Wednesday, December 3, 2008

toward carmel

We do not know the names of these first Carmelites. But we do know their hearts. From the beginning this tradition rooted itself in the deep hungers of the human heart. These men could only have located themselves on this mountain and begun a life together in response to such hungers, such "deep caverns of feeling," later captured in the poetry of John of The Cross. Why else live where they lived?

We can assume they had tried to feed these hungers with the normal food which nourishes life: relationships, possessions, plans, titles, reputations. They probably found that their efforts and their control brought little peace to their lives. They had not found food sufficient to feed their hunger.

And so they laid their lives down and began again. Perhaps they were escaping more than simply restlessness. Perhaps lives had come apart in deep disappointment; perhaps they experienced unbearable losses; perhaps they were chased from other places, or even were escaping the law.

But it was more than escape that brought them to Mount Carmel. They assembled there because of a call. I would think they were people who were haunted in some ways and who found one another on a mountain which evoked their desires. People today come to this tradition because they, too, experience themselves as pilgrims on this earth, having deep hungers, and haunted by a call.
John Welch, The Carmelite Way: An Ancient Path for Today's Pilgrim. New York: Paulist, 1996. 8-9

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