First of all, I would like to tell you how important is to be a member of the secular Carmel in this land. The land where our Saviour was born. How important is to live with the people from whom He was born, and also to live near the Mount Carmel, near the wadi es Siah, near the birth place of the Order. In this valley es Siah, the Latin hermits of mount Carmel received their rule and after a while, were known as the brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.
St. Albert, Patriarch of, resident in Akko at that time; was the one who at the beginning of the XIII century wrote the rule for the hermits. With the rule their hermitic life became a kind of cenobitic one. They met every day all together to share the holy mass in the church. A rather big church was built near the cells of the brothers and that church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary of mount Carmel.
The secular Carmel in mount Carmel should be a witness of the vitality of the Order. Because the roots of the Order are here and a tree goes up and grows tall if it’s connected with deep strong roots.
The secular Carmel here in Stella Maris reminds to the Carmelites all over the world that here are their origins, in this biblical land, the land of the covenant, the land of the alliance between the God of Israel and the patriarchs, prophets and all their people. The land of Jesus Christ the new and eternal covenant. The land of the blessed Virgin Mary of mount Carmel, the land of our father S. Elijah the one who renewed the alliance in Muhraka on mount Carmel.
The secular Carmel living here should encourage Carmelites all over the world to keep safe the place where the order was born, to visit the place and so to drink the genuine spirit of the Order near the spring of St. Elijah in the wadi es Siah.
There is no other Order, Christian religious movement or whatsoever that has the honor and the responsibility to have been born in this holy land. We Carmelites are a part of this land, a part of the people living here. Carmelites feel at home here and so the people living here feel at home in our monasteries of Stella Maris and Muhraka ubicated at the beginning and the end of Mount Carmel. Our Lady of Mount Carmel and our father St. Elijah are so loved and venerated here.
It’s so important for local secular Carmel to discover with the inspiration from the Holy Spirit the action of God in this land and with this people at the present time. We should track event under the guidance of the Spirit and share with Jesus Christ to overcome the forces of evil so that the Kingdom of God had the overhand and Satan was defeated.
First of all, we should remain unite under the guidance of the Catholic Church. Unity means strength. We cannot allow ourselves to let our differences of language, race, nation to destroy our unity grounded on Jesus Christ.
The action of God in this land is a source of inspiration in our lives. It’s the core of our spirituality. A spirituality incarnated in our daily lives and in the events that matter the humanity. This kind of spirituality, known by some scholars as the reading of the signs of times, should be the lamp that illuminates the path to follow.
Let us come back to our Carmelite Order. No doubt about that the grow of Carmelite life on mount Carmel early in the XIII century, was inspired from the blessed Virgin Mary of mount Carmel and from our father St. Elijah. This first spiritual experience, has remained impressed on the collective memory of the Carmelites.
Each Carmelite longs to come back to this place. It’s not possible to everyone to come here physically but yes spiritually. Mount Carmel is not only a physical mountain but an spiritual one too. Each Carmelite trays to climb this holy mountain till its peak. There the Glory of God lies.
Remember our spiritual mother St. Teresa de Avila and our father S. Juan de la Cruz. Both made their spiritual journey to the mount Carmel in order to renew and reset their l life. Both are considered the supreme masters in spiritual and mystical life in Christianity.
Our mother Sta Teresa liked to imagine those venerable fathers in mount Carmel, that in silence and solitude, were looking for the precious daisy: the contemplation. They were looking to be at the presence of God as did their spiritual father S. Elijah who proclaimed: «the God of Israel lives in whose presence I stand».
Remember our father S. Juan de la Cruz, an experienced guide in the spiritual paths. He wrote an book entitled: «The Climb of Mount Carmel». He guides the spirit with wise experience to the top of the mountain, where the Glory of God dwells. No stop is allowed on this way: not to enjoy the pleasures of this passing world, not because of being afraid of the ferocious enemies could appeared in this spiritual journey.
A spiritual and physical coming back to mount Carmel was made in the midst of the XVII century by fr. Prospero. This brave Carmelite friar was the first who returned to the mountain, after 300 years of absence of Carmelites from their land.
You can actually visit the so-called convent of fr. Prospero, that is found behind the present light house on the promontory of the mountain. Fr. Prospero was born in Spain and educated as a Carmelite in Rome. As his ancestors did, he too lived in this land with Muslims, Jews and first of all with Christians. He left some times the solitude as his father St. Elijah did, to be a witness of God among people. Coming back from one of his pastoral journeys from Akko to Haifa, he was attacked by thief’s and this attack hasten his death that took place in mount Carmel where he was buried.
Fr. Prospero was an outstanding Carmelite. You can see his picture at the entrance of the basilica of Stella Maris. During his life who was in contact with a Bedouin chief, called Tabary, who controlled the region of mount Carmel on behalf of the ottoman empire. Fr. Prospero got from him the permission to remain and afterwards to build a convent on the mountain, near de light house as I already said.
But the place when fr. Prospero dwelt at the very beginning was in the grottos known today as the synagogue of Elijah the prophet, They are down at the foot of the mountain, not far from the sea. Here fr. Prospero celebrated a Mass in honor and thanks giving to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Till now, we s are celebrating a mass in the same grotto every year on June 14, the feast of Elisha the prophet.
Visiting the Basilica of Stella Maris, you can see at the foot of the main altar upper the grotto of St. Elijah, some tiny red lights that mean the gratitude of the Carmelite Order to our Lady of mount Carmel. These tiny lights kindled all the time are the thanks giving of the Order to our Lady and Patroness.
Speaking of the basilica of Stella Maris we can call it the microcosmos of the Carmelite Order. Without looking into the beautiful pictures on the vault of the Basilica, just looking at the low part of the church, you can se the most important saints related to the Order: our lady of Mount Carmel , S. Joseph the patron of all Carmelite convents, Mar Elias, S. Simon Stock the one who received the scapular from our Lady , Sta Teresa de Avila, S. Juan de la Cruz, Ste Therese de Lisieux, St. Benedetta of the Cross ( Edith Stein), Ste Mariam of Jesus Crucified (Mariam Bawardy), P. Prospero, P. Julio, the first Latin parish priest, and more and more….
Fr. Silvano Giordano and outstanding Carmelite scholar concerning the history of the Carmelite Order, wrote in the introduction of the book: “ Carmel in the Holy Land from its beginnings to the present day” the following words: “In fact , as is amply demonstrated by the Carmelite reflections of the Order’s first centuries, the desire to live in the land of Jesus Christ, the imitation of Mary his Mother and the zeal of the glory of God, lived in the spirit of the prophet Elijah, all performed an important role in the definition of Carmelite identity and continued to sustain the life of the Order even when the historical circumstances made impossible its presence in the place of the origin”.
As I already said, this land and the people living here, are the natural, human and spiritual environment of the Carmelite Order where to grow, remaining strongly connected to its roots. Praying to the Holy Spirit to lead the Carmelites forward from the land of its origins and the origins of the Church too.