Thursday, February 2, 2017

Spiritual Direction with Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity

Editor's Note: Our secular community of the Holy Family has been studying the works of the newly-proclaimed Carmelite Saint: Elizabeth of the Trinity.  Here is a meditation from the class I gave a few years ago on her work, Heaven In Faith. I share with you notes from the fifth day of her retreat, because I feel it reflects the heart of her spirituality and the deepest center of her charism-her awareness of the divine indwelling of the Holy Trinity in her soul.

A Meditation on the teachings of Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity
Heaven in Faith

Saint Elizabeth begins with the scripture passage, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock...(Revelation 3:20)” Christ constantly knocks at the door of our heart. By free will we choose to open the door to him or not to open the door.

There are a few elements to this simple knock on the door:

First: We must hear the knock
Saint Elizabeth says we must be recollected enough to hear the Lord knocking on the door of our heart. We must be ready in spirit to answer his eternal invitation at any moment.  Being open to the Holy Spirit gives us the “spiritual ears” to hear the Lord; cares and concerns of the world muffle the sound of the Lord's knocking. Prayer, especially contemplative prayer that becomes constant is the way to keep united to the Lord throughout the day. Earlier, we talked about the “chapel of the heart,” my own phrase of describing the indwelling of the Trinity. We have the most Holy Trinity abiding in us at every moment. Meditation and the gift of contemplative prayer help us to remain in the chapel of our heart, aware of God's presence.

Second: We make a choice to answer or not to answer the knock
The Lord calls us yet gives us free will if we want to accept his invitation. We are the
ones who must open the door and invite him into our souls, into our lives.

Third: We invite the Lord to come into our life
Our relationship with him begins. If we are faithful to prayer, this relationship matures and becomes and intimate friendship with our very God! As the One who knows us, he accepts us where we are in our faith journey. Saint Elizabeth says that Christ is continually coming to the soul-it is a constant renewal of our acceptance of his salvation. This coming is an eternal “now” not in time but eternity. Just as the Mass is a re-presentation of the sacrifice at Calvary.  This eternal acceptance of his salvation requires a constant “Yes” on our part. It is an eternal "Yes" we proclaim at every Mass we attend. As Carmelites, we are called to have the Eucharist at the center of our life. We must live, and move, and have our being in God from one communion to the next. This eternal "Yes" of the Eucharist that gives us the strength to do God's will in our lives helps us to imitate the eternal "yes" of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother in Carmel.

Fourth: We must maintain our relationship with Christ
The work begins! Every day we must take up our cross to follow the Lord. And in the spirit of Saint Elizabeth, we could say, we must take up our cross not only each day, but in each moment of life. Knowing that he comes at every moment we must “clean the house” for his presence. This requires a constant guard at the door of our heart. Saint Elizabeth and St. Teresa explain that those who love the Lord deeply do not want to offend him even in the smallest matter.  This is not a case of neurosis, but the purified motive and intention of one who is sincere in progressing in virtue and holiness.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned that I believe this day five of Saint Elizabeth's retreat, Heaven In Faith is the heart of her spirituality.  Here is the excerpt from her writings that convinces me this is so:

...The capacity of the soul, enlarged by the coming of the Master, seems to go out of itself in order to pass through the walls into the immensity of Him who comes; and a phenomenon occurs: God, who is in our depths, receives God coming to us, and God contemplates God! God in whom beatitude consists."

This excerpt requires several readings and meditation to understand the depth of her statement. We can start by remembering that the Church teaches that the Holy Trinity is God's glory in himself.  Somehow, in this most intimate friendship with us, in a mystical way, He allows us to participate in this glory of "God contemplates God" within us, as our Carmelite Saint states.

Let us begin our Heaven in Faith by answering the Lord's call, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock..."

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, pray for us!

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie Massaro, OCDS

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