February 23, 2011

The Peaceful Stillness of Prayer

A very contemplative monk of the Grande Chartreuse reads the writings of Elisabeth of the Trinity because they have helped him sustain a life of deep prayer.  She leads into theological contemplation.  Her spiritual vision combines beautiful doctrine of great mystics, the Sacred Scriptures, and discrete references to her own life experience.   She does not present her ideas as an organized treatise.   Her thought instead is musical - in fact, it is a lot like 19th Century classical music with intricate interwoven themes repeating in new ways almost rhythmical throughout her reflection.  Each beautiful idea is surrounded by contemplative silence.  By this, I mean that the words pull one into prayer.  Some of those who read her works describe how they cannot read even a full paragraph without being moved to pray, overwhelmed with a longing for the Lord.  Helping her friends enter into deep prayer is exactly what she believed her mission from God to be. 


Probably she is most known for her Prayer to the Trinity, a prayer that has helped many contemplatives grow in devotion to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   This prayer begins with a petition asking the Lord to establish one's own soul in a peaceful stillness.  Whenever we forget about ourselves a little and look to the Lord, it is refreshing.  And we need this kind of refreshment on a regular basis.  Without it, we compromise ourselves in a thousand petty ways, and we feel trapped in our own egos - and this is a foretaste of hell.  When we make time for God, allowing our hearts to rest in Him, if only for a few moments, it is refreshing because it is a foretaste of the perfect freedom awaiting us.  For this is what heaven is - the state of being where we are completely free to thrive: free of pettiness, pride, anger, and all selfishness, of everything that impedes our ability to love.  It is exactly this stillness and peace, this sacred silence out of which love flows, that Blessed Elisabeth is teaching us to seek from God.