Love’s Living Flame
O love’s living flame,
so softly do you sear
the deepest center of my soul!
Now that you no longer shy away,
end this game, I beg of you, today:
Rip open the veil separating us
in this sweet rendezvous!
O tender burn!
O burning boon!
O gentle hand!
O delicate caress,
that infers eternal life
and renders all debts paid!
death into life you have made!
O beacons of fire,
in whose splendor
the blind, dark
of the senses,
with strange and stately art,
warm and enlighten,
and win my love!
How tenderly is your memory
cherished in my breast,
where you alone reside and in secret rest:
Here I taste in your perfumed breath
goodness a-flood with glory–
How gracefully you’ve won my love!
by St John of the Cross
English version by Ivan M. Granger
Original Language Spanish
Jesus, Your ineffable image
Is the star which guides my steps.
Ah, You know, Your sweet Face
Is for me Heaven on earth.
My love discovers the charms
Of Your Face adorned with tears.
I smile through my own tears
When I contemplate Your sorrows.
Oh! To console You I want
To live unknown on earth!
Your beauty, which You know how to veil,
Discloses for me all its mystery.
I would like to fly away to You!
Your Face is my only homeland.
It’s my Kingdom of love.
It’s my cheerful meadow.
Each day, my sweet sun.
It’s the Lily of the Valley
Whose mysterious perfume
Consoles my exiled soul,
Making it taste the peace of Heaven.
It’s my Rest, my Sweetness
And my melodious Lyre
Your Face, O my Sweet Savior,
Is the Divine Bouquet of Myrrh
I want to keep on my heart!
Your Face is my only wealth.
I ask for nothing more.
Hiding myself in it unceasingly,
I will resemble You, Jesus
Leave in me, the Divine Impress
Of Your features filled with sweetness,
And soon I’ll become holy.
I shall draw hearts to You.
So that I may gather
A beautiful golden harvest,
Deign to set me aflame with Your Fire.
With Your adorned mouth,
Give me soon the Eternal Kiss!
How necessary is this blessed unity for the soul that craves to live here below the life of the Blessed, that is, of simple beings, of spirits! Did not the Divine Master mean to teach this to St Mary Magdalen when he spoke of the “unum necessarium” how well that great saint realized it , she had recognized her God by the light of faith under the veil of his humanity and in silence, in the unity of her powers, she heard His word and could sing, “My soul is continually in my hands” and also the little word,” Nescivi” Yes, she knew nothing but Him! Whatever noise and bustle there might be around her, “Nescivi” she might be blamed: “Nescivi” neither care for honor nor exterior things could draw her from her sacred silence. Thus it is with the soul dwelling in the fortress of holy recollection. By the light of faith it sees it’s God present, dwelling within it, while, in turn, the soul is so present to him In its beautiful simplicity that He guards it with jealous care. Then whatever turmoil there may be outside, or whatever tempest within, however its honor may be assailed, “Nescivi” God may hide himself, withdraw his sensible grace, . “Nescivi” ” For Him I have suffered the loss of all things” it exclaims with Saint Paul. Henceforth the Master has full liberty- liberty to infuse himself into the soul, to give himself according to the measure of the giving of Christ, and the soul thus simplified and unified, becomes the throne of Him who changes not. Because unity is the throne of the Blessed Trinity. ~ Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity ~ The Last Retreat of “Laudem Gloriae”
I had wondered for a long time why God had preferences and why all souls did not receive an equal amount of grace […] Jesus saw fit to enlighten me about this mystery. He set the book of nature before me and I saw that all the flowers He has created are lovely. The splendour of the rose and whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. I realised that if every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness and there would be no wild flowers to make the meadows gay.
It is just the same in the world of souls — which is the garden of Jesus. He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but He has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice His eyes whenever He glances down. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be.
I also understood that God’s love shows itself just as well in the simplest soul which puts up no resistance to His grace as it does in the loftiest soul. Indeed, as it is love’s nature to humble itself, if all souls were like those of the holy doctors who have illumined the Church with the light of their doctrine, it seems that God would not have stooped low enough by entering their hearts. But God has created the baby who knows nothing and can utter only feeble cries. He has created the poor savage with no guide but natural law, and it is to their hearts that He deigns to stoop. They are His wild flowers whose homeliness delights Him. By stooping down to them, He manifests His infinite grandeur. The sun shines equally both on cedars and on every tiny flower.
