The hermits of Carmel lived as sons of the great prophet and as “brothers of the Blessed Virgin.”
St. Berthold organized them as cenobites, and at the instigation of St. Brocard, the spirit they had received from their predecessors was laid down in our holy Rule. Around 1200, it was given to the Order by St. Albert, the patriarch of Jerusalem, and authorized by Pope Innocent IV in 1247.
It also condenses the entire meaning of our life in a short statement: “All are to remain in their own cells…, meditating on the Law of the Lord day and night and watching in prayer, unless otherwise justly employed” [cf. Rule, 10].
“To watch in prayer”—this is to say the same thing that Elijah said with the words, “to stand before the face of God” [cf. 1 Kgs 18:15].
“Prayer is looking up into the face of the Eternal.” #StEdithSteinTweet
Prayer is looking up into the face of the Eternal. We can do this only when the spirit is awake in its innermost depths, freed from all earthly occupations and pleasures that numb it.
Being awake in body does not guarantee this consciousness, nor does the rest required by nature interfere. “To meditate on the Law of the Lord”—this can be a form of prayer when we take prayer in its usual broad sense.
But if we think of “watching in prayer” as being immersed in God, which is characteristic of contemplation, then meditation on the Law is only a means to contemplation.
Saint Edith Stein
On the history and the spirit of Carmel
Augsburger Postzeitung, 31 March 1935
Stein, E. 2014, The Hidden Life: hagiographic essays, meditations, spiritual texts, translated from the German by Stein, W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Featured image: A Discalced Carmelite nun prays the rosary as she walks in her cloister. Image credit: Discalced Carmelites
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