Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Our Lady of Mount Carmel means the Virgin Mary as she is honoured in the Carmelite Family. The Carmelite story, from earliest times, suggests a strong bond with Mary, the Virgin Mother of Jesus. The Carmelite Rule, drawn up by St Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem in the early 13th century, directed that the hermit-brothers were to build an oratory ‘as conveniently as possible in the midst of the cells’. They were to gather there ‘daily in the morning for Mass’. Those early Carmelites dedicated this oratory or chapel to St Mary. She thus became Lady of the Place. In medieval culture this naming of the oratory indicates that they had chosen Mary as their Patron: Carmelites will serve her; she will look after them. The Carmelites also related to Mary as ‘Mother’ and elder ‘Sister’.
A mother loves her children unconditionally. She nurtures each one of them from the moment of their conception. Mother is the light of the home. As ‘Mother’ the Carmelites experience Mary as the one who nurtures the divine life in us and encourages us to follow the way of her Son, Jesus Christ: ‘Do whatever he tells you’ (John 2:5).
An older sister is often someone in the family in whom we can confide; someone who listens well and accompanies us in moments of difficulty. Carmelites often turn to Mary when things are not going well. When they first came to Europe, they found difficulty in being accepted by the wider Church. Mary, our Sister, can be invoked as ‘Comfort of the afflicted. Help of Christians’.
Carmelites have celebrated the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16th since the late fifteenth century. It extended to the wider Church as a memorial of Mary from 1726. The Gospel reading (John 19:25-) for the day in the Carmelite liturgy reminds us that Mary accompanied her Son as he died on the Cross. In his final moments, he designated her as ‘mother’ to the Apostle John and through him to the whole Church.
The gentle presence of Mary is found in her caring for the Church, and in her continuous prayer for us ‘now and at the hour of our death’.
Lord God, you willed that the Order of Carmel
should be named in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
Mother of your Son.
Through her prayers, bring us to your holy Mountain
Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Grant to your servants we beseech you O Lord,
unfailing health of mind and body, and through the intercession of
the glorious and blessed ever Virgin may we saved from present sorrow
and enjoy future joy. (Carmelite Constitutions 1281)