Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity: March 2004 Archives

To Be a Carmelite


from the writings of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity as found here

So, on the mountain of Carmel, in silence, in solitude, in a prayer which is unceasing, for nothing can interrupt it, the Carmelite already lives as though in heaven: for God alone! The same God who will one day be her beatitude and will fulfill her desires in glory, is already giving Himself to her here on earth. He never leaves her, He dwells in the depths of her being, and more wonderful still, He and she are but one. And so she is hungry for silence and prayer that she may always listen to Him and penetrate more deeply into His infinite Being. She identifies herself with Him whom she loves, she finds Him everywhere. She sees Him shining through everything. She belongs to Him alone, and trusts completely in His loving and faithful providence. Is that not heaven on earth?

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Suffering for Christ

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I don't know about you, but this is an aspect of Saints' lives that always bewildered me. God made life beautiful, wonderful, and glorious. Why would we want to go through it suffering for His sake? Wouldn't it be better to glory in it for His sake? To appreciate the good, and treasure it for all that it is, the gift God saw fit to bestow upon us? Yes, I know that we will return home to the Father, and we should look forward to that wonderful day, but should we discourteously dismiss the wonderful gifts that He has given us so that we can suffer more? Is that the way we treat the gifts of our human parents? Box them up and ship them off so that we can do without?

Last night in my reading, I stumbled across this reminder, which I recall from reading St. Thérèse, but needed to hear again.

from He Is My Heaven
Jennifer Moorcroft

It is well worth quoting this remarkable letter [249] in full, if only because of the superb advice it contains. But it also reveals so beautifully Elizabeth's spiritual outlook. It is full of common sense, taking full account of our human weakness and yet at the same time piointng to the heights of holiness. It is completely without self-pity; far from asking "why me?" her utter assurance that she and others are totally loved by God enables her to see purpose and meaning in suffering. But there is no hint of suffering for suffering's sake. Her conversation with Mother Germaine shows the same commonsense approach; if it cannot be avoided, and we have a duty to look after ourselves, then we must use it for his glory. The whole letter is permeated with Scripture, which she mediatated upon and lived. Above all, this was no theory, but only wat she experienced for herself.

As the Buddha pointed out (incorrectly) "All life is suffering." Well, ALL life is not suffering, but even the very best earthly life comes with its share of sorrow, disappointment, and pain. When these cannot be avoided, as Blessed Elizabeth and a great many other Saints teach, they should be embraced and offered up to God. What a great common-sense approach to things.

We will suffer. That is a given. There isn't a single human being who has ever lived that has not suffered. However, we suffer even more when we try to avoid the reality of suffering and spend our time complaining about it and trying to find extraordinary means of fleeing it (drugs, alcohol-abuse, etc.). If there will be suffering, then it seems better to accept this as part of what has come from God to us--a kind of bitter-sweet gift, and offer it back to Him as a share in His own suffering from us.

So when we read about suffering in the Saints, keep this in mind. Most were probably not masochists, but recognized the wonders and the beauties of life. But they also recognized that suffering is the human lot. If it is to happen to us anyway (even after we have taken pains to avoid it) than the best we can do is to offer it back to Jesus after we have cherished it. Rhonda Chervin has a book that examines this called A Kiss from the Cross. One important point to remember is that we needn't go out of our way to make ourselves suffer--this I suppose would be a sin against God's goodness. We have enough suffering in life that we needn't make more for ourselves or for others.

God loves us. Suffering is a fact of our mortal bodies and a consequence of the fall. By accepting that lot and offering it back in some sense we help to redress the upset in balance that resulted from the fall.

And small acts of mortification, small deprivations of God's goods also help us to acknowledge that God is more important to us that these lovely baubles that surround us. Giving up what is good and right for a time, as we do in Lent, we experience some part of that "suffering." If we are "using" it wisely, we are allowing it to change our hearts and our lives so that they are more closely aligned with God's Heart and His vision for our lives.

Suffering is not purposeless, it reminds us of the transcience of the present world, and it acts like a cattle prod to keep our feet moving on the path toward holiness.

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Sorry, I'm on a Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity kick, and if you would get the book from ICS and read it, you'd see why. In the meantime, let me tell you the immediate cause of my enthusiasm:

from He Is My Heaven
Jennifer Moorcraft

"Pray that I might have his passion for God and for souls," asked Elizabeth, "for a Carmelite must be an apostle." The Carmelite prays and strives for the closest possible union with God, not simply for her own holiness and salvation; she is aware that the more she is living in Christ, the more powerful she is in her prayer for others. Just as evil can pollute and corrupt, even more so goodness and holiness can transform.

Oh, how powerful over souls is the apostle who remains always at the Spring of living waters; then he can overflow without his soul ever becoming empty, since he lives in communion with the Infinite!. . .Let us be wholly His, Monsieur l'Abbé, let us be flooded with His divine essence, that He may be the Life of our life, the Soul of our soul, and we may consciously remain night and day under His divine action. (L 124)
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Y'all just must spend some time with her. See this quote:

from He Is My Heaven
Jennifer Moorcroft

May Christ bring us into those depths, those abysses where one lives only by Him. Would you like to be united to your little sister in order to become wholly loving, wholly listening, wholly adoring?

To love, to love all the time, to live by love, that is, to be surrendered. (L125)

It really is only one step, but the really hard part is the preliminaries where God prepares you for the step. Our prayer is to Love God and to be Love for God here in the world. As St. Teresa of Avila can be paraphrased, "In the end it is not how much we know, it is how much we love that we shall be judged by." And by "how much," I take St. Teresa to mean both in quantitative (how often it is expressed) and qualitative (the actions by which it is expressed) mode. Some express their love in song and prayer and silence, others express it through strong refutation of error, counsel, and preaching, still others through hospitality. There is no end to the expression of love of God, and it is absolutely necessary for each of us to pursue through grace that end of loving in the particular way that God desires for us. For if we choose to love as we choose, then we do not really love at all.

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from He Is My Heaven: The Life of Elizabeth of the Trinity
Jennifer Moorcroft

Let us live with God as with a friend, let us make our faith a living faith in order to be in communion with Him through everything, for that is what makes saints. We possess our Heaven within us, since He who satisfies the hunger of the glorified in the light of vision gives Himself to us in faith and mystery, it is the Same One! It seems to me that I have found my Heaven on earth, since Heaven is God, and God is [in] my soul. The day I unsterstood that everything became clear to me.

For Elizabeth, this was not just a lovely spiritual idea, once she understood it, she lived it with unrelenting persistance, as she said herself, it was how saints were made. It was a way that was typical for her, since there was no dividing line between her spiritual life and her everyday life. In her letter to Guite [stevenote: Elizabeth's sister] Elizabeth went on to reassure her family, who were worried by the thought of the hard Lenten observance in Carmel: "Lent isn't tiring me; I don't even notice it, and then I have a good little Mother who watches over me with a quite maternal heart" (L 109).

And so we have a synthesis of Carmelite teaching. Live with God as with a friend in constant conversation, listening more than speaking; and make your faith a living faith. Perhaps this might be said to BE faith alive. That is when people look at your life they see the fire burning there, the faith that is the love of God shining forth. This should show forth not from what you say, nor even necessarily from what you do, but in how you go about it.

I think of it as the spiritual equivalent for Faith of what Audrey Hepburn was for sophistication, class, and beauty. She didn't need to preach classiness or sophistication--it was simply who she was. And reports have it that part of that may have been because of her faith. But when people look at us, as we conduct ourselves even virtually, they should see the constant striving to make real the presence of God within and among us. They should see living faith. And this only becomes possible when the most important thing in the world is a passionate, all-consuming love of God and desire for His will alone.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity category from March 2004.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity: November 2005 is the next archive.

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