Discalced Carmelite Spirituality
Discalced Carmelite Spirituality
Discalced Carmelite Spirituality is in a great part built on the original spirit of the Order. This branch is now know as the Calced Carmelites with O. Carm after their names. We on the other hand have OCD. St Teresa is mostly responsible for going back to the origins, as she thought, and reforming the Order. The Calced Carmelites had had mitigations to the Rule over time because of the change in circumstances. She wanted to go back to a more simplified way of life, lived in community but with silence and solitude to encourage prayer. The work was to be prayer for the world in its needs and for individual instances.
The passage inserted here has been taken from the site of the Generalate in Rome.
Teresa of Jesus as foundress set a type of imprint on the Order, especially in the terms of silent prayer and mysticism.
She recognized a Presence in her life that lovingly encompassed her in her friendship’s quest. After many unsuccessful years battling to «harmonize these two contraries» God and the world, she confidently abandoned herself into the arms of Christ. And, from that moment, God would take the helm of her life and embark her on a fascinating voyage heading for the «seventh dwellings.» Teresian spirituality springs from this experience.
With her life and writings, Teresa wanted to communicate how that God was, who had gone out to encounter her and gifted himself to her without measure. She had seen for herself that He desires nothing else than to give himself to the one who wants to receive him. God invites the person to enter within, where He dwells. Such is the «great beauty and dignity of the soul,» created in the image and likeness of God and capable of establishing friendship with him. God gives himself completely, not because the human being has garnered merits, but because He wants to reveal himself and elicit a response of self-giving. Teresa says that God «gilds faults» and draws the greatest share from the good that is in each one.
Teresa experienced that a person can live dragged along by his instinctual forces and be ignorant of his own identity and destiny. From this starting point, the spiritual process is for her a liberation from everything that dismembers the person interiorly and separates him from his goal: transforming union with Christ, spiritual marriage.
Prayer is the door to enter into this dynamic, which has as its only requirement a «determined determination.» As the fruit of this encounter in friendship, humility grows by the illumination of truths in the soul: who God is, who the person is, the little which the person can do of his own effort and how much he receives. The key to advance along this path is to accept what God offers as one who is poor and to respond to his grace with generous self-surrender.
When divine love caresses a soul, the soul can no longer measure its life according to the completion of precepts and rites, but instead according to the love with which it responds to so many gifts received. For that reason, this experience sets in motion a transformation of the self at its root, in order to accommodate it to a friendship of ever-increasing depth with God and its brethren.
Teresa experienced great desires for beatitude and freedom. She observed that the human being has in his interior an emptiness that nothing and no one can fill, only God. However, he persists in filling it with what leaves him hungrier. Neither things nor people, but the attitude taken towards them, is what entraps life into a spiral of slaveries. The person needs to eviscerate the world’s lie which he carries within, because «everything that comes to an end is nothing» and «God alone suffices.» When the soul has seen the grandeurs of God, it does not feel the weight of any work of detachment that helps it unburden itself in order to fly to him; to «walk in truth» and nakedness in order to be able to be free at last.
Christ is the center of Teresian spirituality. His Humanity healed Teresa affectively and introduced her into the mystery of the Trinitarian God, a communion of love. From the radical choice she made for him sprang the desire to please him in everything. And, since love of God and love of neighbor is the same, service to others is what validates the act of following after the One who «never looked out for himself.» Teresa proposes a journey of faith lived in community: A group of friends of Jesus in which each one is another Christ for the others, out of love becoming a «slave of God and of everyone.» That is, forgetting self and thinking of the good of the other before oneself. Love that infuses the little things of every day, because God does not look upon the greatness of works but upon the love with which they are done.
Today we take this insight of St Teresa’s and in the modern world we strive to follow her example, and the example of other saints of our order. We also look to Elijah, the Old Testament prophet, who originally gave the Order the inspiration of living a life of silence and solitude. Today we have so much that can take us out of this which were never known by St Teresa and other Carmelite saints. The need to go out of the enclosure to doctors, dentists and the like, they used to come to the communities. The ease with which we can contact people all over the world by internet, phone and numerous other means. We can struggle to find the balance between necessary things and the temptation to go a bit further for personal pleasure. We can struggle to find a balance between work to keep the community in funds and the necessary call to prayer and quietness. But despite this the call is there and to the best of our abilities we follow it.
Despite the knowledge and the structures and the spiritual exercises, religious life is a step into the unknown with God having the only map.