|St. John the Baptist|
|Carmelite Scapular Medal showing Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Sacred Heart|
'Exponents of Carmelite spirituality tell us that ‘the Carmelite tradition begins in searching hearts ..and they speak of the relationship between Carmelites and Jesus Christ as Seasons of the Heart. The dynamic at the root of the Carmelite quest is a longing for God deep in the heart. The Carmelite journey is a pilgrimage to the heart of God whom we eventually discover has been dwelling deep within our own hearts all the time. It is therefore not surprising that Carmelites have often given prominent place to the notion of ‘the heart’, including the Sacred Heart of Jesus…… Devotion to the Sacred Heart is therefore especially appropriate for the Carmelite, because it encourages us to reflect on Jesus in his humanity. In the years following Teresa’s reform of the Order, her sisters in France further developed devotion to the Sacred Heart, notably Venerable Mother Madeleine of Saint-Joseph (1578-1637), Blessed Marie of the Incarnation (Madame Acarie, 1566-1618), and her daughter the Venerable Marguerite of the Blessed Sacrament (1619-48). To these, and later Carmelites, the word ‘heart’ awakens an image of that vital organ which throbs within us. We know that it sustains our physical existence, but we also speak of the heart as that place deep within that gives rise to our emotions and desires. We talk about giving our heart to someone or something, we speak of opening our heart to others, and we are afraid of having a broken heart. We know from John’s account of the Gospel that Jesus’ heart was broken, but devotion to the Sacred Heart is not only about Christ’s anatomy but rather about the emotions and feelings he has for us: tenderness, forgiveness, and love….. In the Carmelite tradition we revere Mary as the woman of pure heart, a title ascribed to her since the Middle Ages. Like her we are meant to cultivate detachment so that we enjoy purity of heart (puritas cordis), given over to the one true God and not distracted by false idols. With her we strive to serve Jesus ‘faithfully from a pure heart and a good conscience’ (Rule of Saint Albert, Ch. 2)…… In recent years other Carmelite nuns have placed their confidence in the heart of Jesus that loves us even in our feebleness. Congregations have been founded within the Carmelite Family that take their name from devotion to the Sacred Heart, such as the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart, and the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus. By forming praying communities at the service of God’s people, such Carmelites cultivate hearts open to those around them.'
So there is much to discover about the Sacred Heart from the perspective of the Carmelite tradition! Prof. John Welch O. Carm has written an inspiring account of what Carmelites understand by 'Seasons of the Heart', you can read it HERE. I am currently reading his book The Carmelite Way, (HERE ) which is very good introduction to the tradition and some of the saints who have inspired this 800 year old religious community.
And the connections with Teilhard are also quite interesting. The first is that Teilhard wrote a piece (Hymn to Matter ) about Elias/ Elijah being taken up to heaven which I blogged about some time ago. Go HERE The second connection is that ' The Mystical Milieu', written in 1917 shows clear signs of being influenced by St Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle. And the third is that, as de Lubac notes, Teilhard thought of St John of the Cross and St Francis as amongst 'the most authoritative representatives' of a 'cosmic' sense in Christianity! (The Religion of Teilhard de Chardin., p143) So, the fact that our icon - inspired by Teilhard - provides us with a window into the Carmelite tradition of the heart is a real joy.
Finally, an interesting footnote and connection. When Ian was trying to explain the difference as between an icon and other forms of religious image he suggested I compare Bernini's 'The Ecstacy of St. Teresa and an icon of Elias (above, left ) from St. Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai! See HERE!
St Teresa gave this account of her experience as depicted in Bernini's sculpture (left):