The Virgin Mary, St John of the Cross
and other Carmelite authors


The contemplative vision of the Virgin Mary held by the authors of the Teresian Carmel shows the profound influence of the doctrine of Saint Teresa and of Saint John of the Cross. A few indications must suffice. 

a) Synthesis of the Marian thought of St John of the Cross

The Holy Father's allusions to Mary in his writings are quite restrained, but endowed with that touch of genius belong to the mystical Doctor which introduces us to the most sublime aspects of Mary's mystery. 

In communion with the mystery of Christ: In the Romances on the Gospel of John, numbers 8-9, the biblical key to the whole doctrine of St John of the Cross in the perspective of salvation history, the Virgin appears in the splendour of her communion with the Trinity, in her privilege and mission as Mother of the Incarnate Word, in her acceptance and consent to the work of redemption. The Virgin Mary is witness of the mystery, the "Mother of Grace" who bears in her arms God, the Spouse-Church and Humanity in that the wedding of God with Man was consummated in Her: "He whom she bore in her arms embraced her as his spouse". 

The peak of this communion is reached in the cross, when the Virgin shared in the redemptive suffering of Christ, although exempt from sin, and having no need of suffering as a purification, but because Christ associates her with his saving action(59)

Moved by the Holy Spirit. In a significant context, speaking of souls so entirely identified with the will of God that all their acts, works, petitions, are inspired by God, St John has written: "Such were those of the glorious Virgin our Lady, who, having been raised to this high estate from the beginning, never received in her soul the impress of any creature, nor was moved by it, but was always moved by the Holy Spirit"(60). Here we have the affirmation of a principle of the constant and total action of the Holy Spirit in Mary, raised to this high state, right from the beginning, of communion with God in a growing dynamism of fidelity and cooperation with the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. 

Model of contemplation and intercession. Model of trust, discretion and attention at the wedding feast of Cana, the Virgin makes use of her powerful intercession with her Son: "She who loves discreetly takes no care to ask for what is lacking to her, but rather shows her necessity so that the Beloved may do that which serves best, as when the blessed Virgin spoke to her beloved Son at the wedding feast of Cana, not asking directly for the wine, but saying, 'They have no wine'"(61). The Virgin's presence is implicit in this thought of the Saint: "The Father has spoken one Word, which is the Son, and he speaks the Word ever in eternal silence, and in silence the soul hears it"(62). Mary is the contemplative silence that has received the Word, and in Christ "the Mother of God is mine"(63).  

b) Other witnesses to a Marian spiritual life in Carmel

It is possible to state that the experience of the Marian mystery is indissolubly united to Carmelite spirituality and when, in some witnesses, this achieves the lustre of the Church's testimony, we find some sublime expressions of this contemplative and Marian aspect. 

We can cite, for instance, Bl. Francis Palau y Quer O.C.D. who sees the Virgin as the perfect image of the Church in his book Mis Relaciones. There is also the rich Marian doctrine of St Therese of Lisieux characterised by her discovery in the Gospels of the simplicity of Mary and her "way" as a pattern for the Christian way. We can also recall the devotion of Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity to the Virgin, Praise of Glory, Mirror of Justice, contemplatively immersed in the mystery of the Incarnation, and Gate of Heaven, leading to the mystery of Christ and the Spirit. Bl. Edith Stein has also dedicated some beautiful pages of her writings to Mary, presenting her as a women, the perfect type of the Church, Universal Mother in her cooperation with Christ and the Spirit at the foot of the Cross. Other saints of Carmel from St Raphael Kalinowski and St Teresa of los Andes have left us a beautiful legacy of Marian doctrine and experience which gives lustre to the Marian patrimony of the Order. 

These testimonies suffice to show clearly how that most beautiful tradition of Carmel ­ her Marian sentiment ­ flourishes and is renewed through the contemplative life of the Teresian Carmel. 

59. Canticle B 20:10; Canticle A 29:7. 
60. Ascent III: 2:10 
61. Jn 2:3; Canticle A & B 2:8. 
62. Sayings of Light and Love 104; See Ascent II: 22:3-6. 
63. Prayer of the enamored soul. 
64. Constitutions 10. 


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