History of Carmel

elijah.jpgMount Carmel the Holy Mountain

Located in Haifa, Israel this Mountain of God rises out of the edge of the blue Mediterranean sea and was the home of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Mt. Carmel is a place of prayer and communion with God.

It was the place of seclusion for early Christian monks who lived and prayed in its caves and their that the fathers of the desert spent their lives in contemplation.  These desert monks viewed Elijah as the father of their monasticism as it was Elijah who in the ninth century B.C., defeated the prophets of Baal on the mountain and established the worship of Yahweh, the God of Israel there.

In Hebrew CARMEL translates into the word GARDEN. The symbolism of the garden expresses not only the fertile richness of the natural terrain, but also refers to the grace and holiness bestowed upon the many souls who dedicated themselves to God on its mystical summit.  

The desert garden is not only a place of silence, but it also is a place of struggle.  It is in this land of Mount Carmel where we prepare our hearts and minds to listen to the voice of the soul. Persistently we seek Him in prayer. As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.  My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God? [Psalm 43 ]

Origins of Carmel

"The order of Carmel ranks among the oldest religious orders.  It is moreover one of the severest orders of the church. The time of the nuns is entirely taken up by prayer study and good works and the life of contemplation. From its earliest days the order of Mary for Carmel is in an especial manner the order of the Queen of Heaven has produced men and women eminent for their sanctity It has always remained dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and glories in wearing her scapular and calling itself her order. 

There is a beautiful tradition recorded in the office of Our Lady of Mount Carmel July 16 according to which some of the inhabitants of the holy mountain having come down to Jerusalem at the time of the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles made the acquaintance of the mother of God were converted to Christianity and returning to their solitude erected the first chapel in her honor. The order of Carmel has ever since been the order of Mary. But like all human institutions, it had its period of decadence. In the terrible schism that afflicted the church in the fifteenth century Carmel with the other religious orders went through its period of relaxation so that its rule was finally mitigated. From this period until St. Teresa (of Jesus') time there was always a marked tendency in the order to bring it back to its primitive fervor." [1]

"The Rule is designed to teach us to interiorize the elementary realities of life in such a way that they become the mystical space in which God can give God.  The Carmelite Rule viewed as a spiritual way is central to our interpretation." [2]

"These efforts were partially successful but it was reserved to Avila's great saint to bring about a complete reformation of Carmel's beautiful order. If ever there was a noble soul in God's church it was certainly that of the incomparable St. Teresa. She a poor weak woman did what chapters had tried in vain to accomplish. Assisted by St. John of the Cross she accomplished a complete reform both in the male and female branches of the order of Carmel. Since the day when St. Teresa laid the foundation of the monastery of St. Joseph's at Avila the order has gone on increasing and exists today in all its ancient fervor." [3]


[1] Address upon the order of Mt. Carmel and the centenary of the Carmelite nuns ... By Charles Warren Currier
[2] The mystical space of Carmel: a commentary on the Carmelite rule By Kees Waaijman, John Vriend
[3] Address upon the order of Mt. Carmel and the centenary of the Carmelite nuns ... By Charles Warren Currier