In my last post I shared a little bit about Mt. Carmel in Israel and how it became the birthplace for a new religious order in the Church, the Carmelites. This community continues to attract young people who yearn to commit themselves completely to the Lord.
While all of us must seek to renew our devotion to the Lord every day so that He is first in our lives, there are some who have dedicated themselves to the Lord in a special way, and they join communities like the Carmelites. Carmelites, like other religious communities bind themselves to Jesus by renouncing all earthly goods, even marriage, for his sake. In the tradition of the Church, when a woman does this through religious consecration, she makes of herself, in a certain sense, a Bride of Christ - a living icon of the Church. Although there are many generous young people who make this kind of offering of their lives to the Lord, one woman who did this in the late 19th Century was Elisabeth of the Trinity as a Carmelite nun. In her own reflection about the kind of commitment she aspired to, she reveals an attitude of heart we should all have. I have recently translated a personal note she wrote for herself known as PN 13, "To Be a Bride of Christ:"
To be the Bride of Christ -
Not merely an expression of the sweetest of dreams, this is a divine reality. This above everything else expresses a mystery of likeness and union. On the morning of our consecration, the Church gives us this name: Come, Bride of Christ!
This life must be lived as Bride: "Bride" fully presents love given and received - an intimate, faithful, absolutely devoted love! ...To be bride, this is to be surrendered as He is surrenderred; to be immolated as is He, through Him and for his sake. This is Christ making himself completely ours, we becoming entirely his own.
To be Bride is to have every right over his heart... This is a life long heart to heart... living with... always with ... to rest entirely in Him, and to permit Him to rest entirely in our soul!
To be Bride means knowing more and more how to love: to love in adoration, to love in reparation, to love in prayer, to love in asking, in forgetting oneself; to love always in everything!
To be Bride means keeping one's eyes in His eyes, Him haunting every thought, one's heart completely captured and entirely enveloped by Him. To be Bride is to be totally outside oneself and passed into Him. The soul is filled with his soul and with his prayer, wholly captivated and given to him.
This means, while always fixating one's gaze on Him, to notice the least sign and the least desire. It means entering into all his joys and sharing in all his sorrows. It means being fruitful, a co-redeemer, bringing souls to birth in grace, multiplying the adopted children of the Father, the redeemed of Christ, the co-heirs of his glory.
To be Bride, a Bride of Carmel, is to have the burning heart of Elijah, the transpierced heart of Teresa of Avila, his true Bride because of her zeal for his honor.
Finally, to be taken as His Bride, His mystical Bride, is to have ravished His Heart to the point of forgetting all distance, the Word overflows in the soul with the same infinite ecstacy of love which He has within the Father. Here, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit invade the soul, deifying it, and consuming it in the One by love. This is marriage, a fixed state, because this is an indissoluble union of wills and of hearts. And God said: Let us make for Him a companion like Himself, the two shall be made one.