IV. Essential Elements of the Charism
IV.A. The Life of Prayer
21. An experience of love [C 15a, 49, 55]
From this fundamental reality, which is friendship with God, many essential elements of the Teresian experience and proposal take on meaning: attention to interiority, contemplation, unceasing prayer. The content of prayer is a personal encounter with the living God. On the path of prayer everything depends on love: “The important thing is not to think much but to love much, and so do that which best stirs you to love.” (4M 1:7; cf. L 8:5.9; W 21,1). It is a relationship of friendship, a reality of theological life (faith, hope, love), which we recognize present in its fullness in the person of Mary, model of our vocation.
22. Seeking God and not oneself [C 54]
The search for inner peace, meditation as a way to personal serenity, silence, and interiority, often without any religious content or reference, is widespread in modern society. However, as good and positive as this search may be, it should be emphasized that Carmelite (and Christian) prayer has an interpersonal character and is always an experience (or at least a desire) of an encounter, a conversation, and a relationship. Prayer cannot be limited to a search for inner peace, serenity or well-being, and even less can it be a mere obligation to be observed.
23. Friendship with God as a permanent state [C 2, 15c, 66]
Our relationship with God is not an occasional experience, but must become a permanent state, like any true friendship or love. We are called to loving union with God, which marks the whole of life in all its dimensions and in all its moments. In our tradition, which goes back to the prophet Elijah, we often speak of “living in the presence of God”. This expression indicates the goal towards which we are striving, that our whole life becomes prayer,
remaining constantly before the face of God.
24. Listening to the Word [C 65]
Constant listening to the inner guest translates, among other things, into attention to the Word of God. The Carmelite tradition emphasizes the importance of the Word of God received, meditated upon and lived. It is enough to recall the invitation of the Rule to “meditate day and night on the law of the Lord” (Rule 10), and the testimony of all the Saints of Carmel who recognize the voice of the Lord himself in Scripture and in personal prayer.
25. The community that prays [C 56-61, 78]
The relationship with the Lord is lived not only in community, but also as community, particularly in the celebration of the liturgy. Each individual member needs the company of his or her brothers and sisters in order to present himself or herself before the Lord as the Church which says to her Bridegroom: “Come!” (Rev 22:17). A privileged expression of the communal encounter with him is the concelebrated Eucharist. The same is true of celebrating together the prayer of the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours and of practicing mental prayer together.
26. Mental prayer [C 64]
To maintain a personal relationship with God and to be faithful to the Teresian charism we cannot do so without mental prayer. For each person and each community, it is essential to devote a specific time daily to it, free from other occupations, as well as to have a suitable place for this type of prayer. This is a fundamental requirement of our vocation which is constantly reaffirmed and renewed, and of our mission in the Church and the world.
27. Solitude and silence [C 68]
The need for solitude and silence in our contemplative vocation remains imperative, the need to “take time frequently to be alone with Him whom we know loves us.” (L 8:5). It is necessary to have the experience of the desert, allowing a large space to remain empty and a long time to spend in silence so that the presence of God can occupy it. In the digital age, it is not so much physical solitude that frightens us as being “disconnected,” not connected to that sort of anima mundi that has become the virtual world of the internet and social networks. The absence of connection (and not of relationship) causes anguish, projects us backwards in an inescapable confrontation with ourselves. In the silence of information, images and contacts, the emptiness of an unexplored, unfamiliar, and yet our own interior region opens, and for this reason it is disturbing.
28. Detachment [C 25, 30, 33, 67]
One of the elements most emphasized in our tradition, beginning with Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, is detachment which is absolutely necessary in order to become free and to be able to find our true wealth in God alone and to experience that “God alone suffices.” Detachment must be above all interior, but also exterior. In a society oriented towards consumerism, even we religious are easily tempted to possess or use so many things and to always have new experiences. Without a radical detachment and a sober lifestyle, it is not possible to live the contemplative-community life: “prayer and comfortable living are incompatible.” (W 4:2).
29. Passion for God
Our communion with the Lord gives meaning and vigor to our charismatic life. It must be cultivated and nourished every day so that the flame of love is not extinguished, and life does not become gray and routine. Acedia is undoubtedly one of the dangers of our present situation, often hidden under the guise of activism and multiple ever-changing interests. Only a renewed passion for God can protect us from such risks.