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Carmelite spirituality seeks, first, to imitate Christ by following his admonition to pray always. It also incorporates the other Elijahn characteristic of serving the Lord through ministry. In combining prayer and ministry (contemplation and action), Carmelites emphasize prayer as the basic part of our ministry and any other forms of ministry as the expression and fruit of our prayer. Carmelite spirituality is inspired by the Old Testament prophet Elijah, and Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

It emphasizes an awareness of remaining always in the presence of God, and advocates zeal in ministry based on the prophetic way of serving God, and speaking on his behalf.

The Virgin Mary is presented to the Carmelite as the perfect disciple of Jesus Christ.

These basic tenets of Carmelite spirituality have been further developed by the writings of Carmelite Saints, especially John of the Cross, and Teresa of Jesus (Avila).

The elements of Carmelite spirituality are contained in time honoured symbols:

Hermit - Pilgrim - Mendicant - Spring - Mountain.

The hermit calls to mind a prayerful seeker of Christ who lives in solitude and silence.

For many of us today that solitude is cultivated in the depths of the heart.

The pilgrim is a person who has left family, and the familiar, to travel to a holy place. He/she does not wish to be burdened by more than the essentials, which translates to a spirit of detachment.

The mendicant is a beggar. The Carmelite has nothing of his/her own. Everything is seen as a gift from God. We live poorly and identify with the poor and marginalized.

The spring reminds us of water, and its life giving and cleansing properties. Jesus called himself “a fountain of living water”. The Carmelite draws life from this spring and subsequently passes on this life to all who are thirsting.

The mountain represents the challenge of the journey undertaken by the pilgrim, and reinforces the need to travel lightly. The mountain, based on earth and reaching for the sky, also symbolizes Carmelite spirituality, which is to be grounded in the here and now, serving those in need, while at the same time straining toward the heights of contemplation and union with God.

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