domingo, 29 de mayo de 2011

Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Reviews, prayers, chants and poems (2011)

(Oral traditions compiled by Isaías Medina López, 2011)

Few female figures have attracted the religious fervor of man as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. After almost three thousand years of faith, her veneration increases day by day in all corners of the world. Her mere mention inspires many legends, poems, prayers and chants, particularly among the humblest; those who have been on the brink of despair.
The tradition of the Virgen del Carmen or "Our Lady of Mount Carmel" is the oldest form of worship Mary. Carmen means fertile and/or fertility, and it also means flowering garden or countryside, but as we will see later, it is infinite its power to free man from oppression and punishment.
The beginning of her worship dates back to the proclamation of the prophet Elijah (nine centuries before Christ), in the three-year drought that was ravaging the people of Israel, as punishment for forgetting their duty to God. In Book 1 Kings (41) of the Old Testament it is told that "Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel and, kneeling on the floor tilted up to face between his knees". In the seventh reverence of the prophet, his servant tells him: "There, rising from the sea is a little white cloud, of the size of a hand". But the prophet, full of faith, tells him "Hitch your car and go as soon as possible to prevent the rain". The blue and white little cloud settles on Mount Carmel, and sheds, miraculously, a lot of rain, freeing that nation to continue dying of thirst. The priests interpreted that the prodigious cloud in water, besides, announced the Virgin of the Clouds" or "Mary", the mother of Jesus. Thus, white and blue are the colors Marian. And her first worship involved an ecological condition of community permanence.
It is said that the followers of Elijah, during his long days of prayer, opened many caves in that mountain, and after such portentous miracle, continued dwelling them as "Carmelite monks", now a Catholic order. However, a new test of faith would come: in the XI century, Muslims dominate the place, enslaving monks living there. One of their punishments was to strip them, leaving them barely a shawl or small bib overall, that those priests used on their clothes.
After much suffering and divine mediation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the monks get freed from their oppressors and mange to escape in small boats they built in a miraculous way, according to chronicles, a July 16. During their bitter slavery, every night, they gather to pray every night, pinning and rubbing the ropes of their bibs overalls to convert them in strings. Upon reaching the coasts of Italy and propagate their faith, images of the Sacred Heart and the Virgin where embroidered, to signify by twice, its liberation from suffering and in return for devotion. This was forged the first "scapulars".
The word scapular comes from the Greek skaph and Latin scapula; name given to an armor or shield covering the front and back. When the Carmelite monks went to the battlefields against Muslims, the soldiers asked why they were not wearing armor like the others and so protect against arrows, spears and swords. The Carmelites responded that their scapula (shield) were those two strings with the two prints, which they called scapular, since they were released from suffering and misery of slavery, by them, as divine grace of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
That worship in Venezuela has a similar story, very ancient and patriotic. It is a verifiable fact that the llaneros facing the Spanish empire, did not exhibit armor neither. As a variant, the patriotic sons of the savanna wore their scapulars of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, tied to their spears, knives and machetes, in what is now known as "contras". In recognition to that protection, Our Lady of Mount Carmel is taken as patron of the Armed Forces of Venezuela, body which descends from that humble and heroic race of men and women full of faith and courage.
This true action is bounded in important history books, novels, stories, legends, corríos and coplas. The first major quote is in the book "Escenas rústicas en Sur América o la vida en los Llanos de Venezuela" (1861), written by Ramón Páez, through interviews with those who had that habit, including his father, General José Antonio Páez, "First Spear of America". Páez said that faith in those scapulars was such that those brave men could undertake the greatest feats like a routine. But, he argues that, in the absence of that element of faith, their courage could be classified as "insane recklessness"
The llanero scapular, according to Ramón Páez, consists in "prayers carefully preserved in leather bags and hung of the rosary around his neck" (p. 58). He also said that they are "extravagant prayers", as many of them were small poems written with great faith: "and it seems as if its very darkness is what they value the most". For example this one:
I was born in a cloud
and for that I’m blessed
scapular leads me
wherever Jesus Christ goes.

For José Daniel Suárez Hermoso, it is not less important the "encargo" that is done to the Virgin, to mediate her protection to a newborn. Hence, many mothers name their descendants Carmen or Carmelo. This invocation is accompanied by a very simple but profound ritual. The mother takes a white candle or velón, washed with holy water, and writes and invocation on it, then, covers it with honey or sugar and repeat the written, while lighting it. One that we collected is this:

She carries your name
and is my favorite
do not forsake her
my dear Mother.

Then that protection is not limited to when the believer faces another human, but when challenged to powers from beyond. In the corrío El entierro del Troncón, of the Cojedenian llanero Eligio Alvarado, his story tells of a pawn of the savanna that due to the harassment of a ghost remarkable for its cruelty, driven by his scapular reacts this way:
He thought for a while
because he did not feel fear
and oh, he he did not
and he drew his scapular
and then crossed
and without thinking twice
asked the dead
to remove his sorrow
I just come to do this

Another famous corrío llanero is El Caporal y el Espanto, composition of the Colombian Héctor Paúl Venegas. In this story, The Caporal challenges an evil figure, also covered by the scapular and the Virgen del Carmen, as evidenced by these lines:

I am not afraid of shadows
and lights do not intimidate me,
I am like Florentino,
who beated the devil
I carry Our Lady of Mount Carmel
pinned to my scapular.