In just the same way God looks after every soul as if it had no equal. All is planned for the good of every soul, exactly as the seasons are so arranged that the humblest daisy blossoms at the appointed time. — St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. (New York: Double Day, 2001) 2-3.
I guess you could say I grew up on the wild side since I grew up in the Bronx during the sixties. As a teenager I was pretty much a “hippie kind of girl” or flower child. The winding road of life has taken me through many terrains. This morning my sweet Lord reminded me how He was always with me despite all the rough terrains I have chosen along the way. As St. Therese said, ” By stooping down to them, He manifests His infinite grandeur.” Today He stooped down to remind me of my loveliness. I am still His lovely blossoming wildflower. I am humbled and I never would have dreamed that He had me destined to grow like a free and gentle wildflower in Carmel the Garden of God. God is so awesome & amazing!! My soul rests in the peace of knowing;
“My beloved is mine, and I am His; He grazes among the lilies.“ Song of Solomon 2:16
Here is a song I connected with the first time I first heard back in 1973 A special year for me since my firstborn son, Gerry was born this year💙
Inner Life and Outer Form and Action
“The work of salvation takes place in obscurity and stillness. In the heart’s quiet dialogue with God the living building blocks out of which the kingdom of God grows are prepared, the chosen instruments for the construction forged. The mystical stream that flows through all centuries is no spurious tributary that has strayed from the prayer life of the church it is its deepest life. When this mystical stream breaks through traditional forms, it does so because the Spirit that blows where it will is living in it, this Spirit that has created all traditional forms and must ever create new ones. Without him there would be no liturgy and no church. Was not the soul of the royal psalmist a harp whose strings resounded under the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit? From the overflowing heart of the Virgin Mary blessed by God streamed the exultant hymn of the “Magnificat.” When the angel’s mysterious word became visible reality, the prophetic “Benedictus” hymn unsealed the lips of the old priest Zechariah, who had been struck dumb. Whatever arose from spirit-filled hearts found expression in words and melodies and continues to be communicated from mouth to mouth. The “Divine Office” is to see that it continues to resound from generation to generation. So the mystical stream forms the many- voiced, continually swelling hymn of praise to the triune God, the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Perfecter. Therefore, it is not a question of placing the inner prayer free of all traditional forms as “subjective” piety over against the liturgy as the “objective” prayer of the church. All authentic prayer is prayer of the church. Through every sincere prayer something happens in the church, and it is the church itself that is praying therein, for it is the Holy Spirit living in the church that intercedes for every individual soul “with sighs too deep for words.” This is exactly what “authentic” prayer is, for “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” What could the prayer of the church be, if not great lovers giving themselves to God who is love! The unbounded loving surrender to God and God’s return gift, full and enduring union, this is the highest elevation of the heart attainable, the highest level of prayer. Souls who have attained it are truly the heart of the church, and in them lives heart attainable, the highest level of prayer. Souls who have attained it are truly the heart of the church, and in them lives Jesus’ high priestly love. Hidden with Christ in God, they can do nothing but radiate to other hearts the divine love that fills them and so participate in the perfection of all into unity in God, which was and is Jesus’ great desire. This was how Marie Antoinette de Geuser understood her vocation. She had to undertake this highest Christian duty in the midst of the world. Her way is certainly a very meaningful and strengthening model for the many people who, having become radically serious about their inner lives, want to stand up for the church and who cannot follow this call into the seclusion of a monastery. The soul that has achieved the highest level of mystical prayer and entered into the “calm activity of divine life” no longer thinks of anything but of giving itself to the apostolate to which God has called it. This is repose in orderliness and, at the same time, activity free of all constraint. The soul conducts the battle in peace, because it is acting entirely from the viewpoint of eternal decrees. She knows that the will of her God will be perfectly fulfilled to his greater glory, because though the human will often, as it were, sets limits for divine omnipotence that divine omnipotence triumphs after all by creating something magnificent out of whatever material is left. This victory of divine power over human freedom, which he nevertheless permits to do as it pleases, is one of the most wonderful and adorable aspects of God’s plan for the world…. When Marie Antoinette de Geuser wrote this letter, she was near the threshold of