New on The Mystical Life podcast, in honor of today’s Feast Day for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Father Robert Elias Barcellos, OCD, explains the role of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in the life of the Carmelite order.
(REPOST from July 2017)
As the shekinah glory, the glory of God which was the palpable presence of God came into the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament, so Christ incarnate made His Holy of Holies in Mary. She became the tabernacle, the ark of the new covenant. Just as the old ark of the covenant would carry the stem of Jesse, which was a foreshadowing of the springtime of the savior’s birth, so Mary carried Jesus as the justice of God that would come in the world. Just as the ark of the covenant contained the commandments and the manna, the bread from heaven, so the Christ is the giver of the law, the bread of life, and the savior of the world.
Mary contained in her womb, He who the whole cosmos could not contain. He who is larger than the universe that He himself made as the work of His hands, was now in her womb. And He who is all-powerful was becoming the most vulnerable as an infant. ‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.’
She is the New Eve, the new Woman, because she is the mother now, of the Almighty author of life. The first Eve, was the first mother, the mother of the living. However, as the Church Fathers say, by the First Eve’s decision, deceit, and disobedience through the subtle lies of the Prince of Darkness in the form of a serpent, opened death into the world. The fruit of that sin was death, and therefore Eve is no longer the mother of the living.
Mary, conceived without sin, that she may be the perfect dwelling place of God’s only-begotten Son, is now the mother of the author of all life, and at the foot of the cross, at Jesus’ dying wish was that she would be the mother of all the living, especially who are his friends and disciples. The second place Jesus refers to Mary as Woman is at the cross, the climactic moment of His incarnation. He says, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ If Jesus had other brothers, he wouldn’t have had to entrust Mary to John. He wouldn’t have had to entrust His mother to someone else’s care. As tradition says, Joseph had already passed on.
More importantly, John stands in proxy for all whom God desires to be His beloved disciples. That’s all of us who would believe in Him. Mary, the perfect Mother, blessed among all women, Jesus’ prized possession on an earthly level, that gift of His human life would be given to us as well so that we would be able to enjoy the sheer gift that God the Father gave Him; the most perfect mother imaginable, the most beautiful woman ever has become our Mother.
That’s not a narrative, a religious idea, or a far-off ideal. We cannot say ‘Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit,’ as Saint Paul says. We do not say this just with our lips, but to say it conviction and with fervent hope and love, is to proclaim it from the depths of our hearts. ‘Yes, Jesus is my Lord. I believe that He is alive, He is risen, He is real.’ The Holy Spirit helps us to know Jesus personally. The Holy Spirit gives us an encounter with the Risen Christ, an encounter that changes our life, an encounter that helps us to believe that God does love us, not simply because I heard someone else talk about it, not simply because I would hope or wish so, but because I know so from my experience. In the depths of my poverty, in the moment I needed Him most, when I was most hurting and most alone, I knew and I believed. And I received the truth that God does love me. Not because I’m worthy, or I earned it, or because I’m better than anybody else , and I’m perfect – because I’m not and the last to deserve it – but because He is perfect. By Christ, I am His child and beloved by Him, and when I was at my worst, God loved me most. The Holy Spirit allows that truth to become a reality. It’s the Holy Spirit that makes God come alive.
The same Holy Spirit who makes God come alive makes Mary alive to us as Catholics. The Holy Spirit, the spouse of Mary, by which Jesus is conceived in her womb, introduces us to Mary in spirit and in truth. We do not worship her, but we must know who are spiritual mother is. We must know the one who prepared the way for us as believers in Christ. The Holy Spirit reveals to us how beautiful, how real, how motherly she is.
On a natural level, I have always felt comfortable taking refuge in Mary. She has always been a source of consolation. But after my conversion, I felt very close to Jesus, and He became real and alive to me. He became my brother, my best friend, my redeemer, my Lord. But God the Father always felt very distant. Why? Because I never knew my earthly father. Until I was 21, I never had any contact with my earthly father whatsoever. Part of my conversion was meeting my father again, and now we’re best of friends. But I remember that even as a Carmelite Brother in seminary, there was a special time when Jesus was healing my heart and introducing me to the Father’s love. A special part of conversion and deepening of faith is to have all the areas of our lives where we have been wounded filled with God’s love, however He wants to communicate that. And He communicates that love so well, through Mary, not so she can replace Christ, but as the replica of Christ.
