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4. Conclusion: Contemplation as the primary mission of Carmelites

By Br. Günter Benker, O.Carm.

If contemplation is truly the heart of our charism, we are first of all called to undergo this process of transformation. Our false images of God and correspondingly our false self, which feels in many various ways insufficient, inferior, guilty and separated from God, has to be put to death.

Only thus can the true God of love take over in our lives and correspondingly bring about the emergence of our true self, our true identity of children of God, loved always and forever. We can enter this process at any time and at any place. We only have to create appropriate condi­tions: sufficient time for regular prayer, meditation, lectio divina, spiritual reading, spiritual di­rection, psychological-spiritual programmes etc. If we are overburdened with work or other oc­cupations of whatever kind we will be very unlikely open and receptive enough to concentrate on the “only one thing needed” (Lk 10:42), that is to go through this transformation process in order to live out fully our true identity. To say it very clearly: there is no choice - unless we as Carme­lites do not see contemplation as the primary mission that God has entrusted to us, all our other efforts will be meaningless in the end, how heroic they may be (cf. 1Cor 13). On the other hand, if we really try to open ourselves for this process of transformation in all aspects and dimensions of our life, then it does not matter at all where we live and what kind of work we do. The only decisive criterion with regard to bearing fruit for the kingdom is according to John to “remain in his love”. Only then do we become able to really love others - the only “fruit that will last” (cf. Jn 15:1-17).

As formators we have a special responsibility to get right our priorities as Carmelites - for the sake of ourselves and for those who are entrusted to us in formation. We must be willing to enter and endure this process of contemplation and transformation and to prepare and accompany our candidates for it. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but may be as formators we have even the task to find appropriate ways of reminding our communities and provinces of our real vocation because through our formation work we are in some way privileged to deal more profoundly with these matters.

Carmelite spirituality and mysticism touches and explores the very heart of our Christian faith: God who is love, pure and undivided love. In him there is no division, only unity, and he wants to share this unity with all creation. We are called to witness to this unity which is already a real­ity for those who have eyes to see. Contemplation will open our eyes for the presence of God’s kingdom in us and in our world so that our false self with its split and judgmental mind-set will be transformed into our true self which fully accepts to be the beloved child of the true God of infinite love. Let us not hesitate to enter this process, and let us not be discouraged by the many-fold and subtle defence mechanisms of our false self and its idols. God has already won the battle for us; we only need to accept his saving action in us:

If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -
how will he not also, along with him, graciously give all things?
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life -
is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ...
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Rom 8:31-39)

Questions for reflection

  1. 1. Do I share this concept of contemplation as the heart of our Carmelite charism? What do I share? Where do I not agree?
  2. 2. Am I willing to enter the process of transformation or where do I regard myself to be in this process?
    • What are my longings and my anxieties?
    • What kinds of support do I need for this process and are they available for me?
    • What prevents me from this process, what hinders me in continuing this process?
  3. What is the situation in my community / in my province with regard to contemplation as the heart of our charism?
  4. What can I contribute to create conditions in my community / in my province which allow contemplation to be really the priority of our life?
  5. How do I see my role as a formator with regard to leading our candidates into a process of contemplation?

 

As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. 

All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister."