Why have a coat of arms?
Just as nations, organizations, and individuals have their coats of arms, seal, or crest which are expressive of important facts in their history, or characteristics typical of them, so the order of Discalced Carmelites has its own crest, significant of its rich spirit and antiquity. Each part stands as a reminder of elements that make the Discalced Carmelite Order one of the most ancient, best established and ever beloved orders of the Roman Catholic Church.
Parts of our coat of arms:
- The Seal of Mt. Carmel
- The Motto
- The Flaming Sword
- The Crown of Gold
- The Halo of Stars
- Discalced Carmelite Coat of Arms
The Seal of Mount Carmel
In the center of the seal is Mount Carmel, cradle of the order, its tip reaching to the sky. It refers to Mount Carmel, the Carmelite’s place of origin in Haifa, Israel. In the 9th Century BC the prophet Elijah lived and had a profound experience of God there. In that same place in the early 12th Century some hermits, inspired by the memory of Elijah, gathered there, with a desire “ to live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ” (Carmelite Rule). The cross on the summit of the mountain was added in the 16th Century as a distinctive mark of the Discalced Carmelites. On the seal there are also three, six pointed stars which represent the three great epochs in the history of Carmel; the first, or prophetic era, represented by the star inside the mountain, dates from the time of the prophet Elijah to the time of St. John the Baptist: the second, or Greek epoch, when the order spread throughout the east and west, from the time of St. John to the time of Berthold, the first Latin General; and the third, from Berthold to the end of time. Another meaning of the stars is that they stand as a remembrance to the members of the Carmelite order. The star inside the mountain represents the Carmelites who are still on their way to the summit of Mount Carmel (heaven), the other two stars in the sky represent all the Carmelites who have gone before us and have reached the goal of their life’s vocation; union with God in love in the eternal joy of heaven.
The banner surrounding the seal carries the Order’s motto. Taken from the mouth of the prophet Elijah it cries out with his prophetic spirit and absolute dedication to the one, true, God; “Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum” “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts.” – 1 Kings 19:10
Above the seal and through the banner is an arm and hand which holds a flaming sword. This too is a symbol of Elijah, his fiery spirit and his passion for the one, true and absolute God whose word “burned like a torch” (Eccl. 48:1). For Carmelites Elijah is the solitary prophet who nurtured his thirst for the one and only God and lived forever in His presence. Elijah is the biblical inspiration of the Carmelite life and, like him, Carmelites seek both to continually carry, in their minds and hearts, “the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God” (Carmelite Rule) and to live constantly with a loving, contemplative awareness of His presence.
The Crown of Gold
The Crown of Gold represents the Kingdom of God. He is the Sovereign Lord of Carmel. Carmelites indeed endeavor to serve God faithfully with “a pure heart and a steadfast conscience” (Carmelite Rule). They see their vocation as a calling to unswerving allegiance to their Lord and King, Jesus Christ. In their service to this King they take their inspiration from the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose patronage they enjoy, and Sts. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, the great reformers of Carmel.
Halo of Stars
The halo of twelve stars above the crown represents the prerogative of every Carmelite’s laud, the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom St. John saw in an apocalyptic vision as: “a woman clothed with the sun… on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1). In the coat of arms of the Discalced Carmelites these stars also signify the twelve points of the rule, which are: obedience, chastity, poverty, reconciliation, mental prayer, divine office, chapter, abstinence from meat, manual labor, silence, humility, and supererogation (name given in Roman Catholic Spiritual Theology to works or good deeds performed by saints over and above what is required for their own salvation, and the merit of which is held to be transferable to others in need of indulgence).
Source: The Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites