07 Core of Carmelite Spirituality — Eco-consciousness - Sr Snehanjali

posted Jul 11, 2018, 11:04 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jul 11, 2018, 11:05 AM ]
We live in a world of opportunities and contradictions. On the one hand, we take pride in all the advancement that has taken place to make our lives more comfortable, but on the other hand, we are responsible through our actions for the suffering caused to our brothers and sisters. We say we have eradicated some endemic diseases such as polio, smallpox etc. and on the other, we have invented weapons of mass destruction that have indiscriminately killed and maimed many. We have been able to map out the human genome, but continue destroying our environment at an ever increasing and dangerous pace.

It is during times such as these that we are called to look at the Divine Presence, a Power beyond the ordinary. The month of July for us Carmelites takes our attention to the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and opens for us the doors to grow in an important aspect of Carmelite spirituality - the eco-consciousness. Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ asserts our connection with Nature and Creation, and our need to learn from and protect it, as God’s gift to all humanity.

The first Carmelites had gathered on Mt Carmel in the late 12th century to devote their lives to God. They settled in the Wadi Ain-es-Sah, near the traditional spring of Elijah. The mountainside they chose contained small valleys filled with springs of water flowing from among the rocks. According to Fr Bellarmino Bagatti, OFM, the Wadi “met all the requirements of the eremitical life: solitude, grottos, water, vegetation for the domestic animals, wood for construction and heating, the proximity of a town. They built a special bond with the land and the resources of this sacred ground. The distinct paradigm of “sacred space” within Carmel’s foundation story challenges us to live in partnership with whatever environment we live, pray and minister. The Carmelites, like many other orders, seek to have a deeper relationship with God. They gather twice a day and pray the psalms, among other prayers, in community. These psalms help to constantly uplift us to the power, grandeur and sacredness of God’s Creation. This prayer serves as a major means of reverence and respect for the goodness of God’s Creation. Moreover, Carmel’s commitment to contemplative prayer and silence affects how we view and relate with the world around us.

The Carmelite saints were very close to God’s presence in and around them. St Teresa of Avila uses the images of water and garden to enable us to be led from “doing” to “being” within the spiritual life; her focus being on the idea of prayer. She details four ways to water a garden. Each way helps the garden to grow and thrive, but as one moves to the different stages of watering, they rely less on their own labour and more on the “being-ness” of who God is, the Lord of the garden. Her four ways of watering the garden explain how one moves from doing for God to finally just being with God. This inspires us to find God in Nature.