eternity. Only a thin veil still separated her from that final consummation that we call living in glory. For those blessed souls who have entered into the unity of life in God, everything is one: rest and activity, looking and acting, silence and speaking, listening and communicating, surrender in loving acceptance and an outpouring of love in grateful songs of praise. As long as we are still on the way and the farther away from the goal the more intensely we are still subject to temporal laws, and are instructed to actualize in ourselves, one after another and all the members complementing each other mutually, the divine life in all its fullness. We need hours for listening silently and allowing the Word of God to act on us until it moves us to bear fruit in an offering of praise and an offering of action. We need to have traditional forms and to participate in public and prescribed worship services so that our interior life will remain vital and on the right track, and so that it will find appropriate expression. There must be special places on earth for the solemn praise of God, places where this praise is formed into the greatest perfection of which humankind is capable. From such places it can ascend to heaven for the whole church and have an influence on the church’s members; it can awaken the interior life in them and make them zealous for external unanimity. But it must be enlivened from within by this means: that here, too, room must be made for silent recollection. Otherwise, it will degenerate into a rigid and lifeless lip service. And protection from such dangers is provided by those homes for the interior life where souls stand before the face of God in solitude and silence in order to be quickening love in the heart of the church. However, the way to the interior life as well as to the choirs of blessed spirits who sing the eternal Sanctus is Christ. His blood is the curtain through which we enter into the Holiest of Holies, the Divine Life. In baptism and in the sacrament of reconciliation, his blood cleanses us of our sins, opens our eyes to eternal light, our ears to hearing God’s word. It opens our lips to sing his praise, to pray in expiation, in petition, in thanksgiving, all of which are but varying forms of adoration, i.e., of the creature’s homage to the Almighty and All-benevolent One. In the sacrament of confirmation, Christ’s blood marks and strengthens the soldiers of Christ so that they candidly profess their allegiance. However, above all, we are made members of the Body of Christ by virtue of the sacrament in which Christ himself is present. When we partake of the sacrifice and receive Holy Communion and are nourished by the flesh and blood of Jesus, we ourselves become his flesh and his blood. And only if and insofar as we are members of his Body, can his spirit quicken and govern us. “It is the Spirit that quickens, for the Spirit gives life to the members. But it only quickens members of its own body…. The Christian must fear nothing as much as being separated from the Body of Christ. For when separated from Christ’s Body, the Christian is no longer his member, is no longer quickened by his Spirit….” However, we become members of the Body of Christ “not only through love…, but in all reality, through becoming one with his flesh: For this is effected through the food that he has given us in order to show us his longing for us. This is why he has submerged himself in us and allowed his body to take form in us. We, then, are one, just as the body is joined to the head…..” As members of his Body, animated by his Spirit, we bring ourselves “through him, with him, and in him” as a sacrifice and join in the eternal hymn of thanksgiving. Therefore, after receiving the holy meal, the church permits us to say: “Satisfied by such great gifts, grant, we beseech you, Lord, that these gifts we have received be for our salvation and that we never cease praising you.” St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae. Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae. Ad te Suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. Eia ergo, Advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte. Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria. AMEN.
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.
become my interior Master…
Prompt me in everything,
remind me of all that Jesus said,
guide me take the direction of my whole being,
help my weakness,
provide for my insufficiency…
Teach me to appreciate every least inspiration of yours!
It is more precious than the entire world –
even if it were but a very small inspiration
such as holding back a word or a glance –
because it is a little “calling”
an invitation to enter more deeply into divine intimacy;
if I correspond to it faithfully, I grow in grace and love …
Help me to avoid every slightest infidelity,
every little hesitation to refuse nothing …
then the light will go on growing,
and love will become an abyss that cannot be sounded.
But I know that in practice I shall often fall and often be lacking –
O God, let it not be willingly!
But you, teach me that even in that case
I must recover myself quickly and put myself at once under you influence with an act of love,
without letting myself get troubled, or discouraged, since your Spirit is sweet:
“Oh how sweet is your Spirit O Lord!
Sister Carmela of the Holy Spirit
Elpina the shepherdess
Burning with a great desire
To know how God
Could be loved upon earth,
Wept alone one day
And in the woods
Uttered these words:
“Eh! Who can teach me
to love God Who loves me
and Who, before the existence
of the world He created
with this same love
of His Heart Divine,
While thus grieved
she wept to herself
not being able to console
the pain of her heart;
the virgin, now a hermit,
swooned and fell–
a prey to languor…
Behold, there before her,
ornate with gilded wings,
brimming with celestial delight,
stood suddenly a gracious spirit,
and his loving lips
like lilies and roses
opened into these beautiful accents:
“Elpina, how can you say
You do not love God,
When your very desire
Of loving is love itself?
It is the sweet flame
Which escapes from
The secret furnace of your Heart.”
St. Teresa Margaret Redi of the Sacred Heart
|The Imitation of Christ was an early influence on the spirituality of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux who used it in her prayer life, distilled its message and used it in her own writings which then influenced Catholic spirituality as a whole. Thérèse was so attached to the book and read it so many times that she could quote passages from it from memory in her teens.|
|I occasionally pick up The Imitation of Christ and today as I read it, I knew Christ was speaking straight to my heart. Tears welled up instantly from the wellspring of my heart. In my weariness and undergoing trials of all kinds from within and without, His words were exactly what I needed to hear:|
WHEN WE CANNOT ATTAIN TO THE HIGHEST, WE MUST PRACTICE THE HUMBLE WORKS
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
MY CHILD, you cannot always continue in the more fervent desire of virtue, or remain in the higher stage of contemplation, but because of humanity’s sin you must sometimes descend to lower things and bear the burden of this corruptible life, albeit unwillingly and wearily. As long as you wear a mortal body you will suffer weariness and heaviness of heart. You ought, therefore, to bewail in the flesh the burden of the flesh which keeps you from giving yourself unceasingly to spiritual exercises and divine contemplation.
.In such condition, it is well for you to apply yourself to humble, outward works and to refresh yourself in good deeds, to await with unshaken confidence My heavenly visitation, patiently to bear your exile and dryness of mind until you are again visited by Me and freed of all anxieties. For I will cause you to forget your labors and to enjoy inward quiet. I will spread before you the open fields of the Scriptures, so that with an open heart you may begin to advance in the way of My commandments. And you will say: the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed to us.” I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
Elizabeth of Trinity is one of those who, in her brief 26 years, encapsulates the best of the Carmelite ideal of living in the present moment, loving, contemplating, and serving in silence. Her immediacy is both exciting and comforting.
Far ahead of her time, Elizabeth is the archetypal “Jesus freak,” the authentic “flower child,” without benefit of drugs, rock music, free love or groupie dependence where hollow men and women lean together, their headpieces “filled with straw.” Her astonished non-Catholic doctor testified how she faced death with total serenity, and it confounded his preconceptions.The desperately sought-after “peace” of soul and mind by the hippy generation was seldom found. Elizabeth’s way of peace did surpass all understanding. It was, and is, the “only way to go.”
“O my God, Trinity whom I adore! Help me to become utterly forgetful of self, that I may bury myself in Thee, as changeless and as calm as though my soul were already in eternity . . . O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, Infinite Solitude, Immensity wherein I lose myself! I yield myself to Thee as Thy prey. Bury Thyself in me that I may be buried in Thee, until I depart to contemplate in Thy light the abyss of Thy greatness!”
Thank you, Elizabeth, for playing your song for this brutal unfeeling century. Yours is the sweet music of joy-in-the present, and sweeps us away, not to a faraway heaven out there, but to its ever present reality, at this moment, because we live in Him, and He lives in us.
Thank you, “Laudem gloriae,” for saying your silent ‘Yes’. May it reverberate around this starving planet.
~ by James E. Milord
Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880 – 1906)
Every happening, every event, every suffering as also every joy, is a sacrament that gives God to the soul.
Prayer is a rest, a relaxation, . . . We must look at Him all the time; we must keep silent; it is so simple.
I have found my heaven on earth, since heaven is God, and God is in my soul.
We shall not be purified by looking at our miseries, but by gazing on Him who is all purity and holiness.
Let him sit alone in silence. Lamentations 3:28