Sunday, July 16, 2006

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Because it falls on Sunday this year, the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel isn't celebrated in the liturgy. But here is a reflection on the scapular that I wrote a couple years ago for our FSP website:

Today’s feast, commonly associated with the scapular, can help us reflect on the Biblical theme concerning garments of salvation. The German word for scapular, “Gnadenkleid,” literally means “grace-garment.” Many references to garments and clothes are scattered throughout the Bible, beginning in Genesis: “And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them” (Gen 3:21). After their sin, our first parents lost their innocence and needed to be clothed. This tender action can perhaps be seen as symbolizing the garments of grace that God would bestow through Jesus Christ.

Pure and clean garments came to symbolize grace and salvation, as the prophet Isaiah sang:

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,

my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)

This text is used in the Liturgy of the Hours for the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Garments signify the gifts of grace that God adorns us with inwardly.

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, uses the theme of white garments to express the holiness of the saints, of those who have been through great trials and held fast to their faith: “Yet you still have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels” (Rev 3:4–5).

Perhaps today the scapular devotion is not as popular as it once was. But Catholicism, as a sacramental religion, uses such material symbols as signs of the deeper underlying inner reality of grace. The scapular is not meant to be something superstitious, like a talisman or a good luck charm. Wearing it expresses in a silent yet eloquent way our love for Mary and our confidence in her intercession and help.


The following prayer, called Flower of Carmel, is attributed to St. Simon Stock:

O Beautiful Flower of Carmel, most fruitful vine, splendor of heaven, holy and singular, who brought forth the Son of God, still ever remaining a pure virgin, assist us in our necessity! O Star of the Sea, help and protect us! Show us that you are our Mother! Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us!


Tiber Jumper said...

Dear Sister:
Thanks for that beautiful explanation of the scapular devotion. I am a recent convert/revert to Catholicism after 31 yrs of evangelicalism. The Sacramental nature of Catholicism and the use of sacramentals was sorely lacking in my experience of protestantism. everything was so imagined and in your mind, existential. Catholicism is real right in your face, oils, incense, water, wine to blood, bread to flesh!
We visited a carmelite monastery yesterday for Mass not even knowing ahead of time that it was the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel! What a treat!
Thanks sister for your love for Jesus and your dedication to the Holy Father as well,

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thank you, Tiber Jumper, for your beautiful reflection. It's always wonderful to hear about Catholics who return to the Church. I feel so happy to read about people who have rediscovered what a treasure we Catholics have and want to share with everyone.