Book of the First Monks

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The Book of the First Monks (Latin : Decem Libri – Liber de Institutione Primorum Monacharum) [1] is a medieval Catholic book in the contemplative and eremetic tradition of the Carmelite Order, thought to reflect the spirituality of the Prophet Elijah, honored as the Father of the Order.

Hermit person who lives in seclusion from society

A hermit is a person who lives in seclusion from society, usually for religious reasons. Hermits are a part of several sections of Christianity, and the concept is found in other religions as well. Billionaire Howard Hughes is considered to be one of the most noteworthy examples of a public figure becoming a hermit.

Elijah Biblical prophet

Elijah or latinized form Elias was, according to the Books of Kings in the Hebrew Bible, a prophet and a miracle worker who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of King Ahab. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah defended the worship of the Hebrew God over that of the Canaanite deity Baal. God also performed many miracles through Elijah, including resurrection, bringing fire down from the sky, and entering Heaven alive "by fire". He is also portrayed as leading a school of prophets known as "the sons of the prophets". Following his ascension, Elisha, his disciple and most devoted assistant took over his role as leader of this school. The Book of Malachi prophesies Elijah's return "before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD", making him a harbinger of the Messiah and of the eschaton in various faiths that revere the Hebrew Bible. References to Elijah appear in Ecclesiasticus, the New Testament, the Mishnah and Talmud, the Quran, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and Bahá'í writings.

Contents

Overview

The book is one of the most important documents of the Order because it influenced many of the Carmelite Saints according to the spirituality of the first Carmelite hermits. Some medieval Carmelites thought it antedated the Carmelite Rule of St. Albert, although this is disputed due to a lack of evidence. It is this dispute that has caused this manuscript to be questioned today.[ citation needed ]

Imitation of the Prophet Elijah

The original charism of the Carmelite hermits, which still animates the spirituality of many contemporary Carmelites and the cloistered contemplative life of other hermits, monks, and nuns, was in imitation of the Prophet Elijah. Carmelite tradition relates that Elijah inspired the early hermits who settled near the spring on Mount Carmel, Palestine which bear's Elijah's name. Most often quoted from the Book of the First Monks is the following passage in which Elijah is named as the spiritual father of the Order:

Mount Carmel Mountain in Israel

Mount Carmel (Hebrew: הַר הַכַּרְמֶל, Har HaKarmelISO 259-3Har ha Karmell; Arabic: الكرمل‎, Al-Karmil, or Arabic: جبل مار إلياس‎, Jabal Mar Elyas is a coastal mountain range in northern Israel stretching from the Mediterranean Sea towards the southeast. The range is a UNESCO biosphere reserve. A number of towns are situated there, most notably the city of Haifa, Israel's third largest city, located on the northern slope.

Palestine (region) geographical region in the Middle East

Palestine is a geographic region in Western Asia usually considered to include Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and in some definitions, some parts of western Jordan.

The goal of this life is twofold. One part we acquire, with the help of divine grace, through our efforts and virtuous works. This is to offer God a pure heart, free from all stain of actual sin. We do this when we are perfect and in Cherith, that is, hidden in that charity of which the Wise Man says: "Charity covers all sins " [Proverbs, 10: 12]. God desired Elijah to advance thus far when [H]e said to him: "Hide yourself by the brook Cherith" [First Kings, 17: 3-4].

The other part of the goal of this life is granted us as the free gift of God: namely, to taste somewhat in the heart and to experience in the soul, not only after death but even in this mortal life, the intensity of the divine [P]resence and the sweetness of the glory of [H]eaven. This is to drink of the torrent of the love of God. God promised it to Elijah in the words: "You shall drink from the brook." It is in view of this double end that the monk ought to give himself to the eremitic and prophetic life. [2]

The book also gives one of the oldest explanations of the Carmelite habit and what each part of the habit signified.

Influence on Carmelites

Exemplars of the contemplative and mystical spirituality described in the book include the Discalced Carmelite Sts. Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, and also the Polish Catholic layman Jan Tyranowski who guided Pope John Paul II in his young adulthood.

Christian mysticism development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity

Christian mysticism refers to the development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity. Mysticism is not so much a doctrine as a method of thought. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity.

John of the Cross Spanish mystic and Roman Catholic saint

John of the Cross was a major figure of the Counter-Reformation, a Spanish mystic, a Roman Catholic saint, a Carmelite friar and a priest, who was born at Fontiveros, Old Castile.

Thérèse of Lisieux 19th-century French Discalced Carmelite nun and saint

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, born Marie Françoise-Thérèse Martin, also known as Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, O.C.D., was a French Catholic Discalced Carmelite nun who is widely venerated in modern times. She is popularly known as "The Little Flower of Jesus", or simply "The Little Flower".

See also

Related Research Articles

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Simon Stock British hermit

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Raphael Kalinowski Polish Discalced Carmelite friar and saint

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Berthold of Calabria was a Norman French crusader who established a hermit colony on Mount Carmel in 1185. He was introduced into Carmelite literature around the 15th century as Saint Berthold of Mount Carmel and is said to have been a general of the Order before Brocard.

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The Constitutions of the Carmelite Order stand as an expression of the ideals and spirit of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Foundational sources for the Constitutions include the desert hermit vocation as exemplified in the life of the Prophet Elijah. For the Carmelite the contemplative vocation is exemplified par excellence in the life of the Virgin Mary, beloved to the Order under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Additionally, the Carmelite Rule of St. Albert and the Book of the First Monks comprise fundamental points of reference in the life and spirituality of the Order.

The Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, officially Ordo Carmelitarum Discalceatorum Saecularis (OCDS), and formerly the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and of the Holy Mother Saint Teresa of Jesus, is a religious association of the Roman Catholic Church composed primarily of lay persons and also accepted secular clergy.

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Francisco Palau Beatified Spanish Discalced Carmelite friar and priest

Francisco Palau y Quer, O.C.D., was a Catalan Discalced Carmelite friar and priest. Growing up in the chaos of the Peninsular War in Spain, he followed both the life of a hermit and of a missionary preacher in the rural regions of Catalonia. He founded the School of Virtue—which was a model of catechetical teaching for adults—in Barcelona. In 1860 he founded a mixed Congregation of Third Order of Discalced Carmelites, including both Brothers and Sisters, in the Balearic Islands. The legacy of this foundation is carried on by two religious congregations of women who serve throughout the world.

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The Hermits of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel is a branch of the religious Carmelite Order of the Ancient Observance, who originated as hermit monks and have been mendicant friars since the 13th century. The male Carmelites of this branch of the Order are not considered monastics as the cloistered Carmelite nuns are. However, Carmelite Hermits are new and separate communities of men and women living an enclosed life, inspired by the ancient Carmelite monastic life, under the authority of the Prior General of Carmelite Order (O.Carm.). Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the principal patroness of this type of Carmelite communities.

John of St. Samson

Servant of God John of St. Samson (1571–1636), also known as Jean du Moulin or Jean de Saint-Samson, was a French Carmelite friar and mystic of the Catholic Church. He is known as the soul of the Touraine Reform of the Carmelite Order, which stressed prayer, silence and solitude. John was blind from the age of three after contracting smallpox and receiving poor medical treatment for the disease. He insisted very strongly on the mystical devotion of the Carmelites. He has been referred to as the "French John of the Cross" by students of Christian mysticism.

References

  1. The Order's History of Discalced Carmelites
  2. From the Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, translated by Rev. Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Rev. Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, revised edition, copyright 1991 ICS Publications. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, if this copyright notice is included.