Feast of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel
Eight hundred and sixty years before Christ, the whole of Israel, at the bidding of the fiery Prophet Elias, is assembled, with the prophets of their false god, there on the summit of the Scripturally renowned Mount Carmel. The Jewish nation has fallen into idolatry and the Prophet of Carmel – who was dwelling in one of the caves of the Mount – proclaimed before the king and the adulterous nation: How long do you halt between two sides? If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him (3 Kings 18.21, DRV). Then the Prophet proposed a contest: Call ye on the names of your gods, and I will call on the name of my Lord, and the God that shall answer by fire [to consume the holocaust on the altars of both sides], let Him be God (v.24).
Midday at the Mount was already past, and Baal has not yet answered. The Prophet Elias then repaired the altar of the Lord, that was broken down and he built with the stones an altar to the name of the Lord…When it was now time to offer the holocaust, Elias the Prophet came near and [prayed]… then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the holocaust, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench [around the altar] (vv. 30,36,38). And all the people… fell on their faces (v.39) acknowledging that the Lord he is God.
However, it is not so much for the fire-contest between the prophets and the Prophet or rather between God and the false gods that we interest ourselves in this event but for the after-event. After that the Prophet Elias brought down a miraculous fire from heaven, he turns to Achab, then king of the Jewish nation, and says that there is now a sound of abundance of rain (v.41). And while the king goes to eat and drink at the Prophet’s bidding, we follow the Prophet as he proceeds to the top of Carmel. Then the Prophet Elias casting himself down upon the earth put his face between his knees (v.42) and tells his young servant to go and look out over the Mediterranean sea; six times we see the servant return only to report to his venerable master: There is nothing (v.43). At this very moment, the Prophet of Carmel is not only about to present a material salvation to the famished adulterous nation [in chastisement for their crime] but is also about to behold a prophetic vision of the spiritual Salvation of all mankind through an Immaculate Virgin.
We see the servant return the sixth time to be again sent by the Prophet to go up and look towards the sea (v.43). The seventh time, he hastens back for, rising out of the sea at the foot of the Mount, he has seen a little cloud…. like a man’s foot (v.44). In the near morrows, saintly Doctors of the true Church will explain to the world how this little cloud is a figure of an Immaculate Virgin who will rise pure out of the sea of humankind, free of its universal impurity of original stain. It was a vision of the Woman (Apocalypse 12.1) who was to arise immaculate – full of grace (Luke 1.28), all fair… and there is not a spot in [Her] (Canticle of Canticles 4.7) – and to crush with Her foot the head of Satan (cf., Genesis 3.15). As soon as the Prophet is told of the little cloud like a man’s foot ascending, we see him rise to give a command to the king. And within a short while, behold the heavens grew dark, with clouds, and wind, and there fell a great rain (v. 45).
On this blessed day, this glorious Woman of earliest prophecy and its ultimate fulfilment rises once more over that Mount to make Herself available to us in a “Sign of Salvation” and Badge of Christian Victory – the Brown Scapular of Carmel. To Her Order being racked by dissensions from within and persecutions from without [see the story in “The Scapular Vision of July 16, 1251,” consideration for the First Day of Novena to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel] – all being the schemed and diabolically complicated programs of the proud mind of Satan to suppress, if not to crush, the “Order of the [Immaculate] Virgin”:
“RECEIVE, MY BELOVED SON, THIS HABIT OF THY ORDER: THIS SHALL BE TO THEE AND TO ALL CARMELITES A PRIVILEGE, THAT WHOSOEVER DIES CLOTHED IN THIS SHALL NEVER SUFFER ETERNAL FIRE. BEHOLD A SIGN OF PEACE, A SAFEGUARD IN DANGER, A PLEDGE OF MY ETERNAL ALLIANCE.”
God had not said of the Immaculate, who was to rise pure out of the human see which Satan had tainted at its very source in Paradise, that there would be enmities between Her alone and Satan alone; He also said: Between thy seed and Her seed (Genesis 3.15). So upon the appearance of the Sign of the Immaculate crushing the head of Satan – his head referring to his pride – with Her heel – Her heel referring to the humility of Our Immaculate Mother of Carmel – we naturally expect to see Her bring forth Her seed to fight and conquer with Her. And She has. The Immaculate Virgin of Carmel has clothed us today in the Scapular – a Sign of Her: the humble Mother, the Victorious Queen. For is it not at once the Sign of Her seed and a Sign of Victory? Our Immaculate Mother Herself answers this when at Her last apparition at Fatima, Portugal in October 13, 1917 She appeared as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel holding out to the world Her Scapular [see our blogpost “The Great Sign in Heaven”]. Does not Satan hate us with every bit of hatred he has for Her [And the dragon was angry against the Woman: and went to make war with the rest of Her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Apocalypse 12.17)]? Yes, and he hates this Sign which at once proclaims us to be the seed of Mary and crushes his pride by its simplicity – being a mere brown woolen pieces of cloth – and invincible power [as countless authenticated records show of the same miraculous power attached to it]. God brings to nothing the things that are by things that almost, as it were, are nothing; He places the head of the black prince of the world beneath the heel of that humble Virgin who started to defeat with Her simple words: Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum [Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.](Luke 1.38). Although Satan lies in wait here on earth to sink the fangs of cunning temptations into our hearts, Our Immaculate Mother of Carmel, through a devotion so simple, protects us and conquers Satan for us.