With such faith, we find a peasant who has to face the terrible Hachador Perdido (Lost Woodman), legend of Hipólito Arrieta and Jenny Tatiana Colmenares, and that thanks to the power, overcomes his fears and confronts the evil spirit:

Do not think that you scared me
with your shadowy voice,
I carry our Lady of Mount Carmel
and the Word of God.

The absolute faith in the powers of the scapular and Our Lady of Mount Carmel puts both figures prominently in the sense of the llaneros. Usually the peasant has a very personal scapular, which is made by him or another person endowed with faith. That pledge is sacred and no one but the owner can touch or its power disappears. When the person has a bad behavior, the scapular tends to get lost frequently. The believer must prove his repentance before reuse the lost scapular. One of the most accepted ways is the singing of salves, that are repeated seven times or seven salves of similar content are sung, like this one taken from master Evangelisto Hermoso:
Before this altar
where I am singing
and worship you
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
and I ask the Heaven
very sorry
sad and afflicted
I get close to your feet.

According to the popular religiosity of llaneros, it is argued that as of June 24, 1821, the mighty San Juan, for being celebrating his day and the victory in the Battle of Carabobo, got "tied" a terrible drunk and was caught. Then, the Virgin released him by July 16, carrying him with her in her day, the Carmen day, free, healthy and sober. In another version, San Juan was not arrested for being drunk, but some partiers took him "tied" and was drinking, singing and playing with them, forced by his captors, but, our Lady of Mount Carmel, touched by so many excesses, freed him from such people by July 16.
Until the middle of last century, these two versions molded styles and behaviors. According to Evangelisto Hermoso, who believed that San Juan had been arrested for drinking too much on June 24, proved no liquor from that date until July 16. If he thought that San Juan was "tied" by the partiers, had to "stop" alcohol intake in Carmen Day, not taking a drop of alcohol until August 29, when they commemorate the "Martirio de San Juan" (Martyrdom of San Juan).
The effect is not simple. Practitioners claim that they get renewed in strength for singing, music, dance or any manifestation of popular art, with the divine mediation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, being valid this blessing until the day of the Cruz de Mayo (May 3), when the ritual is restarted, year after year, in an endless cycle, at which the Christian artist is tied, closing the day of his release from this valley of tears.
The teacher of oral traditions, Freddy Sosa, indicates that the ceremony of "The Liberation of San Juan", must first be made the altar of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; her image is placed in the center and remains surrounded by other saints, likewise, she is offered candles, fruits and flowers in abundance. In front of the Virgin, the confraternities parade their associations with chants, drum chimes and other instruments as a sign of reverence. Then, to retire, the masters of the confraternities must held before the altar, the flags of their groups, for her blessing to each member of them. Last year, when the ceremony took place, we hear these verses that a grateful student recited to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, with great fervor, which apparently has been in his family for several generations:
Blessed Lady of Mount Carmel

Virgin of the Cloud
that for the evil you take away from me
I kneel at at this altar
Virgin of infinite grace
Virgin I come to praise
Blessed Lady of Mount Carmel
Virgin of the Cloud.

Other high significant reasons are the prayers made by novenas and velorios to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in pursuit of female fertility. As a sign announcing the birth of the mother of Christ, they also entrust her the health of a newborn. Try to pay close attention to this poem titled Ruego (I pray), from the great poet of Monagas, Ramón Gamboa Marcano (compiled by Domingo Rogelio León and Rudy Mostacero), in which it is promted to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, goodness of the rain to irrigate crops, amid touching verses full of deep affection:
Most holy Lady
Divine Lady of Mount Carmel
do not dive into ruin
the mob who adores you;
put your protecting hand
on the arcane región;
fertilize the station,
make the water slide,
see that there are so many unhappy
praying with devotion.

Mother of the heavenly,
sacred nature,
for an end to the sadness,
with the pouring rain
do not forsake the mundane,
alleviate so many clamors;
of the foliage its greens
do not show pride;
afflicted and painfull
the farmers are.

Precious Lady of Mount Carmel
of your power satisfied,
protect our crop
with your glorious influence;
Mother of Mercy
calm, calm the pain,
disipate cruel rigors;
tell the sun in the distance
that hope dies
when its brilliance shine.

Finally, beloved image,
remember our quarrels;
if under a starry sky
your power is asleep;
in sore swarm
waits your salvation
that without much delay
will bring us diligently
to shine in the West
the star of the prayer.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a force that frees us from suffering. With her robe, the strings and images of her scapular, believers around the world get tied to her and her protection, at the same time that we are liberated from slavery of corporal and spiritual pain.

2 comentarios:

Lumy M.Q dijo...

Very interesting as usual. Me gusta que esté en inglés así puede llegar a personas de habla inglesa. Un abrazo.

Jimena Arbulú dijo...

Muy interesante como todas sus publicaciones. Personalmente, le tengo mucho cariño y devoción a la Virgen del Carmen pues con ella crecí desde muy niña. El colegio en que estudié fue precisamente "Nuestra Señora del Carmen" en Lima. Parte de su himno dice: "Ven canta, sigue cantando y a María sigue en fé...El blanco y el marrón del Carmen nunca olvides". Muchos saludos y bendiciones.