September 25, 2014

Temple of the Holy Spirit Continued: Praise as the Music of the Soul

From October 2-4, 2014, the Society of Catholic Liturgy is meeting in Colorado Springs.  The theme for the conference is "The Temple Transformed."  To this end, I am giving a concurrent address on "The Temple of the Holy Spirit in the Writings of the Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity."  The last post and this one are some of my notes.

Blessed Elisabeth describes praising the glory of the Lord in terms of music.  The soul is a lyre.  Emotions, passions, thoughts and imaginings are the strings that must be tuned.  The Holy Spirit is the musician.  Such praise takes up the inner life, it constitutes the existance of the soul as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

She compares the praise offered by a soul with descriptions of heaven found in the Revelations.  This is an invitation to think about the analogy between the soul as a kind of heaven in faith and the heaven of glory that awaits us.  In each one there a chorus breaking out.  The inner sanctuary of one's very being, like heaven, is meant to be filled with wonder, adoration and the jubilation ceaseless praise.

Such joy is for her a divine harmony played on the strings of the heart.  She describes a secret canticle learned from Mary at the foot of the Cross, and at the same time a heavenly hymn which lifts the soul out of time and into eternity. Such praise clings to the glory of the Risen Lord in the midst of all of life's difficult questions because it discovers itself embraced by love.

Music involves harmony and rhythm, the resonance of deep movements of the heart with vast horizons of the world, a mediaton of beauty, of glory, a shining forth of what is good even when it is difficult to discern.  For the soul filled with the Holy Spirit, canticles of the heart offered to the Lord in praise are born not only in the midst of comfort, consolation and satisfaction, but especially in those piercing moments of personal inadequacy, failures and voids.  This divine music, music that Elizabeth describes as the Holy Spirit playing on the strings of the heart, is not an escape, but an expression of real life, of an existence open to the possibility of hope.

The divine indwelling establishes a center point for the heart. In this axis for the inner world, the power of God is made known even as the circumstances of life spin out of control.  Real life does not threaten the music or diminish such praise. The canticles of a soul animated by the Holy Spirit are born in between this divine reality in the depths of the soul and the earthly, created reality through which the soul is living and enduring.  The temple of the Holy Spirit, a Christian courageous enough to stand in this gap by choosing faith, by choosing joy, mediates grace in the real world through this kind of praise, and in this jubilation renders heaven and earth vulnerable to one another.

Faith accesses this center through what Blessed Elizabeth proposes as a simple loving movement toward God. This is a silent humble adoration of the One who is totally other than me but who loves me exceedingly, and it is this movement toward the personally present God who loves that reverberates and explodes into a praise that must be expressed: a song, a canticle, a hymn of love.  Those who have heard such canticles know that the human heart raised by grace to this true worship is unconquerable. In the midst of every trial and hardship, such a soul is become the praise of glory, a temple where the joy of the Holy Spirit overflows and fills the whole world around it.