Fr Ken Parker invited Carol O’Connor to give the 5th
Bunyip Lecture at St. Thomas', Bunyip, on Sunday the 2nd of
December 2018. Here is the summary of Carol's paper, which was handed out to attendees.
philosopher questioned the Holy Anthony. “How,” he said, “do you content
yourself, Father, who is denied the comfort of books?” He answered, “My book,
philosopher, is the nature of created things, and as often as I have a mind to
read the words of God, it is at my hand.” Sayings of the Desert Fathers Book XXI
In the Church
cycle, we’re now entering the Year of Luke: praise is a keynote
of this Gospel. It’s a ‘Gospel of messianic joy.’ Luke’s emphasis is
universal salvation; it is laden with practical ethics and causes us reflection
on moral living. Dr
Dorothy Lee, Melbourne New Testament Scholar & Anglican Priest.
What does gift giving mean? As
Christians we believe that the real gift on Christmas Day is the birth of Jesus
Christ, but what is it that we are being given? And how do we live in response
to this gift?
Three of the many
gifts given to us in the birth of Christ Jesus:
gift of relationship
religious books are never an end in themselves - they only ever point the way
towards. They point the way toward the ‘Word made flesh’, it’s up to the reader
to live from the meaning discovered in the book with courage, with a
willingness to risk embodying the Word in themselves.
When we are born,
we are born into relationship. The primary relationship we are born into is
with God. Our first human relationship is with the person or persons who are
our primary care givers. Ideally they are figures of love. To grow and
flourish through childhood we need the other - the one who loves us. The
network extends outwards into community, between cultures. ‘We go to heaven in
one another’s pockets,’ is a phrase quoted by Rowan Williams.
We take community
with us wherever go because we take with us our capacity for relationship in
gift of memory always happens from the place in which we stand in the
present. It’s meaning derives from the relationship we have in God.
writers can give us courage to face our own terrors and examine memories that
are painful. Go to the hard places, especially in your relationship with God,
stand there and see what you can see. Go to the hard places with the eyes of
God. Ask: what can I see or re-see in and from this challenging place?
For Miroslav Volf
it’s important to remember the past rightly. Christ’s Passion and resurrection
need to inform how we engage in the action of remembering.
It’s important to
learn to live theology, not just read it in books. Remember God’s
love in all that you do.
gift of language
writers give us a language that can help steady our feet; words that enable us
to enflesh or put form around our experience. They offer a language, a
vocabulary, upon which I can invite my own experience into and hang my own
thoughts upon. The gift of language can provoke our imagination; push further
the boundaries of reflection. Language grows us.
Rowan Williams & Richard Rohr offer vocabularies that are living and
nuanced. As they’ve drawn from other writers, through their words God speaks to
us. Theirs becomes a language which I can draw from, dwell upon, and in turn
hope God uses through me to speak to others. And this is a gift giving whose
primary source is the Word made flesh.
Williams and David Adam encourage us to take the words we use in our prayer
life seriously. They encourage us to find prayers to sit with, have them walk
them inside us inside as a mantra. And we can only do this when we enter
into ‘slow craft time.’ In his book Holy Living, Rowan Williams
reminds us to stay present ‘where you are, rather than taking refuge in the
infinite smallness of your fantasies.’ Expansion of the heart takes time.
Williams quotes the Welsh saying: ’life is about inhabiting a great hall within
narrow walls.’ P
65. For him, and so many of
these writers, life is about learning to be still and listen, to ponder, to be
fully present to the place you are in.
many forms. God also speaks through the expressive arts: music, poetry, dance,
painting. God’s Word is found in nature and in silence and the unsaid. The
grammar of God is in the nature of created things and lives inside
each one of us.
If our language
serves reconciliation, breaks through the illusion of separation and hate, of
fear and abuse then our lives start to become aligned into the enlarging the
heart of God.
I can purchase or
read all the books about God I like, but if I do not live first from response
to this space of Love, and if my first book is not, as Holy Anthony says, the
nature of created things as seen through Love’s eyes, then what I see will
be forever only an illusion.
The gift of the Word
made flesh, with all its hope and beauty and pain and vulnerability, the
gift of Christ who is born at Christmas, enables us to see through illusion to
Reality. And that’s a Word really worth holding onto.
Members of the Icon School of St. Peter with the completed panels of the iconostasis
for installation above the nave of St. Peter's Church, Eastern Hill, Melbourne
Report by Philip
Bayton founded an icon school in 1982, when he was vicar of St. Peter’s Eastern
Hill, Melbourne, initially working in the vicarage kitchen.In its heyday, the Icon School of St. Peter
was both a teaching institution and a workshop for established and novice
iconographers. There was a waiting list to join the School, which met every
month on a Tuesday morning at Eastern Hill. It is one of a number of such schools
and groups operating in Melbourne, firm in its adherence to Byzantine practice.
Several past members went on to found schools themselves. Some thirty-six years
later the School this year made the decision, after some discernment, to close.
time, members of the School contributed to the building up of a considerable
resource library. There are folio size books of different vintages containing
reproductions from all the great traditions – Orthodoxy in its different forms,
especially Greek and Russian, Coptic, Ethiopian – as well as the immense work
of the churches of East and West in the latter half of the twentieth century,
as the interest in icons spread throughout the world. Then there are standard
works on icons, their history, theology, and aesthetics, as well as handbooks
for iconographers and supporting art literature, especially in Byzantium.
Pamphlets, monastic guidebooks, calendars, anything that assists the
iconographers in their work, were collected as well, by members and friends of
inscribed in the books provide their own history, giving some idea of the many
iconographers who were part of the School: Connie Barber, Susan Basset, Bp John
Bayton, Judy Bink, Rose-Claire Boyd, Brian Bubbers, Mary Casey, Sr Jean Coutts,
Fr Lawrence Cross, Sr Sheila Ann Erasmus, Pat Gravette, Anne Gumley, William
Johnston, Molly Longfield, Kay McLennan, David Rogers, John Round, Frank
Upfill, and Helen Young. The Very Revd. Fr Nicholas Karipoff, Dean of the
Russian Orthodox Cathedral Brunswick East, facilitated many visits to the
cathedral and as guest of honour, spoke at the 30th year anniversary
dinner of the School.
collection was housed in a locked utility cupboard at St. Peter’s. It would be
unlocked during sessions of the School and referred to regularly.
the School became an incorporated entity, the winding up of its business
required a divestment of assets. The School, under the guiding hand of its Librarian
and Treasurer Brian Bubbers, elected to donate the asset of its book collection
to a theological library with strong holdings in icon books and a commitment to
this ancient practice: the Carmelite Library of Spirituality. In November the collection was transported
from Eastern Hill to Middle Park, where the books were gradually processed and
added to the existing Carmelite holdings. This means the Carmelite Library now
has the strongest icon book collection, both for pure and applied reference, in
the University of Divinity. It is one of the best in Australia.
transfer of the School’s icon book collection happened to coincide with an
exhibition during November of over fifty icons in the Library made by the
Seraphim Icon Group. At the lecture night for this exhibition, I talked to the
many practising iconographers in attendance about the availability of the collection
for their work, and of the Library itself as a home for icon writing. The
Library has a history of hosting iconographers, as well as offering lecture
series in which many scholars, artists, and others interested in icons, have
spoken on this endlessly rewarding devotional and creative activity. One door
closes, and another opens as the active interest and participation of
iconographers flourishes in Melbourne and beyond.
On Wednesday the 7th of November, Sr Paula
Moroney OCDM conducted a Carmelite Conversation in the Library on Saint
Elizabeth of the Trinity. Sr Paula used Elizabeth’s Prayer to the Trinity both
as the means to spiritual reflection and as access to Elizabeth’s own spiritual
PRAYER TOTHE TRINITY
O My God,Trinity
who I adore, help me
toforget myself entirely that I may
be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in
eternity. May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my unchanging
One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your mystery. Give
peace to my soul, make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting
place. May I never leave You there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly
vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to your creative action.
O my beloved
Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your heart; I wish to cover
You with glory; I wish to love You even till I die of love! But I feel my
weakness and I ask You to "clothe me with Yourself," to identify my
soul with all the movements of Your soul, to overwhelm me, to possess me, to
substitute Yourself for me that my life may be but a radiance of Your life.
