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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Moment Eternal, The Tabernacle of the Beloved

Trinity from a Book of Hours, an untypical dep...Image via Wikipedia

©2009, Randall A. Beeler
O my God, Trinity whom I adore; help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my Unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your mystery. Give peace to my soul; make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place. May I never leave You there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative Action.—Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity: Prayer to the Trinity, first stanza
May I be established in You, O Lord. May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You.

At first this seems like a plea to be away from the hectic nature of life—"just let me be in You, so that everyone and everything would leave me alone."

Yet, Elizabeth adds, "but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your mystery."

Here Elizabeth's prayer unites with Saint Therese's "little way." Yes, Elizabeth seeks immolation in the Trinity—but not as a dissolution of self. Rather, as a fulfillment and maturation of self—something compared to which her presence in this life is as gossamer as a shadow in fog.

Elizabeth's seeks a peace in the Trinity not through retreat from this life but by being steeped in this life. Each minute is God's gracious means of immersing us more deeply in His love—precisely through those things that would destroy our peace with him.

So the works of the devil come to naught. For even as the devil plots evil in order to frustrate God's will, so God's immeasurable love transforms even such plots into means of steeping us more deeply in the self-giving fire of the Trinity.

Elizabeth seeks a way in which every moment is the only moment, eternal. The moment eternal is God's gracious carrying of us deeper into his mystery. The fragile earthen vessels of our embodied souls thus become, in the most trying moments, the tabernacle of the Beloved.

In such moments, even the most dire moments, the Bridegroom says to his bride,
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. (Song of Solomon 3:10b-13, RSV)
My soul, His bride, says in return,

16 My beloved is mine and I am his, he pastures his flock among the lilies. 17 Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle, or a young stag upon rugged mountains. (Song of Solomon 3:16-17, RSV)


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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Want to Be A Carmelite When I Grow Up


©2009, Randall A. Beeler


Elijah (painting by Jusepe de Ribera)
To live in the presence of God; that is surely an inheritance left to the children of Carmel by the prophet Elijah, who cried out in the fervor of his faith: 

"The God I serve is a living God"... A life of prayer is the essence of the Carmelite vocation; the heart to heart communion that never ends, because when one loves, one no longer belongs to oneself but to the Beloved, and so lives more in Him than in oneself. That is what life in Carmel means: to live in God, contemplating His goodness and beauty, and dedicated entirely to the fulfillment of His blessed Will. Then every immolation, every sacrifice becomes divine; through everything the soul sees Him whom she loves and everything leads her to Him... it is a continual communion. All day long, she surrenders herself to Love, by doing the will of God, under His gaze, with Him, in Him, for Him alone.

This is the life of a Carmelite: to be a true contemplative, another Magdalene, whom nothing can distract from the 'one thing necessary.' I want to be an apostle from the depths of my beloved solitude in Carmel; I want to work for God's glory and the good of all His people, especially His priests; and for that I must be full of Him. Then I should be all-powerful: a look, a wish, would become an irresistible prayer that could obtain everything one asks in the Name of Jesus. I want to remain like Mary Magdalene silent and adoring at the Master's feet, asking Him to make the words of apostles bear fruit in souls.Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, 1st Part of Her "Meditation on the Carmelite Vocation"
I want to be a Carmelite when I grow up. If I grow up, that is. Perhaps, then, I will be a child of Carmel.

Although, the Mount of Carmel does not seem hospitable to children. After all, was it not the harsh abode of Elijah, who saw the whirlwind, felt the earthquake, tasted the fire, and heard the whisper of the still, small voice?

Perhaps that is why Christ and Carmel welcome little children. For children are attracted to still, small voices, like Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity and Saint Therese of Lisieux.

And I mean that both ways--Elizabeth and Therese are little children. And they listen to still, small voices as children will, as only children will dare to hear.
Elizabeth and Therese are not listening for a what but a Whom. And like Horton who hears a Who, Elizabeth and Therese, too, are overlooked. Yet, they prefer it that way. For then they can get on with their listening.

For being overlooked is a tremendous part of their faith. Being overlooked by the world reminds them of how much they overlook the workings of God in their own lives. What is Therese's "Little Way" except an ardent fast against her--and humankind's--will to be enormous, strident, tall, on-top-of-the-mountain?

She knows her own tendency to seek only the mountain top. And her ascent of Mount Carmel is a descent into the littlest of things--the details of her so little life … dishwater daily splashed in her face by an unattendant sister … being blamed for breaking a vase she never touched … being utterly silent about the tuberculosis that slowly consumes her. God is in these details.

And Elizabeth's immolation in the Trinity, her immersion in the oil of self-forgetting adoration that she pours out, like Mary Magdalene's tears on the feet of Jesus. She belongs to the Beloved.
That is why I want to be a Carmelite when I grow up. Because I fear ever being able to grow up into childhood like Elizabeth and Therese do.
Yet, that's where their little and self-immolating way gives me hope. My consumption with the mountain-tops of life, my fiery passions for this thing or that, my self-spawned earthquakes, and my blustering winds--these are the invitation to immolation, to be made small, to have my daily life be a Carmel, where I, unbeknownst to others--and even more unbeknownst to myself--daily wash the feet of my Beloved with my the oil of my life, with the tears of my joy.
This is joy.

The good God would not inspire unattainable desires; I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to sanctity. For me to become greater is impossible; I must put up with myself just as I am with all my imperfections. But I wish to find the way to go to Heaven by a very straight, short, completely new little way. We are in a century of inventions; now one does not even have to take the trouble to climb the steps of a stairway; in the homes of the rich an elevator replaces them nicely. I, too, would like to find an elevator to lift me up to Jesus, for I am too little to climb the rough stairway of perfection.—Saint Therese of Lisieux, from The Story of A Soul


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