Following Mary’s example, the contemplative is a person centred in God. (VDQ 10)

Carmelites in the Middle East

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           As Carmelites in the Holy Land (Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Haifa and Nazareth) from Egypt (The Fayoum) and Syria (Aleppo), we are called to live our vocation in Carmel in a very precise land; a land  of Revelation and Incarnation. To be true to this call in the Middle East of today, we must of necessity deepen our sense of mission. 

 

         It is helpful to be reminded of the question that the Lord asked the prophet Elijah in the cave: "Why are you here?”

         We are committed to addressing the challenges facing our communities in this region, as well as the challenges facing Christians throughout the Middle East. Indeed, we do not want (nor should) remain foreign to the countries that welcome us. Our communities are inseparable in their vocation from the area of the Middle East. It is not a question of a geographical location first, but of a spiritual reality that each of us lives in the intimacy of his search for union with God. How can I seek sanctity here in a Holy Land where the Lord can relive all his mystery? We have to let ourselves be transformed more and more by the grace of the Incarnation, to let ourselves be pierced by the Lord's Cross, taking to heart the sufferings, the divisions among the peoples in this part of the world.

         We gain much benefit in examining this dimension of our vocation: why have we been called to live the Carmelite ideal here and now? For the Carmelites of the Holy Land, our life of prayer relies authentically on our concrete life in this Diocese of Jerusalem with its global, interfaith and ecumenical dimensions, and this is valid also for Egypt and Syria. It’s useful from time to time to explore on our way of living and to understand the cultures of others or “inculturation”. We can share beautiful stories about our Christian presence among the Jewish people and Muslims. If we may get to know them, at least for our neighborhood or other local contacts, they may feel the good testimony of the Christians, the "baraka", "those who bless".

          It involves us in our community life: on one hand, we cannot disengage, withdraw to ourselves and our internal problems, on the other hand we have to witness, to radiate the presence of Christ who whom we have been gathered together to live with Him and in Him. Even, if our statement is silent. There is a prophetic dimension to Carmel in the Middle East that we must not lose sight of, but rather enforce. It’s not therefore extraordinary, for example, to be faithful to our hours of mental prayer, an hour in the morning and evening: it is "our work" and the pilgrims or visitors understand this. It can also be a detachment from objects or responsibilities, so to let Christ shine. And yes, there are enough walls, rather, we want to nourish our relationships within this society in which we have been accepted! Our fidelity to the prayerful meditation of the Word of God must take on a particular importance in our following of Christ on the Earth of the Word.

         The contacts between Carmelites of the Middle East allow us to help each other in our vocational situations, to look for ways to establish a reciprocal exchange of ideas. We can then better respond to our huge mission: "the fate of humanity is decided in the praying hearts and the raised arms of the contemplatives" and in the fate of the Church in medio Oriente ...

 

[1] Const. Vultum Dei Quaerere n°17

 

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