All Saints, the one feast which, every year has growing significance, for the simple reason that there are more saints to celebrate. We honour all the saints in Heaven, the canonised saints of course, but the many more uncanonised ones whom, please God, we will meet when we get there. We hope and pray that among them are to be counted our grandparents and parents, siblings, children, friends, etc. Being admitted into Heaven will be a moment of unimaginable excitement at all the fascinating discoveries. There will be so many people to see, and many, many more to meet. And there will be so many questions to ask and so many to answer. But we will have all eternity ...
And yet, the most exciting part of Heaven will be discovering……. the Triune God, the Eternal, Omnipotent Creator, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; the face to Face vision of the Divine Essence, which will leave us ravished in ecstasy, and so completely taken by the Presence of the One. It will be a beatifying experience, that it so say, it will make us overflow with unending and unlimited bliss, joy, elation. It will be all the more gratifying in that it will surpass any experience of God we might have in this life, where distractions are many, and where the weight of the body pulls us away from even the most blessed and satisfying activities, even if only for the need to sleep and restore out depleted energies.
Even in this life, some saints were given to experience the presence of God in a unique way. One saint that comes to mind, because she was canonised just a couple weeks ago, is St Elisabeth of the Trinity, the Carmelite from Dijon who died in 1906 at the age of 26. Elisabeth was fascinated when, as a young girl, she was told that her name means “house of God”. That truth struck her soul and penetrated it by means of a Divine radiance which never faded, but only intensified as she made her way towards the eternal homeland. From that day forward, her life would only become more and more interiorised, as she sought to delve into the depths of that mysterious Being who had deigned to take up His abode in her mind and body. The house of God, such is the soul of every one who is in a state of God’s grace, who seeks God with an upright heart and obeys His law as a means of proving her fidelity to the God of love who steps down to share with her His own intimate life. Going from virtue to virtue, and making giant steps in sanctity, Elisabeth consumed her short life at First Vespers of the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, 8th November 1906 (feast day coming up in just a few days). It was such a fitting day, for this privileged soul who was and knew she was, perhaps better than any of the saints, the House of God, His dwelling place among men.
Some of you are, I am sure, familiar with her famous prayer to the Trinity, which she wrote on the evening of 21st November 1904. A lifetime of pondering the mystery of the Divine indwelling spurted out, as it were, from her virginal heart in one sitting,, most probably in a moment of ecstasy. This prayer, which is not long, is nonetheless one which can be contemplated unceasingly, for its depth of insight. It’s one of the moments in the history of sanctity where the Spirit of Love makes His presence felt in the Church, and even though it is not, in the strict sense, part of the Divine Revelation which was closed with the death of the last apostle, it expresses and synthesises the data of that Revelation in an unprecedented way. I would like here to dwell for a moment upon a few lines from the second paragraph, in which she writes: Give peace to my soul; make it Thy Heaven, Thy cherished dwelling, Thy home of rest. May I never leave Thee there alone, but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring and wholly surrendered to Thy creative action.
“Give peace to my soul”. How profound a thought that the God of peace should bring peace, His peace, Divine Peace, to the soul in which He deigns to dwell. It’s almost as if He comes for that very reason. The Eternal Lord, in His eternal present, and in the perfect tranquillity of order, as peace is defined, how could He possibly not communicate that peace to the soul? This is something Elisabeth perceived with acuity. She understood how important it is for the soul to not only have the God of peace in her, but also to experience that peace itself. It is only in peace that the Voice of God can be heard. Important in every age, it is a matter of life or death today. With the unending and conflicting noises that reach our ears and eyes, the Enemy strives to take away that Divine Peace in order to establish his own dark turmoil. The devil reigns in darkness, he fishes in troubled waters, as the saying goes. That is why it is absolutely vital that we find that peaceful corner of our soul and stay there.
St Elisabeth goes on to ask that her soul become Heaven, the cherished dwelling place of God, His home of rest. How amazing is that! When you come to perceive the depth of this theology, and the inexpressible peace it brings, then you begin, very faintly at first, but more markedly if you persevere in the ways of prayer, how futile the world is with all its noise and vanity. If you have found your little Heaven in the depth of your soul where the Holy Trinity reigns supreme and gives you part in His beatifying love and peace, then, really and literally, the world can no longer hold any attraction whatsoever, and you will only want to either retire to a monastery where you can savour that presence forever, or, if your duties are in the world, to the blessed niche of your soul where, each day, for long moments, you can taste and see how good the Lord is. You will never again want to leave Him there alone, but your every effort will go towards surrendering yourself completely to His creative action. And then you will begin to suspect the really great things that God longs to create in your soul and, through your soul, in those around you and in the whole world. For behold I create new heavens, and a new earth: and the former things shall not be in remembrance, and they shall not come upon the heart. But you shall be glad and rejoice for ever in these things, which I create: for behold I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and the people thereof joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people, and the voice of weeping shall no more be heard in her (Is 65:17-19).
With these thoughts in mind, I wish you a very blessed feast of All Saints. May you be given to taste and see how blessed is that fatherland in which all the elect rejoice together forever in the presence of God. I would also like to assure you of my prayers for all your deceased loved ones. During the first eight days of November, a plenary indulgence can be gained each day by visiting a cemetery and praying for the deceased. May our charity for the souls in purgatory incite us to obtain as many indulgences as we can, so that if possible purgatory may be emptied!
Here is the full text of St Elisabeth of the Trinity's prayer:
O my God, Trinity Whom I adore! help me to become utterly forgetful of self, that I may establish myself in Thee, as changeless and as calm as though my soul were already in eternity. May nothing disturb my peace nor draw me forth from Thee, O my immutable Lord! but may I penetrate more deeply every moment into the depths of Thy Mystery.
Give peace to my soul; make it Thy Heaven, Thy cherished dwelling, Thy home of rest. May I never leave Thee there alone, but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring and wholly surrendered to Thy creative action.
O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, how I long to be the bride of Thy heart; how I long to cover Thee with glory, and to love Thee... until I die of very love! Yet I feel my weakness, and ask Thee to clothe me with Thyself, to identify my soul with all the movements of Thy Soul, to immerse me in Thyself, to possess me, to substitute Thyself for me, that my life may be but a radiance of Thy Life. Come into me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Saviour!
O Eternal Word, Utterance of my God! I yearn to spend my life in listening to Thee, to become wholly docile, that I may learn all from Thee. Then, through all nights, all emptiness, all helplessness, I long to gaze on Thee always and to dwell beneath Thy lustrous beams. O my beloved Star! So fascinate me that I may never again withdraw from Thy radiance!
O consuming Fire! Spirit of Love! come upon me and reproduce in me, as it were, an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to Him another humanity wherein He renews all His mystery.
And Thou, O Father, bend towards Thy poor little creature and overshadow her, beholding in her none other than the Beloved, in Whom Thou hast set all Thy pleasure.
O my “Three,” my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity wherein I lose myself! I surrender myself to Thee as Thy prey. Immerse Thyself in me, that I may be immersed in Thee, until I depart to contemplate in Thy light the abyss of Thy greatness!