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Resurrection liturgy and spirituality In the tradition of the Carmelite Order

Dr. Arie G. Kallenberg

For the first centuries of their existence, the Carmelites devoted much attention to the Resurrection of the Lord. The daily encounter with the Risen Lord must certainly have influenced their spirituality. The constant confrontation in the liturgy with the Resurrection of the Lord,

via Votive Masses and liturgical celebrations throughout the entire year, culminating in the Solemn Commemoration of the Resurrection on the last Sunday before Advent, left no room for the idea of a static Resurrection, reported to have occurred centuries before in history. On the contrary, the dynamic encounter with the ever-Risen One was thrust upon those who celebrated the Carmelite liturgy, for Christ constantly makes Himself present in the liturgy, and He offers a daily opportunity to rise again with Himself from the lethargy of death, and even from the incapacity to rise.

Throughout the centuries, many Carmelites penetrate into the essence and spirituality of the Resurrection Liturgy. From the Reform of Touraine, a sixteenth century reform movement which inspired new life in the Order, two mystical authors are known who occupied themselves with the Resurrection Liturgy and Carmelite Spirituality. One of them was the blind friar, John of Saint Samson (1571–1636), who wrote a mystical poem about the Holy Sepulchre. The poem is a dialogue between Mary Magdalene and the empty tomb, and John’s message is that the soul, in order to possess the Supreme Beatitude, must bury herself alive in that tomb and live there dying[i].

Another mystical author from the same era, Maur of the Child Jesus († 1690), was also a Carmelite of the Reform of Touraine. In his mystical writings, he affirms that the highest degree of mystical union with God which a soul can reach in this life is the state of Resurrected Life in Jesus. These are only some examples of the influence of the Resurrection Liturgy on the spirituality of the Carmelites. Within the Order there is much interest in this theme; the last two international Carmelite Seminars, held in Rome, treated this topic extensively. In the context of this short article, it is not possible to examine the subject thoroughly.


[i]              My Soul, in this Tomb you must collect forces

               in order to hide yourself from human beings

               and from yourself;

               you must bury yourself alive and live there dying

               in order to possess the Supreme Beatitude.

As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. 

All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister."