The Book of the First Monks (Latin: Decem Libri – Liber de Institutione Primorum Monacharum)[1] is a medieval Christian work in the contemplative and eremetic tradition of the Carmelites.

Carmelite tradition holds that it was Elijah who inspired the early hermits who settled near the spring on Mount Carmel. Most often quoted from the "Book of the First Monks" is the following passage in which the prophet Elijah is held up as spiritual father of the Order:

The goal of this life is twofold. One part we acquire, with the help of divine grace, through our efforts and virtuous works. This is to offer God a pure heart, free from all stain of actual sin. We do this when we are perfect and in Cherith, that is, hidden in that charity of which the Wise Man says: "Charity covers all sins " [Prov. 10:12]. God desired Elijah to advance thus far when he said to him: "Hide yourself by the brook Cherith " [1 Kgs. 17:3-4].

The other part of the goal of this life is granted us as the free gift of God: namely, to taste somewhat in the heart and to experience in the soul, not only after death but even in this mortal life, the intensity of the divine presence and the sweetness of the glory of heaven. This is to drink of the torrent of the love of God. God promised it to Elijah in the words: "You shall drink from the brook. " It is in view of this double end that the monk ought to give himself to the eremitic and prophetic life.
- Felip Ribot, O.Carm., 13th century[2]

Exemplars of the contemplative and mystical spirituality referred to in the "Institutio" include Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, Jan Tyranowski, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), and John of the Cross.


  1. The Order's History of Discalced Carmelites
  2. From the Collected works of St. John of the Cross translation by: Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, rev. ed. Copyright 1991 ICS Publications. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, if this copyright notice is included.

See also

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