Come into me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Saviour.O Eternal Word, Word of my God, I want to
spend my life in listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn
all from You. Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to
gaze on You always and remain in Your great light. O my beloved Star, so
fascinate me that I may not withdraw from Your radiance.
Fire, Spirit of Love, "come upon me," and create in my soul a kind of
incarnation of the Word: that I may be another humanity for Him, in which He
can renew His whole mystery. And You, O Father,bend lovingly over Your poor little creature: "cover her with Your
shadow," seeing in her only the "Beloved in whom You are well
O my Three,
my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I
surrender myself to You as Your prey. Bury Yourself in me that I may bury
myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your
Elizabeth of the Trinity, 21st November, 1904
When we come to know Elizabeth, this ever-young
Carmelite,we are struck by her"living smile that radiates Jesus and
gives Him to others." (L.252)She
was animated by asublime mystery which
filled her life, themystery of the
Divine Indwelling, and hence her inner joy in communion with her Three ever
present in the Trinity and her happiness in living and sharing that love.
The centre point of her spirituality is the PRAYER to the
TRINITY containing the essence of her holiness and beauty, her love and
faith.The unfolding of her vocation
came with the knowledge that "There is a Being who is love."
Captivated by the mystery of the Trinity of self-giving love, she was drawn
into a deepening relationship with this God who called her to the fullness of
St Elizabeth of the Trinity may not have a ' high profile',
nor did she leave a vast quantity of writing.She was still young, only 26, when she died in 1906. Being a close
contemporary of St Therese, she remains somewhat in the shadows, for Therese
was alreadyon the way to sainthood and
her "Story of a Soul" was into its 6th edition.Elizabeth's life was no less heroic and her
message no less profound, far-reaching and soundly based on scripture.Neither was she a theologian but a
contemplative prayerfully pondering the sacred texts, especially the Letters of
St Paul and St John's Gospel and taking to heart the instruction she received.
WHO WAS SHE
She was someone with a message to share at whatever stage of
life we may be. Growing up Elizabeth was far from angelic but a 'true devil'
who couldfly into tantrums.Photos show herlittle face, dark eyes blazing, holding her
doll Jeannette - the doll she recognized as hers when it was borrowed to be the
Infant in the crib. She was furious. "Give me back my Jeannette!" she
yelled. This little girl had fire in her veins. She had a mind of her own and
flared up when her will was crossed, almost every day.Once she had learned to control her temper
she became sensitive and considerate.Her great prayer has fire too - and fervent desire.
Obviously this child had strength of character but we can
scarcely imagine how much she suffered when as a 7 year-old her beloved father
died in her arms. With her mother and her younger sister, Guite, the family
settled into a new routine. They moved to a smaller apartment which happened to
be just around the corner from the Carmel of Dijon.
Gradually she tamed her unruly spirit and is much more in
control at the age of 10 when she made her First Communion.A longing for Carmel soon possessed herbut there were years of waiting and obstacles
since her Mother refused permission and then became seriously ill so Elizabeth
could not leave her. In these years Elizabeth found a new apostolate, teaching
catechism to groupsof workers' children
from the local tobacco factory. She had a gift for communication and found them
an original patron, "Our Lady of Tobacco".
Elizabeth had music in her soul. Her piano gave expression
to her gifts and at 13 she won First Prize at the Dijon Conservatorium for her
performance of Mendelsohn's Cappriccio.She played with talent beyond her years, interpreting with feeling the
lyrical lines which alternated with flowing rhythm in the refrain and tumbling
chords in the virtuoso coda. The romantic strains of this music unleased a
beauty she felt deep within.
Again the following year she won distinction with her
brilliant performance of Liszt, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. With its haunting
theme gathering momentum as it dances with vitality, it suited Elizabeth's
fiery temperament.She was versatile,
sensitive and passionate, with a power of concentration enabling her to acquire
skill and ease in performing.
Music was her prayer and she forgot herself at the
piano,expressing her deepest desires
and feelings; she could communicate shades of life, perceptions of
understanding, both exquisite and painful, sensitive changes of rhythm and tone
which delicately coloured the texture of notes.Her human heart was touched by the divine and grace entered in. Open to
the spiritual world of music she became more human and more tender-hearted.