In his apostolic letter on the rosary, Saint John Paul II says that Jesus received His divinity from His Father, but He received His humanity from His mother. Therefore, He was a striking resemblance of Mary, and when we pray the rosary, we are at the school of Mary, contemplating the face of Jesus, whose resemblance is that of His mother. Mary reflects Christ as Christ reflects her. There’s a beautiful mother and son connection there. When we put the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the same level as the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it doesn’t mean that they are equal in dignity; it doesn’t mean that we are worshiping her as we worship Jesus. Not at all… (to be continued)
Copyright 2017 Father Robert Barcelos, OCD; transcribed by Teresa Linda
REPOST FROM JULY 2017
On October 13th, Our Lady displayed the miracle of the sun, as she had foretold. During the last apparition that took place after that miracle, Our Lady showed herself as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, as representative of the glorious mysteries of the rosary. The apparition had a tremendous impact on the 70,000 people who saw it, many of whom were reporters.
As for the historical context, at that time, atheism was thriving in Portugal, freemasonry had a strong hold on the government, and the people in the government thought that they were going to wipe out religion from Portugal for good, despite the fact that Portugal had a long history of being thoroughly Marian – their kings and queens had consecrated their land to Mary for centuries. These modern atheistic politicians thought that they were going to stamp out religion once and for all, hoping that Lisbon would be the second Moscow.
Mary’s greatest revelation took place at the same time of the Bolshevik Revolution, when Communism was just about to spread. There was the threat of nuclear war, as well as the threat of a totalitarian political system spreading; it did spread, throughout the world. Worst than that, it was a form of government that was anti-religion; it was anti-God.
Communism is an atheism of the will, in contrast to Darwin, who preceded Stalin, which was an atheism of the intellect. Darwinism tries to redefine the origins of humanity on rational terms, according to a particular scientific approach of the origin of the human species. And it ultimately breeds an atheism of the intellect, built on the belief that we can identify where we come from apart from any reference to God, solely based on reason and what we know of life in this world. Marx’s philosophy, however, was an atheism of the will, a deliberate and militant approach to combating religion, as being an obstacle to progress in society, a cause of war and division.
Marxism was being enforced as a political system and wedded to a government. Therefore, it was no longer legal to practice faith freely; people were unable to have bibles, to wear a crucifix around the neck, or go to church publically. The government had legislated churches, but they had control over them, and over what was said. There was a great deal of oppression that was based on a philosophy that was essentially opposed to God.
Mary saw all of this taking place from heaven. And as the first and most important missionary of God, in union with the Lord and in her will united to God’s will, she saw this danger on the rise, and chose to intervene and send a wake-up call to humanity as an echo of the gospel. Fatima is a call to faithfulness, for first of all, the believers.
Mary is the first person to have faith in God’s promise of her Son, as Savior. At the Annunciation, when she said ‘yes’ to God’s will that she would be the mother of the Messiah, she was the first to believe in the Messiah, as it was directly communicated to her by the Archangel, Gabriel.
The first to believe became the most important of all believers. As the first Missionary, she didn’t just receive that gift and keep it to herself. Right away, she went out of herself to share it with others. Even in heaven, after the drama of all that had unfolded in redemption, from the wood of the crib to the wood of the cross, to Pentecost and ultimately the Coronation, Mary was integrally interwoven with all the important events of salvation from the life of Our Lord. She was there, participating fully, in the most important events of Jesus’ life. Whether physically and immediately present, as at the foot of the cross, or in the manger, or amidst the apostles during Pentecost, or whether from a distance, participating spiritually, as in Jesus’ ministry, one way or another she was always there.
In the disposition of the handmaid of the Lord in the service of her son, and as the spouse of the Spirit and the daughter of the Father, she was there. And she continues to be there. She continues to be a mother who is in love with her children and who has a profound love for them. She cannot keep silent in the face of her children being in danger. When she sees her children in danger, she has to speak out, and she does.
Fatima is one of the most prophetic Marian apparitions, one of the most timely, and relevant for our day and age. From Pius the XIIth to most recently Pope Francis, and everyone in between, especially Saint John Paul II, with the assassination attempt on his life on May 13th, the day commemorating Our Lady’s first apparition, all of the popes of the past century have said how important the message of Fatima is to us still today. Pope Benedict XVIth and Saint John Paul II said that the message is even more applicable than it was in 1917.
