetrate into the essence and spirituality of the Resurrection Liturgy. From the Reform of Touraine, a sixteenth century reform movement which inspired new life in the Order, two mystical authors are known who occupied themselves with the Resurrection Liturgy and Carmelite Spirituality. One of them was the blind friar, John of Saint Samson (1571–1636), who wrote a mystical poem about the Holy Sepulchre. The poem is a dialogue between Mary Magdalene and the empty tomb, and John’s message is that the soul, in order to possess the Supreme Beatitude, must bury herself alive in that tomb and live there dying.
Another mystical author from the same era, Maur of the Child Jesus († 1690), was also a Carmelite of the Reform of Touraine. In his mystical writings, he affirms that the highest degree of mystical union with God which a soul can reach in this life is the state of Resurrected Life in Jesus. These are only some examples of the influence of the Resurrection Liturgy on the spirituality of the Carmelites. Within the Order there is much interest in this theme; the last two international Carmelite Seminars, held in Rome, treated this topic extensively. In the context of this short article, it is not possible to examine the subject thoroughly.
Rule and Resurrection Liturgy
As one may expect, in the Rule of Carmel there are no detailed prescriptions about the liturgy, nor are there any references to the Resurrection of the Lord. Nevertheless, the Rule refers briefly to the Liturgy of Hours, to the frequency of them, to the Liturgical Year, to the place where liturgical prayers must be prayed, to Sunday as the weekly commemoration of the Resurrection and also as the day on which matters of discipline and spiritual welfare should be discussed, and where the indiscretions and failings of the brothers – if any be found at fault – should be lovingly corrected. Furthermore, in the context of the Resurrection Liturgy, the eschatological aspects of the Rule are obviously very important. Later, these aspects will be deepened.
Paragraph 14 of the Rule prescribes that an oratory should be built as conveniently as possible among the cells. According to the vision of the Rule, the oratory was reserved for the daily celebration of the Eucharist in common. About this prescription Kees Waaijman says in his book The Mystical Space of Carmel: A Commentary on the Carmelite Rule:
The ancient desert monks celebrated the Eucharist once a week. That was different in the thirteenth century. The majority of religious communities came together for the Eucharist every day. The daily gathering gives a rhythmic structure to life. The act of coming together every day, early in the morning, at the pivotal point between night and day, gives the day its basic rhythm. The rising sun, which conquers the night, must have been intuitively experienced as the Risen One.
The meeting of the brothers had a liturgical dimension. The act of coming together for the Eucharist almost automatically calls to mind the Resurrection.
This mystical movement is beautifully sustained by the words “early in the morning”, words which evoke Mary Magdalene’s quiet walk to the tomb: “On the first day of the week Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark . . .” (John 20:1). Early in the morning Carmelites come together in the oratory, the Midst that is filled by no one. Like the bride in the Song of Songs they seek him whom their soul loves at night – while it is still dark. It is the quest of love through the darkness of the night; then follows the Easter-experience of the tender voice: “Miriam”, your dearest name uttered by him whom your soul loves. Comes the answer that is equally tender: “Rabbouni”. This is the Easter of love, the mystical depth of the Eucharist. Here is the heartbeat of Carmel.
It is interesting to note how Kees Waaijman, basing himself only on the text of the Rule, refers to the same celebration of the Resurrection which, centuries later, was a daily part of the liturgy of the early Carmelites. One could say that the Resurrection is inherent in the Rule, integrated into it. Paragraph 15 of the Rule recommends that on Sunday, the day of the Resurrection of the Lord, matters of discipline and spiritual welfare should be discussed and indiscretions and failings of the brothers – if any be found at fault – should be lovingly corrected. In his commentary on this paragraph of the Rule, Kees Waaijman continues his reflections on Sunday as the day of the celebration of the Resurrection:
Identity of focus and reciprocity resonate most deeply when placed in the context of the love of the Risen One. The Eucharist on the day of Resurrection, the reference to the love of Mary Magdalene, and the meeting of the apostles on the first day of the week, the appearance of the Risen One in their midst – all these things put this chapter in the context of the love of the Risen One who gives Himself in his Word, in his Body and Blood . . .
It seems natural that the Resurrection arrives upon the scene once the prescriptions of the Rule concerning daily celebration of the Eucharist and the Sunday meeting of the Friars are put into practice. The eschatological aspects of the Rule are fundamental, and they are thoroughly connected with the Resurrection Liturgy.
The most important reference to eschatology is found in the epilogue of the Rule where we read: our Lord, at his second coming will reward anyone who does more than he is obliged to do. Obviously, the words “the Lord at his second coming” refer exclusively to the Parousia of Jesus and have a strong eschatological significance. The expectation of the final, imminent, and decisive coming of the Lord was characteristic of the religiosity and theology of the twelfth and thirteenth century, the period in which the Rule was written. An apocalyptical fear and expectation stimulated people of that time, not only to moral renewal but also to adopt radical forms of the sequela Christi, the imitation of Christ, by extreme, voluntary poverty, eremitical life, pilgrimage, and so on. Pilgrimages to the Holy Land also constituted part of the preparation for the coming of the Lord, since it would be wise to be present at the place where, according to public opinion, the Lord would come back as final Judge and Redeemer. In this context, the Rule seems to anticipate the coming life, preparing the friars to participate in what John 16:13 promises: ‘But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth’. In this perspective, the Death and Resurrection, Empty Tomb and Resurrected Life affect every baptized Christian and are very intimately linked, constituting the anticipation of coming events. On this matter, Kees Waaijman comments as follows:
The Rule’s fervent hope is that ‘the Word of God may dwell abundantly in our mouth and in our hearts, so that whatever we have to do may be done in the Word of the Lord’ (XIV). Without so much as a moment’s thought – as of itself – the Word abounds in us. This is the Resurrection of the Lord, not the Resurrection that is celebrated on Sunday’s and feastdays or during daily Eucharist, but the Resurrection of the Lord which we live bodily. ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20).
According to the style of the Rule, liturgical regulations and references to eschatology are very concise. Nevertheless, they represent an essential part of the Vitae Formula, the way of life that the Rule proposes. The eschatological facets of the Rule become visible in the Resurrection of the Lord, and they constitute an essential part of early Carmelite Liturgy.
I have risen, and I am still with you. These are the initial words of the introit for Easter Day. They are worthy of full and detailed consideration. The mystery of the Resurrection is not just a historical event, but it also inaugurates a new élan for the future. It is only accessible by faith. The Resurrection is not an end point, neither is it closed in upon itself; it is a promise that leads to the future. The Rule of Carmel contains references to the end of life and to the hope of resurrected life; these are its eschatological aspects. Paragraph 21 of the Rule states, In silentio et spe erit fortitudo vestra (In silence and hope will be your strength). In our present time, this means that Jesus continues to sustain His Church with new life, especially when she is fatigued and does not know how to advance on her pilgrimage. He brings her new life when she is dying. Therefore, one could say that, in the personal lives of the faithful, every revival from a fatigued, failed, or almost failed life anticipates the final Resurrection, even if only modestly. The narrative of the Resurrection in Mark 16:1-7, is moving:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’
The tomb appears empty. The women, who had come to the tomb early in the morning in order to accomplish the customary anointing, were desperate. “Where is He?” they ask. The Angel in white robe informs them, “He is not here. He has risen!” He is not here. These words are at the centre of this narrative; they are the message of the primitive Church. The Crucified is no longer among the dead; He is alive. As He is not “here,” where then can He be found? The answers differ. The Apostles met Him in Galilee; Saint Paul saw Him on the road to Damascus. The liturgy also has an answer to this question: Where can He be found? To understand this answer, it is necessary to analyze thoroughly the first words of the aforementioned introit for Easter Sunday. The text was taken from Psalm 139, according to the Latin translation of the Vulgate.
Introïtus: (Psalm 139:18, 5-6)
Resurrexi et adhuc tecum sum, alleluia:
Posuisti super me manum tuum, alleluia;
mirabilis facta est scientia tua, alleluia, alleluia
Introit: (Psalm 139:18, 5-6)
I have risen and I am still with you, alleluia.
You placed your hand on me, alleluia;
Your wisdom is marvellous, alleluia, alleluia
Looking at the text of the psalm as it is given in the Vulgate, it is somewhat strange that the liturgical text changes the sequence of the verses: part of verse 18 constitutes the beginning of the introit, followed by verses 5 and 6. The reason is that the Liturgy has its own language and does not follow the requirements of modern exegesis. It uses the texts of the Vulgate in so far as they fit the intended context and the mystical or spiritual dimension of the feast that is being celebrated.
Concretely, the word Resurrexi (I have risen) appears in the Vulgate, the official Latin translation of the Bible. This word expresses the central theme of the whole Resurrection liturgy, and for this reason, it is used at the beginning of Easter Sunday Mass. It is a keyword for the whole Easter Liturgy. It gives an answer to the question “where is Jesus,” since He is not in the empty tomb. The answer is: Resurrexi, (I have risen), et adhuc tecum sum (and I am still with you). The Resurrection involves two elements: I and you. By relating the term I in the phrase ‘I have risen’, to the term you in the phrase ‘and I am still with you’, the dynamic of the Resurrection is evident in one short sentence. The Resurrection is not a static fact of the past but an ever-present action which renews itself again and again in us, making itself present in us day in, day out.
The Resurrection takes place again in the dialogue I – You, the dialogue between Christ and myself. Where there is an I, there is also a You. The introit says: I have risen, and I am still with You. This means that we are immediately and directly connected in the relation I – You, not in the past, but in the present of here and now. This is the real Easter mystery within us. The ever Risen One is always with us, near us, every day, every moment, in order to create a spiritual and mystical tie between Himself and us.
After the introductory words of the introit, there follows an emphatic text: Posuisti super me manum tuam (You have placed Your hand upon me). Here the mystical dimension of the Easter Mystery is very close; it is not by our own forces that we go ahead. The hand of the Lord is upon our shoulders and accompanies us throughout the Resurrection Liturgy and throughout life. Spiritually, He leads us in the mystical way. To reach this goal, it is necessary to ponder the Lord’s law day and night as the Rule us proposes.
 My Soul, in this Tomb you must collect forces
in order to hide yourself from human beings
and from yourself;
you must bury yourself alive and live there dying
in order to possess the Supreme Beatitude.
 Kees Waaijman, The Mystical Space of Carmel. Leuven: Peeters, 1999. p. 118.
 Ibid., p. 119.
 Ibid., p. 135.
 Ibid., p. 276.
 The Vulgate is a late fourth century Latin version of the Bible, and largely the result of the labours of St Jerome