June 14, 2011

The Living Presence of the Holy Trinity

Bl. Elisabeth of the Trinity witnesses to the living presence of the Holy Trinity.  In her theological vision, the Trinity is not an abstract puzzle which must be solved or the object of intellectual despair.  This is because very early on in own her life she felt the overwhelming love of God.  This love ravished her soul and she welcomed it and surrendered to it.  Rather than an abstract dogma, we find her addressing the Trinity in personal terms of endearment "my Three," "my All," and "my Beatitude."  Rather than a static idea, the Holy Trinity is for her ever actively present in the soul, constantly at work, continually rebuilding by love what we thought we destroyed.  The Trinity is no nihilistic, closed or absorbing reality.  Instead, the Trinity is so open and accessible that her writings suggest we only become most fully the creature we are predestined to be in Christ through completely entering into this mystery and allowing God to enter into us.  The Three in One and One in Three is our true home, the fulfillment of all desire, our inheritance with the saints, the Abyss of Mercy, the Furnace of Love, our heavenly homeland.

Access to this unfathomable mystery she describes in terms of  a wholly simple and loving movement, a gaze of love, a descent, a divine impact, an astonishing encounter with the Triune God.  To lovingly attend to God's living presence is to remain, to surrender, and to dwell with Him.  This kind of deep prayer, which she calls holy recollection or even contemplation, allows God to completely envelop and immovably establish the soul in the peaceful stillness of the Bosom of the Trinity.  It is the method of not using a method to approach God.  Rather, God crucified for our sake is approached in such humble gratitude of heart, it yields a "not knowing" of anything but Him and his great love.  She describes this kind of contemplation as primarily God's work which we make space for by self-denial and silence.  The soul humbly asks and obediently waits.  The Father engenders the Son and causes Love to be born in the heart.  In her vision of prayer, not only do we come to rest in the Holy Trinity - but God is transforming our hearts, renewing the image of the Trinity on earth.

Such prayer is purifying, simplifying, humbling and, at the same time, glorifying.  Blessed Elisabeth understood that our humble trust in Him makes us irresistible to Him.  He lavishes us with incalculable blessings, exceeding every expectation, and raising us above ourselves to participate in his very life.  For her, the weaknesses we discover in prayer do not impede God's work but instead become instruments through which He is revealed.  Human frailty is meant to be enveloped in divine splendor - and this is achieved in the deep silence of loving surrender to his living presence.  Through humbly clinging in love to the living presence of the Holy Trinity we become what we are predestined to be: the praise of glory.


  1. This is a beautiful essay. I like this: " It is the method of not using a method to approach God." I have always found methods not too helpful for me. I pray as I can and not as I can't. I ask God to increase my ability to pray in a way that He finds pleasing. I leave it at that and live in trust and gratitude. Prayer methods make me nervous.

  2. It's so easy and comes so naturally, good to be reminded of that - thanks Anthony - Blessings - Rene

  3. "...the Holy Trinity is for her ever actively present in the soul, constantly at work, continually rebuilding by love what we thought we destroyed." Yes, the Trinity's "constant work" and "continual rebuilding" within us is so beautiful. Your words here remind me of John of the Cross "Romances" where he describes the Trinity as "in Him he possessed infinite happiness." It is the limitless and infinite nature of God that He brings into our very being through His grace and takes our breath away.

  4. This is at least as good as anything my Carthusian author has to say. On those days when for the life of me I can't remember what prayer is about or how one goes about it, this would be excellent to read. Or any other time. It seems to me that contemplation needs a lot more people explaining it. I mean there's a lot that happens there, inside one, and it seems like the whole thing doesn't get discussed much. Like how would it be if no one ever talked about math? And there were no math classes? This is, to me, how severe the lack of a contemplative voice is in our society.