By Nora V. Clemente Arnaldo
Carmel, according to Fr. Manny Duetao in his book "Marian Feasts", is the Hebrew Karem-el, a garden and vine of God. Geographically, it is around twenty miles from Nazareth, on the border between Samaria and Galilee. A beautiful promontory in Israel facing the Mediterranean Sea, it is rich in vegetation. It was in this mountain that one of the greatest events of the Old Testament took place around the ninth century B.C.
The dramatic confrontation between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal which took place in Mount Carmel is found in the Book of Kings. Ahab, King of Israel then, married Jezebel who brought new gods into Israel and killed all the prophets of the Lord she could find. The only prophet left was Elijah.
One day, Elijah went to King Ahab and warned him "there will be no rain or dew here until I call for it." And he walked away and disappeared. True enough, for three years there was no rain - the Israelites were being punished for their idolatry. Elijah's mission according to John Haffert's "Her Glorious Title" was to banish idolatry and show to the Israelites that Yahweh is indeed the true and omnipotent God. Elijah told King Ahab to gather the people of Israel on Mount Carmel. There he proposed a contest between him alone and the 450 pagan priests. They would erect an altar and place a sacrifice - a bullock cut into pieces - upon it and pray to their respective gods to send fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. Whoever would answer with fire to consume the sacrifice -the gods of the pagans (Baa1 or Asherah) or Yahweh of Elijah-was truly true God.
Readers of the Bible of course know that Elijah won in this dramatic confrontation. Despite hours of praying, the priests of Baal were not rewarded with fire while after only a single earnest prayer from Elijah, Yahweh answered with a blistering fire. Thus, the people of Israel fell on their knees crying "Yahweh is God."
The Book of Kings goes on to say that, after the fire consumed the sacrifice of Elijah, the rains came heralded by a little cloud rising out of the sea beneath Mount Carmel. The divine punishment of three and a half years of drought ended.
John Haffert reveals that Fathers and Doctors of the church have interpreted the foot-shaped cloud rising from the sea at the foot of Mount Carmel as a "symbol of the Immaculate rising pure out of the sea of human kind to bring forth the savior of the world, crushing the head of the serpent beneath the heel and bringing the saving rain of grace" (Genesis 3:15).
The Dictionary of Mary likewise states:
In this little cloud carrying the rain of benediction we see a symbol of Mary, Mother of Christ the Savior. Already in the fifth century, Chrysippus of Jerusalem greets the Blessed Virgin as 'Hail, Cloud of Rain that offers drink to the souls of the Saints’.
After the great event at Mount Carmel, holy Elijah and his followers were believed to have mystically dedicated themselves to God's mother-to come: Mary, Queen of Mount Carmel and Star of the Sea. Nearly 3,000 years later, that tradition of prayer, contemplation and devotion to Mary continued to prevail in the Church through the "hermits/brothers of St. Mary". On the day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, it is said that the spiritual descendants of Elijah were baptized by the Apostles and they were presented to Our Lady. When they returned to their holy mountain, they erected the first chapel ever built in honor of the Blessed Virgin. From that time on, devotion to God's mother was handed down by the hermits of Mount Carmel as a "treasured spiritual legacy."
Corroborating Haffert, the Dictionary of Mary tells of a book for pilgrims, written about 1220, which states: On Mount Carmel there is a delightful spot, the residence of the Latin hermits called Brothers of Carmel. There is a small church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin". It is thus that Mount Carmel, the place where Elijah won a great battle for Yahweh, had become a place of veneration for Mary.
In AD 1241 (as per account of John Haffert) when Baron de Grey of England was returning from the Crusades in Palestine, he brought with him a group of religious from the holy mountain of Carmel. Upon their arrival in England, they established the first foundation of the Brothers of Mary, which St. Simon Stock joined. St. Simon was later elected Superior General of the Carmelite order. Fr. Duetao writes that the brown scapular was given to St. Simon in a moment of great stress for the Carmelite order. St. Simon, being a holy, prayerful man, begged the Blessed Mother for special protection for the order. On July 16, 1251, as he was praying "Flos Carmeli" (Flower of Mount Carmel), the prayer he composed for the Blessed Mother, the glorious Virgin Mary appeared to him, accompanied by a multitude of angels. Holding the brown scapular in her hands, Our Lady of Mount Carmel handed it to St. Simon Stock and said:
Wear the brown scapular devoutly and perseveringly. It is my garment. To be clothed in it means you are continuously thinking of me and I in turn am always thinking of you. Whoever dies wearing it shall not suffer eternal fire.
Since then the brown scapular has become a widespread devotion and several popes have richly endowed it with indulgences.
By wearing the brown scapular, we profess that we want Mary as our Mother in a special way. The brown scapular is also a shield from the devils as "they are tormented by it" according to Venerable Juan Yepes, the brother of St. John of the Cross. The devils told Juan that there are three things that torment them: the name of Jesus, the name of Mary, and the brown scapular. The brown scapular identifies us in a special way with Mary. It puts us at the foot of Mount Carmel which we have to "ascend" in our struggle for holiness. How do we "ascend"?
By doing little things with love; praying the Rosary daily and paying attention to the mysteries; making holy each act of the day; accepting all from God with love. There's also a privilege attached to the brown scapular, the "Sabbatine or Saturday privilege". St. John of the Cross praised God that he should die on a Saturday, the day of the special brown scapular privilege. Literally, this privilege means that we shall be "saints" by the time we die.
On the last apparition of Our Lady in Fatima on October 13, 1917, after the miracle of the dancing sun, the Blessed Mother appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding out the brown scapular in the sky because, according to Sister Lucia, one of the visionaries of Fatima, "She wants everyone to wear it. It's a sign of consecration to her Immaculate Heart."
She also said that "the Rosary and the brown scapular are inseparable. In the Rosary we speak to our Lady and the brown scapular makes Our Lady real to us". In conclusion, we highlight the touching words of the late beloved Pope John Paul II who in his earlier years was a member of the Tertiary Order of Carmel:
Through the brown scapular, those devoted to Our Lady of Mount Carmel express their desire - to pattern their existence on the example of Mary… to accept God's Word with a purified heart, and to devote themselves to the zealous service of others.
The Second Coming of Christ will take place in your lifetime.
According to this book which contains a series of incredible messages and prophecies to an Irish seer, our present generation will witness the Second Coming of Christ.
Click here to read a book review that summarises the key messages of the book.
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