The origin of Carmelites is associated with a place not a person. Its origin is historical, Biblical and Spiritual. Its origin is from Carmel to Prophetic, Marian traditions and the emergence of the Primitive Rule. Carmel is generally understood as ‘Garden Land’ or as the ‘Vineyard of God’. It stands as a mountain on the Mediterranean coast of Northern Israel in Haifa.
Since high places were regarded as sacred, Mt. Carmel too was held in such high esteem. Historically and Biblically it is a very important place and many events have taken place there. The Carmelite Order began on Mt. Carmel in the 12th century. We can trace its origin back to the Prophet Elijah and the Prophetic tradition existed there. Elijah’s mission is t he mission of all the Carmelites. Just like the Prophet, the Carmelites are convinced that they stand before the living God and that they have a mission to be accomplished like that of the Prophet- to become the sacrament of the presence of t he living God in the midst of the people.
He challenges every Carmelite to encounter God in the daily moments and events of life, to listen to him daily in moments of deep and intimate prayer, silence and solitude, to be inspired by God as he/she listens to him, to the Scriptures, to the superiors as well as to one another, to be zealous throughout the day in carrying out the tasks entrusted with; to feel assured that one’s prayer is heard and answered by God, while at the same time to be able to stand before the Divine Majesty in all humility. Thus every Carmelite makes his/her daily journey of life imbibed with the spirit of Elijah and being fed by the Eucharist.
The figure of Mary is vital for the Carmelites. From the very beginning the Carmelites addressed themselves to be “Brothers of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel”. Mary became not only their Mother but also their Mediatrix, Model and Protectress. Later within the Carmelite Order a specific role was given to Mary in their daily devotions and most especially on Saturdays since Mary is thought to have appeared to St. Simon Stock as he sought her protection in the difficult moment of the Order. Blessed Mother granted to him a scapular and told him that those wear the scapular will be liberated from purgatory on the Saturday following their death. Scapular is a sign of the Carmelite devotion to Mary as patroness, mother and sister. It is also a symbol of family unity within the Carmelite Order. The scapular devotion was inaugurated by St. Simon Stock and soon it became widespread. Those Catholics who wear the scapular or scapular medal share the Carmelites’ love and relationship to Mary, the Mother of the Church. We turn to Mary and express our confidence in her motherly intercession. The Carmelites call the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Our Lady of Mt. Carmel” and venerate her as the Queen and beauty of Carmel.