Today in Carmel we celebrate the feast of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, a young French Carmelite sister who died in 1906 in Dijon. Elizabeth is famous for her prayers to the Holy Trinity and the wonderful insights she offers in them which can help us understand the mystery of the Godhead and nurture our devotion to Him.
There are many things we take away from a reading of her prayers, and one of them is the realization that the spiritual life is a journey within to God. God dwells within the soul (if we are baptised and in a state of grace) and as we progress along the path of holiness we enter in a deeper way into the mystery of the Holy Trinity, our God. While God dwells within, and the journey is within (as St Teresa of Avila also teaches, particularly in her work The Interior Castle) it is a journey to the "Other" and not to the self. In other words progress in the spiritual life about moving from ourselves to God in context of the Lord's teaching that he who loses his life finds it: in finding God as the ultimate other we also find ourselves and understand ourselves, but the movement is to God.
Now that may seem obvious to many of us, but in reality as modern man and woman's understanding of spirituality has changed, we often find that many see the spiritual journey as a journey to the self, a glorification of the self, an understanding of the self where the self is seen, somehow, to be at the centre of all things. This is one of the reasons, perhaps why many turn to Eastern philosophies and spirituality so they can find themselves, although ironically they tend to westernize this spirituality to the point to making it the very opposite of what it is: Eastern spirituality is ultimately about absorption into a greater energy, a loss of self.
Blessed Elizabeth's theology of the Trinity is an important corrective to that modern mentality: we are not at the centre of the universe, we are not "it". Progress in the spiritual life is not a journey into me to find me, whoever me is. Rather it is the journey into the deeper parts of us to find Him who is totally other and from whom we receive life and gifts. God who dwells within by virtue of our baptism calls us out of ourselves into Him and there, in that act of abandonment, we find ourselves in Him. And vital to that progress is living the Gospel and the practice of virtue: the journey within also concerns external actions.
That is what our faith is all about, this is the journey to God, to holiness, to happiness. This is something we need to remember as we look to the life and renewal of the Church.
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