Mount Carmel is holy to both Christians and Jews. Elijah stood there and challenged the priests of Baal and Asherah to prove the power of their gods. He and Elisha lived for a time in caves on Mt. Carmel’s hillside. When the author of the Song of Songs wanted to describe a bride’s beauty, he compared her to the beauty of Mt. Carmel. Its Hebrew name, Karmel, means “garden land,” a “fruitful place.”
In the early centuries of the church, Mt. Carmel continued to draw pilgrims and hermits to its slopes. Around the year 1206, a group of hermits was drawn to Mt. Carmel because of its association with the prophet Elijah. Like Elijah, they lived in caves dug into the mountainside. They asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to appoint an abbot and to give them a guide to religious life. That guide became the Carmelite Rule, when in 1247, Pope Innocent IV approved the guide as a rule and established them as the Carmelite Order.
On July 16, 1251, the prior general of the Carmelites, Simon Stock, had a vision of Mary the Mother of God. The fruitful virgin appeared on the fruitful mountain. That day became a special feastday in the Carmelite calendar. By the 1700’s the feast had spread from within the order to the whole church.
If you know a Carmel, Carmen, Carmelita, Carmella, Lita, Sharon, or Althea, wish her a happy name day.
All the majesty of Lebanon is bestowed on her, all the grace of Carmel and Sharon, alleluia!