Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Program Honors Our Lady Of Mount Carmel

Published July 7, 2005

On the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Holy Spirit Church is honoring her with a morning celebration of song, poetry and prayer, concluding with Marian devotions.

During the program, to be held Saturday, July 16, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., music director Albert Ahlstrom, Ph.D., and singers from the Holy Spirit choirs will perform Gregorian chant, medieval song, Renaissance motets, music from the romantic period and some modern music, including a new work Ahlstrom wrote for the occasion, all of which have the life of Mary as their source.

Ahlstrom has written a new work for tenor and piano, “Ave Maris Stella.” As Mount Carmel is in the Holy Land and looks out over the Mediterranean Sea, the director found it appropriate to have music that explores one of the appellations of Mary, “Star of the Sea.” Mary stands in modern times as she has stood throughout the ages as a beacon of faith. The text and the original chant is a medieval hymn of unknown origin, which occurs frequently in the Divine Office.

“In this modern setting the piano works with the voice to describe the rejoicing of all creation with Mary, who continues through all time to ‘receive the Ave from Gabriel,’ and ‘give light to the blind,’” Ahlstrom said. “Where words leave off in our imaginations, instrumental music can begin to further explore the divine ecstasy that the rich imagery of ‘Star of the Sea’ conveys so concisely and resplendently. It is almost like a haiku, the immensity of oceans and the night sky.”

It is as Our Lady of Mount Carmel that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, made her earliest entry into Christian life. According to the Carmelite religious order’s deeply embedded tradition, it was on this mountain that the prophet Elijah interpreted, as from God, the appearance of a small cloud floating over the waters during a time of drought as the future birth of a girl born without sin. He also prophesied the time of her birth, that she would be the first woman to take the vow of virginity, and that the Son of God would be born of this Virgin. And as she gave birth to the Savior, Mary, the Mother of God, has been the subject of the deepest devotion within the Catholic tradition.

Precise dates of the first Carmelite settlement on the holy mountain are uncertain although it dates back to the late 12th century. Carmelite hermits lived solitary lives of prayer to God and devotion to Mary and saw Elijah as the founder of their Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. They later resettled in Europe and in 1247 Pope Innocent IV promulgated a revised rule of St. Albert. The feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was instituted in 1332 for the Carmelites and extended to the whole church in 1726.

The poetry to be read at the Holy Spirit event will come from the early Cistercian Fathers, whose order at its inception was consecrated to the Blessed Mary, and whose wisdom grew from the ascetic Eastern traditions of the desert fathers. They were consecrated to the Blessed Mother and their rules of living led to the development of the Benedictine Rule, which became the foundation for Western monastic life, even prior to the founding of the actual Carmelite order in Europe. The beautiful meditative poetic expressions, even in translation, are considered some of the most splendidly devotional writings in the Western literary and spiritual tradition, especially because of their simplicity.

Included as poetic readings will be works from Gerard Manley Hopkins, a 20th century Jesuit, the tender and philosophical verses of Pope John Paul II, and Thomas Merton with his searching and contemplative writings. All readers are Marian devotees from local parishes. Included also in the program will be readings of original poems by three local poets. This artistic expression is a day to experience listening with the heart for the love of the Blessed Mother and the glory of God.

Holy Spirit Church is located at 4465 Northside Drive, NW. Lunch is included by reservation for a cost of $10. Contact Cathy Alvarez at (404) 257-0494 or