The readers and the Members of the Teresian Carmelite Family surely needs no urging to piously clothe themselves always in the Scapular of Our Immaculate Virgin. They know its greatness too well. But what about that aid which Mary needs to save the millions in danger of eternal perdition – an aid that only Her children can give Her? What about the fact that Our Lord said to St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi [a nun of Teresian Carmel]: “O, see how most men are within the grasp of the demon! See how his jaw is open to devour them! Far from avoiding it, they go and cast themselves in, and there is no one who will escape if My elect do not save them by their prayers.” Our Immaculate Mother said at Fatima: “So many souls are lost because there is no one to pray and to make sacrifices for them.”
When we enter into Our Immaculate Mother’s alliance we can almost feel that best of mothers folding us to Her breast to guard us in life, at death, and even after death until She has completely brought us to eternal happiness. As we stop to consider it, do we not feel a burning desire welling up in our hearts, a longing to respond to such love? Do we not feel, as it is only human for a child to feel, a spiritual thirst to answer Mary’s motherly action of fighting the ancient infernal serpent which lunges at us, to take Her very sign of salvation, and with prayer, sacrifices [an intimate union with Her Son Crucified, see consideration for the “Ninth and Last Day of Novena to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel], and the [traditional] Sacraments of the Church, to enter into the fray?
To return love for love. Such is the beating of the heart of those who would enter into an “eternal alliance” with Our Immaculate Mother. A life of union with the Immaculate Virgin, so that everything one does is applied by Our Dearest Mother of Carmel to the best interests of the Sacred Heart of Her Beloved Son – the sole object of Her care and of the affections, desires, and delights of Her Immaculate Heart – is not only a state of personal perfection but one of supreme apostolate. For such a life of intimate union with the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, through the Immaculate Heart of Our Blessed Mother, ought to be the fruit of those who will be planted in the soil of Carmel – the Mount and School of Contemplative Prayer. Our Dearest Little Therese says: “Is not the apostolate of prayer higher, as one might say, than that of preaching? How beautiful is our vocation [of a Discalced Carmelite Nun]. It is for us, it is for Carmel, to preserve the salt of the earth… The Creator of the universe awaits the prayer of one poor little soul to save a multitude of others, redeemed like her at the price of His blood.”
Even as the rainfall was the salvation of Israel of Old after the prophetic sign of the Immaculate, so we may cause another humble Sign of Victory to become truly the salvation of the world through Her. By using the Scapular to make frequent acts of ‘mystical’ union with Our Immaculate Mother, “Vanquisher of Satan,” we become, according to St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, “those servants, slaves, and children of Mary: a burning fire of the ministers of the Lord, who shall kindle the fire of divine love everywhere, and ‘like sharp arrows’ in the hand of the powerful Immaculate Virgin to pierce Her enemies; the sons of Levi, well purified by the fire of great tribulation, and closely adhering to God through His words, laws, and Commandments; who shall carry the gold of Christian charity in their heart, the incense of prayer in their spirit, and the myrrh of mortification in their body; and they shall be everywhere the good odour of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the poor in spirit and to the little, while they shall be an odour of death to the great, to the rich, and to the proud.
They shall be clouds thundering and flying through the air at the least breath of the Holy Ghost; who, without attaching themselves to anything, without being astonished at anything, without putting themselves in pain about anything shall shower forth the rain of the Word of God and of life eternal. They shall thunder against sin; they shall storm against the world; they shall strike the devil and his forces and dummies; and they shall strike further and further, for life of for death, with their two-edged sword of the Word of God, all those to whom they shall be sent on the part of the Most High. They shall be the true apostles of these latter times who shall carry on their shoulders the bloody standard of the Cross, the Crucifix in their right hand and the Rosary in their left, the Scapular on their back and on their chest, the sacred names of Jesus and Mary in their hearts, and the modesty and mortification of Jesus Christ in their behavior… But Our Dearest Immaculate Mother shall be there by the order of the Most High, to extend His empire over that of the impious, the idolaters, the heretics and schismatics, the ‘perfidious Jews’, and the Mahometans [the Moslems].”
Our Dearest Immaculate Mother has marked us for Her elect, members of Her family. Our Heavenly Mothers thirsts for souls because the Sacred Heart of Jesus thirsts and has given the mission of assuaging that thirst to Her and to us through Her. Being the Head of that divine Body, the Church, He has made His Mother the neck and us the members. His Sacred Heart is the Driving Power. Mary’s Immaculate Heart is one with It so that we, Her children, may be one with It simply by being united to Her through our total consecration to Her Immaculate Heart – of which Her Scapular is the badge of it. That is our vocation, our apostolate, our purpose.
May God bless and keep you all in His light, grace, mercy, aid, and protection through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Our Dearest Mother of Carmel! A Blessed Feast to All!