Our Carmelite forefathers journeyed to Mt. Carmel in the Holy Land, to cultivate a relationship with our living God. In a way, recently, I had the same opportunity to commune with God on a mountain. During the winter of 2017 I was sent to Peru to begin to learn Spanish, so I can serve the people of St. Simon Stock-St. Joseph parish in the Bronx. During my time in Peru, I was given the opportunity to travel through the mountains, to experience the different cultures of Peru. During those travels, I visited the Inca Village of Machu Picchu. A city that housed the Inca ruler and worked as placed of worship for the Inca Empire. The ruins of Machu Picchu are built into and wrapped around many parts of the peaks of this area of the Andes, which is located at about 1500 meters (1 mile) altitude. My tour of the ruins was for 4 hours and I arrived on a Wednesday morning, while the morning sun was shining through the neighboring peaks of Mach Picchu. Seeing the Inca ruins bathed in the morning sun is a memory, I pray, that I may never forget during my time on earth. Machu Picchu, as a tourist site, is set up as a loop, where a person walks around and experiences the different parts of the ruins. My tour lasted 1 ½ hours, then I walked around by myself for another 1 ½ exploring the sites I found interesting. Finally, with my last hour I found a location where I could sit and gaze at the mountain valley but still see the mountains. In that place, I pulled my Carmelite Rule from my pocket and I began to pray with it.
At this point in my life, I see God as an artist. Being on Machu Picchu help me to discover the depth of beauty within God’s masterful art piece we call creation. Surrounded by His beauty, my heart was taken to this line of our rule “[…] Silence, which is the promotion of justice, is to be diligently and carefully observed (#21).” Even with all the tourist at the ruins, the mountain itself had a stillness to it, that this moment of silence allowed me to tap into. The beauty of Machu Picchu has a mixture of grandness and closeness. Surrounded by mountain peaks, yet feeling that one’s body is connected to them through resting upon one of the many peaks. This is an amazing sensation. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the first Carmelite Hermits, who chose to settle on Mt. Carmel. Mountains have a language and an air about them. A life that God has given to them through His act of creating them. The language of a mountain is spoken through whispers, that impact all the senses: the smell of the green vegetation in the nose, the mixture of colors for the eyes, the taste of the fresh air on the tongue, the sound of the wind over the rocks, and the sensation of the breeze soothing the skin. That act of stillness, I had, instilled in me from my Carmelite formation, made it possible for me to hear, see, feel, and receive the beauty and the wisdom contained on and within the mountains of Machu Picchu. During his work of Creation, as pictured by Genesis, God calls his creation good. Being still and receiving the gift of Machu Picchu, helped me to define what God means when he called his creation good. Seeing the beauty of those mountains, I now know why the Incas chose to settle in that place. The works of humanity from the Incas, joined with beauty of nature on Machu Picchu, showed me the desire that God has for us to follow His example for us as an artisan. Carmel was a place where our Carmelite ancestors felt and believed they could walk with God once again, like humanity once did in the Garden of Eden. I believe, now, more than ever, that silence is necessary for a Carmelite, because it is only through silence that a Carmelite can hear the invitation of the Lord, as He invites the Carmelite to begin the journey of Carmel with Him. Silence, as our Carmelite rule teaches us “[…] is a good and holy way: follow it.”