Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

(Missale Romanum 1970)

For today's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the Collect for the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (July 16th). The following is the official ICEL English translation of this prayer in the Missal Romanum 1970:

"May the vernerable intercession of the glorious Virgin Mary come to our aid, we pray, O Lord, so that, fortified by her protection, we may reach the mountain which is Christ. Who lives and reigns, etc. Amen."

This prayer fittingly acclaims Our Lady's intercession as "venerable." This is a clear homage to the centuries' old devotion of the Carmelite Order to Our Lady, and especially to the much-beloved sacramental of the Brown Scapular, worn by many Catholics world-wide. The Missal note in the CTS New Daily Missal explains this devotion succinctly: Wearing the 'Brown Scapular', a symbol of the Carmelite habit, is a sign of trust in Mary's maternal help, especially at the hour of death."

This prayer also makes links between Our Lady's intercession for us in the jouney of life on the one hand, and God's providence for the prophet Elijah in his wanderings, on the other (Elijah is one of the patrons of the Carmelite order, as the order was formed at Mt. Carmel in the twelfth century). Scripture relates two lonely and dangerous periods of clandestine wanderings of the prophet Elijah during a time of great national apostasy. The first places him near the Jordan river and in Sidon as he fled from the wicked King Ahab prior to dramatic victory over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. The second recounts his escape to Mt. Sinai, once again fleeing for his life from the wicked Queen Jezebel immediately after this dramatic event (cf.1 Kings 17-19).

In all these wanderings, God provided for him most mercifully: "And he arose, and ate and drank, and walked in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb [i.e., Sinai] the mount of God" (cf. 1 Kings 19:8, RSV).

The Collect appears to link the fortifying intercession of Our Lady in our lives to supernatural provision of food for Elijah in these journeys, especially the one to Mt. Sinai. The prophet Elijah is a fitting type for all Christians suffering for their witness to the truth of the faith, and sustained by grace during the pilgrimage of life. Just as Elijah was fortified by God for his trial, so too, we children of God are fortified by heavenly grace which comes to us through Mary, the Eucharist being the prime example.

Upon his arrival at Mt. Sinai, Elijah encounters God not a burning bush like Moses, but in "a still small voice" (cf. 1 Kings 19:12, RSV). This tells us that he had a receptive posture of quiet, contemplative listening and prayer - very much like Our Lady at the Annunciation. The grace of God's provision for Elijah prepared him for his meeting with the mysterious and thrice-Holy God. similarly, the grace of Our Lady's intercession for us always tends towards helping us to encounter her Son in the depths of our hearts (this is essentially what contemplative prayer is). She helps us to reach the true Mt. Sinai, "the mountain which is Christ" [We may note here that contemplative prayer is a distinct feature of Carmelite spiritualty].

Indeed, contemplative prayer is truly the essence of Our Lady's own prayer: "Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (cf. Luke 2:19, RSV). The most powerful intercessory prayer there is - that of Our Lady - is rooted ultimately in her continual and faith-filled contemplation of the divine mystery of God's grace in Christ. May she help us to make such prayer - so full of content and faith - more integral to our daily lives and routines.

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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