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The Spiritual Life: St. Elizabeth of the Trinity and Contemplative Prayer, Part 3: Deep Silence
Deep silence might have been easier for Saint Elizabeth’s contemporaries to appreciate. They were spared the ceaseless sound of surrounding traffic, jets, and blaring music. Yet in other ways, early 20th Century industrial France had instilled the same sense to which we are tempted to succumb: to see ourselves as no more than a cog in wheel of social progress (or else regress). This awareness compels us to search for ways to manage the insatiable vacuum that torments our existence. It is into this searching and this vacuum that Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity speaks. Against a banal existence, she proposes glory. The spiritual mission that she offers the Church is “to help souls cleave to God by a completely simple and loving movement, drawing them out of themselves and keeping them in the great silence in which God imprints Himself in them and transforms them into Himself.” A Mission of Deep Silence Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity’s mission was launched when she produced one of the great spiritual masterpieces in the 20th Century, the prayer, “O My God, Trinity whom I Adore.” Quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, contemplatives have found in her words a theological source for their own prayer. Opening up devotion to the Divine Persons of the Trinity, this prayer instills a great silence that can cause one’s whole existence to participate in God’s own life, to be completely implicated in his saving plan. The prayer has many rich theological references that converge in silence. Its voice and structure are more lyrical than logical. This may be due at least in part to the fact that Saint Elizabeth, a gifted childhood pianist, remained musical in her thinking and self-expression as an adult. This prayer has a certain theological melody, harmony, and rhythm. Its cyclic form is pregnant with the immensity, the beatitude and solitude that seized her heart. It wants to give birth to a simple and loving movement as it is pondered. Instead of a thematic transformation that an enraptured pianist might unfold, Saint Elizabeth manages to lay bare a transformed existence. This kind of doctrinal expression allows her to unfold a contemplation of the Trinity that is oblative. Indeed, an offering of self to God animates the silence into which this prayer draws the soul.