During these years life was a round of social events as the
Trio, Mme Catez, Sabeth and Guite, set off each yearfor 3 months vacation, travels and visits
with music, dancing and reunions. Elizabeth's charm and her attractive
personality won many friends. She had an eye for fashion and was a skilled
seamstress who revelled in buying'ravishing materials' to make her creations, (we notice the stylish
blouses and hats in her photos). She probably broke some hearts by turning down
offers of marriage.
A deeper love continued to grow in her heart nurtured
through her spirit of prayer. While life was lived to the fullest, mysticgraces flowed from her unselfish giving and
fidelity. She was a young lady who could become anyone she wanted to be.
"When you feel loved you are open to any thing," she wrote later to
Finally when she was 21 her Mother relented and Carmel,
which she had often looked upon from her balcony, became her home. She knew
Mother Germaine well and was comfortable with her new Sisters.Her inner soul radiated with love and one of
her companions at Dijon Carmel, Sr Marie-Odile, was to say that when you asked
her for a favour no matter how much the cost, you had the impression that you
were giving her happiness.She might be
doing the same things as everyone else and yet differently, infusing them with
"something of greatness. You feel in her the presence of Our Lord". (Mosley, Elizabeth of the Trinity Vol 1p. 453)
Everyone felt loved by Elizabeth, even the Sister who was
known to be difficult. She was the one who later remarked, "How she loved
me!"We talked of music, she
recalled, and she drew me to God through that. We see from her correspondence
and writings that she had a way of imparting her knowledge and understanding,
making it attractive and accessible. She liked to share her insightsand her many letters to family and friends
are testimony of this. A few days before her death she made the effort to write
and thank Dr Barbier, the physician who had been tending her, a non-believer,
leaving for him her book of the Letters of St Paul.
HER PRAYER AT THE
HEART OF LIFE
The essence of Elizabeth's desires and holiness is distilled
in her Prayer to the Trinity. In four clear paragraphs she has given us rich
theology with a vast and broad sweep reaching above and beyond the human
element to the timelessness of eternity.It is at once unselfish and personal, composed with the clarity of
mature vision.As she prays she steps
aside and asks, not for obvious tangible benefitsbut to entirely forget herself, to lose
herself in God's mystery. The language of love and intimacy takes on the
grandeur of infinity, entering into realms of transforming union.
The prayer is the intimate expression of her souland she never ever spoke about writing it
although she herself must have returned to it often. Only after her death was
it discovered in her little writingbox
of personal papers. Of her few private possessions this folded sheet on thin
ruled paper torn from a notebook is most precious. It is dated 21st November
1904, the feast of the Presentation of Our Lady, the day the community renewed
their vows at the conclusion of their annual retreat.
How Elizabeth longed to belong wholly to God, to be
transformed in God!She had entered into
the spirit of the retreat with Fr Fages on the theme of the Incarnation and
offered herself totally, likeMary, disposed
to be another humanity for the Word to renew His Mysteries.
PREPARING THE HEART
Here she is captured by the sublime truth and begins by
addressing the Trinity:O MY GOD,
TRINITY WHOM I ADORE. With solemn reverence, as St Therese began her Act of
Oblation and St Catherine of Siena once prayed, so Elizabeth addresses her prayer
to the Trinity.Yet there is
peacefulness in her soul set in the stillness of contemplation, and she enters
completely into this new dimension. To look within is to gaze on the Indwelling
God, so that the loving soul becomes one in spirit.In that single gaze she remains present,
vigilant, adoring, surrendered to the divine creative action.
A TRINITARIAN EXCHANGE
Christ is her Beloved, crucified by love, and it is love
that gives meaning to His death.She
longs to show her own Bridal love and identify herself with her Beloved, to
'coverHim with glory', reflecting her
chosen vocation to be the 'Praise of Glory'.St Paul is her constant inspiration now.Conscious of her weakness she begs that Christ substitute for her and
then she will take on new radiance reflecting that light.May Christ come 'as Adorer, as Restorer, as
Saviour' in her - that is her positive hope, and her silent praise.
