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Monday, 13 July 2015

Framing Prayer 17 Humility and Love

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity gives us new insights into the virtue of humility. Amazingly, these are shared in retreat notes written by such a young person one sees clearly her holiness.

Elizabeth's insights into the Scriptures make one forget that she wrote over one-hundred years ago-- she is a saint with infused knowledge regarding the works of St. Paul, and the Gospels.

Let me share two of her insights into those who are humble. First,  "...their weakness turns into wisdom, and the imperfection of their acts, always insufficient in their eyes, will be the greatest delight of their lives."

In other words, one experiences joy when one sees one's sins, as then one understands the soul's real relationship to God and is grateful for His love and mercy. Perhaps, this is why some saints struggle with imperfections and even venial sins for years, while others are freed of these early on in their lives---for greater humility. St. Augustine comes to mind.

And, even more profound is this note from Elizabeth, an extension from a quotation from the Belgium mystic Ruybroeck . "...to be plunged into humility is to be plunged into God,  for God is at the bottom of the abyss. That is why humility, like charity, is capable of increasing."

Elizabeth was meditating on the words of both St. Teresa of Avila and Blessed John of Ruysbroeck, a mystic who wrote on humility. He used the word "abyss" but Elizabeth takes his reference to humility a step further and applies this experience of the Dark Night to an experience of bridal love, the bridal love of the soul of a contemplative, which joins with humility in the mystery of God's Presence within the soul-the Indwelling of the Trinity.

Ruysbroeck taught, among other things. that the contemplative life, a life which brings a clarity of mind, (Illuminative State) creates these following attributes in a person of prayer: a spiritual freedom from worldliness, including detachment from things and desires--which would correspond with the purgation of the senses and spirit as described by St. John of the Cross; an inward silence--the little "cell" of St. Catherine of Siena, which brings with it a purgation of the imagination; and lastly, union. Shades of Garrigou-Lagrange and the perfection series.....

Elizabeth was allowed to see the connection between deep humility and love. Her bridal love for Christ and the perception of Christ's bridal love for the individual soul create a bridge from the abyss of the Dark Night to the stage of enlightenment, which brings to the soul a seeing of the world and one's self as Christ does, and a living in constant virtue. In other words, Elizabeth's gift to us on these levels of prayer is that love moves one through the stages, and love is the reward of each stage.

It is significant that this young saint experienced the love of union with God, as did St. Therese of Lisieux, but both were asked to suffer after that unitive experience, as victims of reparation for others.

For the lay person, this seeking of the contemplative life cannot be seen as a luxury, but a necessity. 

(By the way, I just found out today that Dag Hammarskj√∂ld's Markings, a book I came across as a teenager and which may have been the first book I read on the mystical life, was influenced by Ruysbroeck in a manner I missed as a young person. Interesting. I read it and moved on to the Catholic mystics, not dwelling on Markings, but using it as a reference--I had no one to explain the real meaning of contemplation found therein, but, thankfully was introduced to Ignatian spirituality, which put me on the right Catholic track.)

Elizabeth, even in the last sufferings of her illness, maintained her great faith and hope for union with Christ in heaven. She was very aware that she was destined for heaven. Her humility, founded on love, teaches us all that even in a young and simple life, one can endure suffering more easily when one has self-knowledge of one's sins and also clings to Christ.

Let us ask for these graces, in order to withstand the coming suffering we shall all have to face. After one more posting on Elizabeth of the Trinity, I shall move on to St. Ignatius.