What happened back then? On May 13 until October 13, 1917, our Blessed Mother appeared. Historically, this was right after the first World War and before the second World War, the most horrific wars in recorded history. Mary prophesied that if men did not repent and convert, there would be a far worst war than the first. And certainly, the events of the Holocaust and WWII were worst than those in the first World War.
In the horizon, she saw a possibility, that if people did not seriously change, something catastrophic would happen, just as God told the people of Nineveh through Jonah. Through the preaching of Jonah, the people of Nineveh did change and nothing happened, because there was a change of life, and therefore, a change of outcome. The accumulated consequences and the worsening sins of the people of Nineveh, didn’t catch up with them. At Fatima, Our Lady wanted to reach out to her children as loving Mother.
(REPOST from June 2017)
The first time I went to Fatima, and this has never happened since, I walked into the square. When it is cold outside and when you go into a house as you open the door, a wave of heat just comes over you. When I walked into the square, a wave of Mary’s motherly love came over me, and it almost brought me to tears. It took my breath away. I felt the affectionate care of a mother. I’ve had a wonderful mother, and my upbringing helps me easily relate to Mary by nature. But what is so beautiful about God’s redemption is that He brings good out of everything.
Whether we’ve had difficulty with our relationships with our mother or our father, God can fill in the voids in our life – the absence, the neglect, whether through divorce, death, separation – God can fill those gaps with His love as Father, and His love as mother coming to us through Mary. As an instrument of God’s love for us, Mary helps us to know the maternal affection in a spiritual way that is specific for a woman to give. It is uniquely her, but it points to the divine.
Mary is at the heart of salvation history, biblically, and in our own time. We can understand this biblically through the lens of the simple word, ‘Woman,’ with a capital W. When Jesus uses that term, he uses it to identify Mary as the New Eve, just as Saint Paul identifies Jesus as the new Adam. What does this mean? A new humanity. God is starting over. He is giving us a way to be healed, to be set free, to be made new, through the New Adam and the New Eve, by baptism, through His life, death, and resurrection. We become regenerated, born again, receiving a new life and identity. As Saint Thomas Aquinas says, our dignity becomes super-elevated to share in God’s divine nature. We’re given a new destiny.
Jesus uses the term ‘Woman’ at very important moments – at the wedding feast at Cana, when we see the intercession of Mary among the disciples; we see that amidst this family celebration of love, at a moment of crisis, amidst this feast, was a dilemma. The disciples, in their dilemma, went first to Jesus’ mother and whispered their need to her. She simply made that need known to her Son and Jesus replies, ‘Woman, what does that have to do with me?’ This event is poorly translated in English and unfortunately, many Protestants poorly misinterpret Christ’s words as a sign of disrespect to Mary, almost as if Jesus or John the Evangelist foresaw that Catholics would one day “worship” Mary and this is the biblical proof, when only the Bible alone has authority, 1500 years later. That is an absolutely false theology.
Jesus doesn’t say “Woman” as a show of disrespect but as a show of exalted honor. In so doing, He says, ‘Mother, you are the New Eve. You are going to share with me in this mission, and if I manifest my divine identity, if I let who I am out by this miracle, then Calvary is just around the corner. It’s going to go down! Get on the roller coaster, and put on your seat belt, because the moment this miracle happens, it will all start. Are you ready for this?’ He says, ‘My hour has not yet come! The moment that I was born for, to give my life to save the world, the moment I manifest the miracle, that hour will be upon us. The enemy is going to be looming, and you’re going to be there with me. Are you ready?’
And He performed the miracle. What does Our Lady do? She nonchalantly returns to the disciples, not wanting the limelight, and very humbly, modestly asks them, ‘Do whatever He tells you. If you know what’s for your own good, if you know what’s in your best self-interests, if you want to spare yourself unnecessary suffering, if you want the recipe for sanctity, if you want happiness – do whatever He tells you.’
Sister Lucia, the only surviving visionary of the three Fatima children, and who later became a Carmelite nun, in her book, The Call to Fatima, says that ‘Do whatever He tells you’ is Mary’s only commandment. Her only commandment is seen in Cana. ‘Listen to Him,’ just as the Father said at the Baptism and the Transfiguration. Listen means obey, which means submit – in submission. Enter into His Mission for your life. That is the model of Mary’s vocation. She leads us to obedience and to a life of allegiance to Jesus. Her only desire is that we lead a life in allegiance to Jesus, not allegiance to her.