The next words are full of power and personal inspiration
showing she has absorbed the profound theology of the Incarnation, the Word
living in our midst as one of us.
We notice that she has used 2 different nouns in the
original French, 'O Verbe Eternel', and 'Parole de mon Dieu', the first having
reference to the Word in the Prologue of St John's Gospel, as the visible
thought and action of the eternal God; the second as the Word which is spoken
and heard in human language - the divine and human. She had already asked to be
able to "spend her life listening to You, (God's Eternal Word) to become
wholly teachable, to learn all from You", and then to remain in that
light, fascinated by the radiance of the "Beloved Star",but it is no ordinary star, (etoile).She chooses anotherword'Astre', in French to denote an unusually bright beautiful night light.
Her Star will shine through all nights, voids, helplessness and she senses it
will be her guide.In the dark night, it
is her Christ, crucified by love, pouring out his love, who is her light and
draws her onwards with courage. "Let nothing disturb you", was St
Teresa's refrain; "God alone is sufficient."
The third paragraph begins "O consuming Fire, Spirit of
Love", echoing St John of the Cross in the Living Flame.She alludes to the Spirit, hoveringover creation at the beginning, present and
life-giving at the Annunciation. "And You O Father",she prays, "bend lovingly over your poor
little creature; cover herwith your
shadow". This mystery of the Incarnation and Mary's willing consent was
her ideal.She had always loved to dwell
on the scene of the Annunciation, of Christ united with the soul of the
Virgin.(L 246) Here she saw the Trinity in action, a mutual surrender, and
it followed that a Carmelite must live within this embrace. (L246)
We are aware that
Elizabeth wrote her Prayer as the community completed their retreat on the
theme of the Incarnation when Fr Fages had invited the Sisters to pray in the
following words: "Spirit of God, come upon me as you came upon the chaos
of the world, as you came upon the Virgin Mary to create in her Our Lord."
This obviously meant a great deal to Elizabeth who must have reflected upon it
at length and made it her own.
Then she sees furtherto the manifestation of the Three in the glory of the Transfiguration
and she dares to pray that she would be seen with Christ, the 'Beloved in whom
the Father is well pleased.'
Returning to the full tableau in the concluding lines she
sums up the whole mystery as she addresses her Three, gathering together the
richness she has assimilated, "my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude,
Immensity in which I lose myself" -she longs to contemplate in the Light of eternity"the abyss of ...greatness."
carries the unexpected:- "I surrender myself to You as Your
prey".This is her 'fiat', allowing
God to take her and use her as He willed, giving free consent as Mary did at
the Annunciation. There is nothing of roughness but all of generosity, a free
offering, keeping nothing back until nothing is left, lost in something
greater. These ideas are reminiscent of St Therese in her ardour when she wrote
her Act of Oblation, or St Paul's phrase, "Hidden with Christ in God"
(Col.3:3), Crucified with Christ. (Gal 3:19)
THE INSPIRATION OF THE ARTIST
There is a certain progression from one paragraph to the
next.At the beginning she creates a
setting of peace, praying for stillness to be established and so enter into the
depths of the Godhead.Then looking upon
Christ, her Beloved, she is held in that gaze, reflecting His radiance. She will
go further and herself become another humanity for him to live His mysteries.
The Spirit and the Fatheraccomplish for
her what she cannot do herself in fulfilling a relationship where all is
transformed in the greatness of infinite love.
Ultimately in eternity we are destined to contemplate
unceasingly this abyss of grandeur, described by St Paul as love in its height
and depth, length and breadth.(Rom.
8:5) The radiant Star of the second paragraph becomes her light, her Radiance,
and Creation is included and caught up in the action until Elizabeth is lost in
this abyss of immensity.
Such is her faith
reflectinga deep understanding of
sublime mysteries, absorbed as she was in the mind of St Paul, St John the
Evangelist, St John of the Cross,in the
mystical language of St Catherine of Siena and Ruysbroek,and in the spirit of St Teresa and Therese -
they are all friends who speak to her and connect spiritually. They influenced
her writing and intermingled in her thoughts, open as she was to receive grace
and share glory.
