Secrets Of The Mount: The Blessed Mother And A Hidden History Of Carmel
By Michael H. Brown
In Israel, not far from Nazareth, overlooking the Mediterranean, is one of the most mysterious places on earth. I speak here of Mount Carmel. There are those who believe that, 850 years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Elijah saw the Blessed Mother prefigured in a little cloud which rose here above the sea, bringing rain and new life, as one book mentioned, to the parched earth. "He and his followers honored the coming of the Mother of the Messiah," wrote Sister Mary Francis LeBlanc in Cause of Our Joy.
I don't know about that -- the Bible is very brief in its mention of this "cloud" (I Kings 18:44) -- but there's no question about the secret potency of these mountains and also no question that a number of hermits lived in its caves -- hermits who built what some believe was the first chapel on earth dedicated to the Mother of God.
When later they migrated to France and England, these hermits helped establish the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel -- an order which later produced such saints as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Therese the Little Flower.
Just recently we carried an article about how the body of a Carmelite nun who died 63 years ago in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, has been found incorrupt and holding a palm that remains green!
A potent order, the Carmelites. And a sign for our times. It was this order that gave us one of our most powerful shields against evil in the way of the Scapular. The first general of the order in the West was Simon Stock, and it was on July 16, 1251, that this saint's -- this Carmelite's -- cell was flooded with a great light in which was the Blessed Mother, holding the scapular of the order and promising that "whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a protection in danger, a pledge of peace and eternal alliance."
Originally the scapular was more of an apron to protect a monk's tunic, but through the ages has been reduced to the cloth emblem so many -- including Pope John Paul II -- wear as protection. It's what the Germans call a "grace garment," and it has been found mysteriously intact under the decayed garments of deceased holy men such as St. Alphonsus and St. John Bosco. According to Sister LeBlanc, in 1830 (the year of the Miraculous Medal) a scapular was found in perfect condition under the remains of Pope Gregory X -- who had died way back in the 13th century.
Many are the popes who have promoted this sacramental, and who have even granted an indulgence for each time the scapular is kissed. "Let us make a novena to Our Lady of the Scapular, and then I shall be ready to die," Pope Leo XIII is quoted as saying.
It is a powerful tool -- so needed in our own time -- and Our Lady of Mount Carmel continues to resonate and to appear mysterious -- clothed in brown robes and holding the Child Jesus. It was on July 16 in 1858 that Bernadette had her last apparition of the Madonna at Lourdes at a mountain cave and it was in 1917 -- during the famous "miracle of the sun" -- that the last apparition seen by Sister Lucia dos Santos at Fatima included a vision of the Blessed Mother in the Carmel attire.
Our Lady of Carmel appears frequently in alleged apparitions in our own time, as we continue to fathom the mystery of her appearance in this form and as we continue to mull over that range of mountains.
Years ago, when I was doing paleoanthropological research in Israel, I was taken to Mount Carmel because in those same caves are the prehistoric remains of men who scientists claim lived more than 100,000 years ago and had traits that seemed to represent the threshold between Neanderthal and modern man. There, along the sparkling Mediterranean, its caves had been the habitat for ancestors who began with the prehistoric forebears known as homo erectus and went through the Neanderthal phase and then a phase linked to the supposed emergence of modern humans.
In other words, some scientists believe that Mount Carmel may be the origin of modern homo sapiens.
These Mount Carmel caves, in many cases within a short walking distance of each other, grant us a succession of prehistoric stone tools that stretch across the archeological board.
I really don't know about all these archeologists and their alleged dating techniques, but it's a wonderment to think that as a Child or young adult Jesus may have walked this very area and the Bible tells us that Mount Carmel was the spot (much later) where Elijah battled the demonic prophets of Baal.
It was where the idolatrous worshippers tried and failed to get their 'god" to send fire for a burnt sacrifice but where Elijah was able to call down a great fire by invoking the God of Abraham. By this event, he vanquished the Baal worshippers and proved whose God was real, whose God came through, whose God was really powerful.
So when we wear the Scapular we have protection. We are proclaiming the greatness of God. We are imbued with His strength because we commemorate the spot where the Lord showed how vastly more powerful He is than the spirits of evil -- and, with faith, how quickly such evil can be defeated.
Is this why there is such an emphasis on Our Lady of Carmel in our own time? Is this why she looms so prevalently? I also note it was on July 16, 1994, that a spectacular comet called Shoemaker-Levy began to pummel the planet Jupiter in full view of our astronomers, who witnessed the great, unprecedented eruptions of fire, the flares that were larger than our own planet.
Do we read anything into that? Do we read anything into the fact that it was the defeat of Baal worshippers which occurred just before Elijah went up the mountain and that "cloud" was spotted? Does it say anything about the fiery serpent in our own time, the serpent of Revelation?
We can conclude this much: through the Scapular we consecrate ourselves to Mary. And through the Blessed Mother is protection for the days ahead.
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