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The Lord is Coming — Take Him to Your Heart

The Lord is Coming – Take Him to your Heart

VisagedElisabethdelaTrinite“Take Him to your heart… keep Him in you as in a sanctuary… live with Him in intimacy.”  This was advice offered to a new religious sister just beginning her life as a nun.  The beauty of this message only fully discloses itself when we consider the author. Dictated while racked in pain, coming in and out of delirium, enduring all kinds of physical, psychological and spiritual hardships, wrestling with even despair itself, these words are her great testament to her hope in Christ, a hope to which she cleaved in the face of everything.  In the final weeks of her life, she had become a fiery icon of holiness which gave warmth and enlightenment not just to her community but to everyone who desired to grow in prayer. This nun was Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity, the Mystic of Dijon.

Taking Christ to heart is necessary if one is to be faithful in one's service to God.  Blessed Elisabeth also exhorted the new sister “to raise” herself up in strength and “to surrender” her whole being to the Lord. The total trust in the Lord haunts these words.  We must use our strength to raise ourselves up and not allow ourselves to be bogged down by the anxieties and concerns of this life.  Once raised up, we must surrender not just for a moment and not just what is comfortable, but everything to God. Such raising up and surrender is impossible without God – but the Lord himself is our hope.  Something in these words apply to every life, no matter how busy or active or frantic.  Because to live the Christian life well in whatever our calling we must welcome Jesus into our hearts all the time and never lose sight of Him.  This is a matter of interior discipline where we continually turn our thoughts back to the Lord, keeping them all under the “exceedingly great” love of God, “until He consumes you both night and day” (P123, 22 Oct 1906).

To take the Lord to our hearts is to raise up, to surrender and to welcome with all our might the One who comes in love, the One who is Love.  If we allow our vision to be raised up by faith, if we allow Him to hold our every thought captive in faith, we begin to see that He constantly comes to us in ever new ways and we glimpse how much He yearns to be greeted in love.  Recollection in the silent adoration of our faith holds us in prayerful attentiveness to this divine visitation, this divine invasion of inexhaustible love flooding into our space and time.  Such loving vigilance, with its attention raised above the work-a-day world and the claims of bliss echoing in the merely subjectively satisfying, allows Him to begin a new work in our lives.  If we are faithful to this, the love of the Lord can consume our whole being, making us into fiery icons of his love.

Holiness is a gift which must be welcomed and fully lived out.  It is not the fruit of passivity to the demands of love or of escape from the responsibilities entrusted to us in the brief span of life we have been granted in this world.  Sanctity is not attainable by method or technique or any other attempt to manipulate God or else raise oneself to His level.  It is not the achievement of a lifetime – but rather an obedience unto death.  Because the gift of holiness consists in a participation in God's life, it is greater than our natural life and makes a claim on our whole being.  But God would never ask so much if He were not going to supply all that we need for such a great undertaking. This is why He entrusts to us his very self – And He comes in the power of the Holy Spirit pulsating, communicating, enveloping, inundating us [with] the “exceedingly great” love revealed on the Cross.  We find new courage to take Him to our hearts because He takes us to His heart even more.

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Editor’s Note: For more of Anthony’s insights on prayer, don’t miss his book, Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, an experience like no other. Anthony has an unusually profound understanding of mystical theology and lives a life of deep prayer. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute.
Art: Portrait visage d’Elisabeth de la Trinité [Face portrait of Elisabeth of the Trinity], Willuconquer, CC; Wikimedia Commons.
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About Anthony Lilles

Anthony Lilles, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, completed his graduate and post-graduate studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. He and his lovely wife, Agnes, are blessed with three children and live in California, where he is the Academic Dean, and Associate Professor of Theology, St. John's Seminary, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Academic Advisor for Queen of Angels House of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For over twenty years, Dr. Lilles worked for the Denver Archdiocese directing parish religious education, R.C.I.A. and youth ministry, as well as serving as Director of the Office of Liturgy for the Archdiocese and as Coordinator of Spiritual Formation for the permanent diaconate. In 1999, he became a founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary where he was Academic Dean for nine years and Associate Professor of Theology. He is a Board Member for the Society of Catholic Liturgy. Dr. Lilles has provided graduate level courses on a variety of topics including the Eucharist, the Sacraments of Healing, Church History, Spiritual Theology, Spiritual Direction and on various classics of Catholic Spirituality. His expertise is in the spiritual doctrine of Saint Elisabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In 2012, Discerning Hearts published his book "Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer," a compilation of discussions with seminarians, students, and contemplatives about the spiritual life. He collaborated with Dan Burke on the books "30 Days with Teresa of Avila" and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Therese of Lisieux. And, his book "Fire from Above" was published in 2016. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute. He blogs at BeginningtoPray.blogspot.com

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