Elizabeth read and reread passages of Scripture,
particularly St Paul's Letters to the Ephesians and Colossians, until she was
immersed in them and they lived on in her.This is the way she would have practised her piano repertoire, repeating
a theme and listening to its overtones as it developed and flowed under her
The Prayer evolves is an artwork too. What is contemplated
in prayer is now painted and captured in words. Elizabeth is writing her icon,
first the setting in the opening paragraph showing careful preparation and
prayerful study; then the composition, drawing up the theme and blending
colours to show the movement of the Three in One. Here the artist is plying
fresh layers of colour till she achieves tones of richest hues. In the final
section the finishing touches seal and preserve the whole. One is reminded of
the timeless icon of Andrei Rublev where interaction bespeaks unity in one
sensitive movement, the offering of mutual tenderness.
Without doubt Elizabeth, so young herself, greatly admired
her 'Sister', Therese, 7 years ahead of her, sharing the same spirit of loving
confidence and surrender.At Dijon
Carmel they kept the anniversary of Therese's death and when she was 18 Elizabeth
had read the "Story of a Soul", already being circulated among the
Carmels only a year after Therese's death.She found the Act of Oblation where Therese expressed what she held dear
in her heart, so it is not surprising that later Elizabeth was moved to write
her Prayer with its distinct, individual spirit. Hers was another exchange of
love with the Trinity in contemplativesilence and adoration, receptive to every movement of grace,knowing that her mission was to offer others
an awareness of Presence, livingthe
prayer of love which is a most active and vital calling.
Like Therese, Elizabeth lived by love in her encounters in
daily life no matter who she met, so that her Sisters noticed that even in her
illness and extreme weakness she never lost her peace. In fact through months
of enduring suffering in darkness and agonizing pain shestill accomplished "a thousand little
services to those around her."Real
love flowed from her prayer.
THE PRAYER STILL
The Prayer once discovered had its own profound influence on
the community as it does today. There is the instance of the Chinese
Jesuitwho studied in Rome and on
returning to China was arrested and held in solitary confinement for almost 2
decades, without visits or contacts, not even books. However he kept in his
memory certain passages from St John's Gospel and a Prayer beginning "O my
God, Trinity whom I adore..." This he had learnt from a young French
priest when they werestudents together
and this young priest told him how he spent 20 minutes daily slowly pondering a
phrase from the prayer and relating it to his own life.
Eighteen years later when released from prison the Chinese
Jesuitsaid that this is what enabled
him to survive. The incident is related in the life of Cardinal Albert
There is a message for us too.Elizabeth longs to share the conviction of
her prayer, at once simple and profound because so direct; no intermediaries or
conditions block the way to loving union. She prayed in deep silence; she
prayed in the intensity of her desires, in the fullness of her heart. She
opened herself to the presence of her Three and they would live, love and act
in her. She made her very person a place for God's pleasure, his Bethany where
she remained in contemplative stillness, focussed and attentive, listening to
the Word. In the last months of her life this was her sole desire.As Mother Germaine remembered her
"Everything passes! at the evening of life love alone remains...We
must do everything out of love, we must forget ourselves unceasingly. The good
God so loves it when we are forgetful of ourselves..."(Souvenirs
This world of time and space exists within the eternity of
the spiritual where God is revealed in truth and goodness, in human
relationships and in the language of creation.
her mission was to draw souls into interior recollection in inner silence so
thatGod can give Himself to them and
transform them in an exchange of love. Through her example she would lead
others to prayer and stillness in this age of incessant activity. Her secret
was to find the Divine presence here, where we are now, in the present moment,
filling it with love, gently, in the unseen grace where silence can speak and
we come into the light of truth.
Wherever she was, at each stage of her journey, growing up
and blossoming into an attractive and fashionable, intelligent and gifted young
woman of society, constantly enjoying the charms of music, friends and travels,
she found God in tranquillity of heart.As a simple Carmelite novice emerging in community she gave herself
generously to others and finally in acceptingthe ravages of a painful incurable illness, she was able to draw peace
and strength. It was this conviction of the reality of Divine love she longed to
share because"Time is eternity
already begun and still in progress."