Mount Carmel is a coastal mountain range in Israel overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Its name is derived from the Hebrew "Karem El" which means 'vineyards of God'. In ancient times it was covered by vineyards and was famous for its fertility.
Biblically, Mt. Carmel is referenced most often as a symbol of beauty and fertility. To be given the "splendor of Carmel" was to be blessed indeed (Isa 35:2). Solomon praised his beloved: "your head crowns you like Mount Carmel" (Song 7:5). But for Carmel to wither was a sign of devastating judgment (Nahum 1:4).
The Carmelite Order takes is name from Mount Carmel in the Holy Land (Israel) and traces its origins back to the ancient hermits living on that mountain. There in the 12th century were to be found a group of hermits, mostly former crusaders and pilgrims, calling themselves the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and striving to live, in the spirit of the prophet Elijah, a life of solitude and prayer.
Standing always before the Living God on behalf of His people, and totally dedicated to His worship and glory, these hermits had heard the call of Jesus Christ to leave everything and to follow Him.
From its very beginning, the Order of Carmel always had a special love and veneration for Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She is the Mother and Patroness of all Carmelites and the scapular which they wear as part of their habit is a sign of their dedication to her and a reliance on her protection. They see in Mary one who, in her simplicity, was totally open and receptive to God's action and took her as their model and sister in their search for God.
They also took their inspiration from the prophet Elijah who was a man on fire with love of God. His basic message was "the Lord lives in whose presence I stand." His cry of triumph: "I have burned with zeal for the Lord God of hosts" has been adopted as the motto for the Carmelite Order.