In the previous reflection we spoke about the innermost mystery of authentic fruitfulness as contemplative receptivity to the gift of God. Mary is the most radiant icon of this radical receptivity and of the abundant fruit that it allows to blossom. In her trust-filled “yes” to God’s love and his invitation, she binds together all the hopes, desires, and aspirations of history, all of the longings and prayers of the Old Covenant. In this respect, she is truly “Daughter Zion,” the woman who sums up in her personal existence the whole existence of her people, and opens its completely to God. The prophecy of Zephaniah is thus fulfilled in her:
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O Daughter of Jerusalem!
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not fear, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The LORD, your God, in in your womb,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love.” (Zeph 3:14, 16-17)
Mary, in her childlike and virginal openness to God, is truly one of the “little ones” of the Almighty, who are blessed by him in their poverty, because their hearts depend upon him alone in total faith. In this way she is able to welcome the very Incarnation of the Son of God in her womb, as is so beautifully (and suprisingly!) prophesied in the words of Zephaniah, as well as in the famous words of Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel,” which means God-is-with-us (Is 7:14). Mary’s consent allows the divine Wellspring to inhabit her very body, and to unleash itself in and through her so as to irrigate the entire world with its presence.
When we open ourselves to this “Marian” receptivity, we allow our own heart and life to become “good soil” for the seed of the Word, which is ultimately Jesus Christ himself, who comes to us and pours his love into our hearts. Further, through his coming to us by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus brings with him the full mystery of the Father. Therefore our contemplative openness to welcome this gift allows the entire Trinity to take up his abode within our hearts. Our being becomes, in a real and profound way, a “home” for the Most Holy Trinity, as Jesus himself said during the Last Supper: “If a man loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).
The reality of “home” and the reality of “keeping the word” are deeply connected. The word to keep in this case means much more than mere obedience to an external commandment; rather, it also implies guarding, watching over, or sheltering. This is exactly what we saw in the previous reflection on being good soil, or even a womb, for the word and the love of God. When we open our hearts in order to welcome Christ’s word, whenever we make our being a shelter for his gift and his will, then he can come, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and inhabit us in the most profound and intimate way.
But indeed our very ability to open ourselves in this way is itself God’s gift, as his grace precedes, awakens, and sustains our own loving response. This is, in particular, the unique work of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us and prays in us, teaching us how to pray by incorporating us into his own prayer. As Saint Paul wrote:
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs to deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
The Spirit’s presence and grace alive in our hearts cradles and sustains our own response, so that our every prayer, our every encounter with God, is a matter of “grace encountering grace.” In other words, the grace-within-us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit makes us able to receive the grace-outside-of-us, which comes through the gift of God incarnate in Christ, and made present in all the circumstances of our life in which he makes himself known.
We see in this intimate movement of prayer, therefore, our profoundly beautiful dynamic: the Spirit draws us to the Son and makes us able to welcome him, and the Son in turn draws us in himself to the Father and also allows us to welcome the Father. Within this “drawing,” further, there is a twofold movement, two movements going in “opposite” directions which are actually the same: 1) we pass in the Spirit through the Son to the Father, so that we may abide in his bosom, 2) and we welcome the Father in the Son through the Spirit into the recesses of our own hearts, so they may make their home within us. This is the most breathtaking intimacy, which God ardently desires to have with each one of us. “May they all be one, Father; even as you are in me, and I in you, may they also be in us” (cf. John 17:21).
We are invited to share in the mutual indwelling of the three divine Persons, who each “inhabit” one another in the most blissful intimacy of love. If we are willing to give our “yes,” then the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit come to make their home in us, dwelling in our hearts and breathing forth in us the fragrance of their love and joy. And by doing this, they are simultaneously enfolding us in their own most intimate embrace, such that we find our home in them, in the eternal communion that they share.
This, indeed, is not only the greatest gift we can possibly receive—the reality that encompasses all of life and gives it meaning—but it is also the greatest gift we can offer to our brothers and sisters. If we truly allow the Trinity to live within us, giving him a place of welcome and repose in our inmost heart and life, then the fragrance of his Love will necessarily spread through us to others. Indeed, the Trinity brings with him the ceaseless hymn of his own life of perfect love and joy, and the echoes of this sacred music, this song of jubilation, through sounding in our hearts, will be heard by others, attracting them to God.
In welcoming the indwelling presence of God, indeed, we find that he is able to perpetuate within us his saving mysteries, his redeeming and healing activity in the world. Christ comes to live so deeply within us that he perpetuates in us his own life and the mysteries of his existence: his Incarnation, his prayer, his ministry, his compassion for humanity, his Transfiguration, his Passion, his Resurrection, his Ascension, and his gift of the Spirit. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
Christ enables us to live in him all that he himself lived, and he lives it in us. “By his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man” (Gaudium et Spes, 22.2). We are called only to become one with him, for he enables us as the members of his Body to share in what he lived for us in his flesh as our model: “We must continue to accomplish in ourselves the stages of Jesus’ life and his mysteries and often to beg him to perfect and realize them in us and in his whole Church. … For it is the plan of the Son of God to make us and the whole Church partake in his mysteries and to extend them to and continue them in us and in his whole Church. This is his plan for fulfilling his mysteries in us” (St. John Eudes). (par 521)
Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity understood this so well when, in her Prayer to the Trinity, she wrote:
O my God, Trinity whom I adore, let me entirely forget myself that I may abide in You, still and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity; let nothing disturb my peace nor separate me from You, O my unchanging God, but that each moment may take me further into the depths of Your mystery! Pacify my soul! Make it Your heaven, Your beloved home and place of Your repose; let me never leave You there alone, but may I be ever attentive, ever alert in my faith, ever adoring and all given up to Your creative action.
O my beloved Christ, crucified for love, would that I might be for You a spouse of Your heart! I would anoint You with glory, I would love You – even unto death! Yet I sense my frailty and ask You to adorn me with Yourself; identify my soul with all the movements of Your soul, submerge me, overwhelm me, substitute Yourself in me that my life may become but a reflection of Your life. Come into me as Adorer, Redeemer and Saviour.
O Eternal Word, Word of my God, would that I might spend my life listening to You, would that I might be fully receptive to learn all from You; in all darkness, all loneliness, all weakness, may I ever keep my eyes fixed on You and abide under Your great light; O my Beloved Star, fascinate me so that I may never be able to leave Your radiance.
O Consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, descend into my soul and make all in me as an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to Him a super-added humanity wherein He renews His mystery; and You O Father, bestow Yourself and bend down to Your little creature, seeing in her only Your beloved Son in whom You are well pleased.
O my “Three”, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in whom I lose myself, I give myself to You as a prey to be consumed; enclose Yourself in me that I may be absorbed in You so as to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your Splendour!
We see in this prayer not only Elizabeth’s profound desire for God, but her awareness of God’s immense desire for her. She is, as it were, simply responding to an invitation, to the awareness that her beloved “Three” yearn to take up their abode within her, and in doing so to irradiate her whole being with their life, love, joy, and activity. So she offers herself happily and lovingly to the Trinity, welcoming him radically into her soul, knowing herself to be his beloved daughter and spouse. How beautifully, in this young woman of the early twentieth century, do we see reflected the attitude of that other young woman of the first century, when God first incarnated himself within our world!
– What is my spontaneous emotional and spiritual response to the affirmation that the entire Trinity desires to make his “home” within me?
– Do I understand how the greatest gift that I can offer to the world is precisely my receptivity to God and his gift?
– In thinking that Christ desires to “incarnate” himself in my life and to perpetuate in me his saving mysteries, what is my response? Do I desire this? Am I afraid of this?