Brookline Carmel Bulletin
October 2, 1960
Behold I will send you Elias the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of fathers to their children and the heart of children to their fathers, lest I come, and strike the earth with anathema. (Malachi 4: 5,6)
The prophecy just quoted does not apply to Elias alone, who will come again before the second and glorious coming of Jesus Christ to judge heaven and earth. Our Lord Himself gave His favorite Apostles to understand that John the Baptist was Elias, as they were coming down from Tabor after the Transfiguration. Indeed, anyone who proceeds Jesus Christ can be styled Elias, particularly those who do the spadework in souls, preparing it to receive the grace of Faith, by which is communicated Jesus, the Word of God. Saint Therese of the Child Jesus deserves in a special way to be numbered among these. Her special title is due to the special way she fulfills all the conditions of the prophecy of Malachi cited above.
Saint Therese comes to us in the spirit of Elias. Saint Elias is considered the spiritual leader and father of the Carmelites (Carmelitarum dux et pater, as we invoke him at night prayers) for he is the embodiment of its spirit. The Lord liveth, in Whose presence I stand, he was wont to say, and “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts”. He was a man given to retirement. He lived a life of great austerity in the deserts and on Mount Carmel so as to give himself to the contemplation of divine things. Yet he did not refuse to go forth among men to vindicate the rights of God and to proclaim His law to Israel. Saint Therese, as a Carmelite Saint, is herself the embodiment of the Spirit of Camel, and as such has reproduced in her own soul and in her own life the spirit that was Elias’s.
As a prophet, the work of Elias was to restore the hearts of the Israelites to the teaching and example left them by their Fathers the Patriarchs, and to the Law of Moses. They were to be worthy children of Holy Parents, and to submit to the beneficent law, the ‘family discipline’ of the House of Israel. Saint Therese has come to teach us how to be worthy children of Jesus our Father. The ‘law’ she teaches us is rather an attitude, than a set of well-defined norms: the attitude of Spiritual Childhood.
We cannot overemphasize the need for this attitude of soul in our present times. Nothing is more prejudicial to sanctity than great natural wisdom, knowledge and power. As understanding and mastery of his surroundings increases, the more man’s confidence in his own native power grows, too. Over a hundred years ago the Rationalists arose who claimed that man need not concern himself with the questions: “Is there a God?” “Is there a supernatural order?” “Who can help us to achieve the happiness we crave?” They claim that the human intellect in itself is capable of discovering, in due time, all truth, and of forging for itself a social order that will give peace, happiness, prosperity to all men for all time. With studied deliberation therefore, they have simply written off all extra-human considerations as unnecessary, or at least superfluous. That frame of mind has seeped down into the life of the man on the street. Coupled now with the amazing achievements of modern technology (the moons men have put into the sky can ‘talk back’ to us), such an orientation of soul is capable of bringing about (and has) wholesale defection from God. Therese is among us now to spotlight the all-the-more important truth: Natural causes cannot achieve a supernatural effect. Nothing merely human, no matter how wonderful, can win Heaven for us. Her message is not new. But she has added luster to it and brought it into relief by her insights, and her example: Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven, and: The weak and foolish things God has chosen, that He may put to shame the wise and the strong.
In addition, Therese has turned the Heart of God to His children. Saint Therese not only won reconciliation of souls to God their Father by her life of prayer and penance in the solitude of her Carmelite Monastery, she has also won an outpouring of grace that has brought into the world a ‘host of little souls, victims’ of God’s merciful love. Thus she not merely stays the hand of Divine Justice and Wrath, she so overwhelmingly repairs for injury to the Divine Majesty that she has merited a reaffirmation on God’s part of His paternal love for us, a love that far exceeds the capacity of our imagination to conceive.
These are such troublesome times that we cannot help feeling that the ‘Day of the Lord’ is nigh. We need not think that the world will end soon. But we must convince ourselves that the world, if it continues its present course, will precipitate itself into a calamity that will prove beyond question the Human Race’s total dependence upon God its Father, and that in Jesus Christ alone, and through His Church, will it ever be able to establish a society that will at once bring earthly happiness and put us well on the road to eternal salvation. Saint Therese has been sent to us for this reason: to teach us Spiritual Childhood, lest, the Lord come and strike the world with anathema (total destruction). We can take courage from the word ‘lest’. It tells us that God does not and will not send total destruction. He averts it by sending us the means to escape it.
What Therese is to the modern world in general, each Carmelite is supposed to be to his own modern world in particular. We profess the Elias Spirit, and we have taken vows obliging us to perfect ourselves in it. By our love and contemplation of Divine Truths, by our austerities of life and our penances, by our life of prayer and the practice of Spiritual Childhood we vindicate the rights of God and obtain forgiveness of the sins of the world. Jesus Christ is seeking entrance daily into the hearts of men; He comes anew to each succeeding generation. There must always be on hand an Elias to precede Him. Carmel fulfills the requirements, and so, in a sense, Carmel is Elias.
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