SAINT TERESA OF AVILA
Revelation, Chapter 15, Verse 4
Who will not FEAR you, Lord, or glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All
the nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been
glorify God when we are righteous as he is righteous who makes the rain fall on
both the good and the evil.
A righteous person, no matter how blameless, will
always take humanity’s failures personally. A righteous person has reverence for both God and those He created.
is "a feeling
or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration". The
word "reverence" in the modern day is often used in relationship with
religion. This is because religion often stimulates the emotion through
recognition of God, the supernatural, and the ineffable. Reverence involves a
humbling of the self in respectful recognition of something perceived to be
greater than the self. Thus, religion is commonly a place where reverence is
felt. However, similar to awe, reverence is an emotion in its own right, and can
be felt outside of the realm of religion. Whereas awe may be characterized as an
overwhelming "sensitivity to greatness," reverence is seen more as
"acknowledging a subjective response to something excellent in a personal
(moral or spiritual) way, but qualitatively above oneself" Solomon describes awe as passive, but
reverence as active, noting that the feeling of awe (i.e., becoming awestruck)
implies paralysis, whereas feelings of reverence are associated more with
active engagement and responsibility toward that which one reveres. Nature, science, literature, philosophy, great
philosophers, leaders, artists, art, music, wisdom, and beauty may each act as
the stimulus and focus of reverence.
Saint Teresa of Avila
Teresa, whose name was Teresa de
Cepeda y Ahumada, was born in Avila, Spain, in 1515. In her autobiography she
mentions some details of her childhood: she was born into a large family, her
“father and mother, who were devout and feared God”. She had three sisters and
nine brothers. While she was still a child and not yet nine years old she had
the opportunity to read the lives of several Martyrs which inspired in her such
a longing for martyrdom that she briefly ran away from home in order to die a
Martyr’s death and to go to Heaven (cf. Vida,[Life], 1,
4); “I want to see God”, the little girl told her parents.
A few years later Teresa was to speak
of her childhood reading and to state that she had discovered in it the way of
truth which she sums up in two fundamental principles.
On the one hand was the fact that (1)
“all things of this world will pass away” while on the other God alone is (2) “for
ever, ever, ever”, a topic that recurs in her best-known poem: “Let nothing
disturb you, let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never
Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God
lacks nothing, God alone suffices”. She was about 12 years old when her mother
died, and she implored the Virgin Most Holy to be her mother (cf. Vida,
When she was 20, she entered the Carmelite
Monastery of the Incarnation, also in Avila. In her religious life she took the
name “Teresa of Jesus”. Three years later she fell seriously ill, so ill that
she remained in a coma for four days, looking as if she were dead (cf. Vida,
In the fight against her own illnesses too the
Saint saw the combat against weaknesses and the resistance to God’s call: “I
wished to live”, she wrote, “but I saw clearly that I was not living, but
rather wrestling with the shadow of death; there was no one to give me life,
and I was not able to take it. He who could have given it to me had good
reasons for not coming to my aid, seeing that he had brought me back to himself
so many times, and I as often had left him” (Vida, 7, 8).
In 1543 she lost the closeness of her relatives;
her father died and all her siblings, one after another, emigrated to America.
In Lent 1554, when she was 39 years old, Teresa reached the climax of her
struggle against her own weaknesses. The fortuitous discovery of the statue of
“a Christ most grievously wounded”, left a deep mark on her life (cf. Vida,
The Saint, who in that period felt deeply in
tune with the St Augustine of the Confessions, thus describes the
decisive day of her mystical experience: “and... a feeling of the presence of
God would come over me unexpectedly, so that I could in no wise doubt either
that he was within me, or that I was wholly absorbed in him” (Vida, 10,
Teresa of Jesus had no academic
education but always set great store by the teachings of theologians, men of
letters and spiritual teachers. As a writer, she always adhered to what she had
lived personally through or had seen in the experience of others (cf.
Prologue to The Way of Perfection), in other words basing herself on
her own first-hand knowledge.
Among her most important works we
should mention first of all her autobiography, El libro de la vida (the
book of life), which she called Libro de las misericordias del Señor
[book of the Lord’s mercies].
Among the most precious passages is
her commentary on the Our Father, as a model for prayer. St Teresa’s
most famous mystical work is El Castillo interior [The Interior Castle].
She wrote it in 1577 when she was in her prime. It is a reinterpretation of her
own spiritual journey and, at the same time, a codification of the possible
development of Christian life towards its fullness, holiness, under the action
of the Holy Spirit. Teresa refers to the structure of a castle with seven rooms
as an image of human interiority. She simultaneously introduces the symbol of
the silkworm reborn as a butterfly, in order to express the passage from the
natural to the supernatural. The Saint draws inspiration from Sacred Scripture,
particularly the Song of Songs, for the final symbol of the “Bride and
Bridegroom” which enables her to describe, in the seventh room, the four
crowning aspects of Christian life: the Trinitarian, the Christological, the
anthropological and the ecclesial.
Prayer is life and develops gradually,
in pace with the growth of Christian life: it begins with vocal prayer, passes
through interiorization by means of meditation and recollection, until it
attains the union of love with Christ and with the Holy Trinity. Obviously, in
the development of prayer climbing to the highest steps does not mean
abandoning the previous type of prayer. Rather, it is a gradual deepening of
the relationship with God that envelops the whole of life.
Another subject dear to the Saint is
the centrality of Christ’s humanity. For Teresa, in fact, Christian life is the
personal relationship with Jesus that culminates in union with him through
grace, love and imitation. Hence the importance she attaches to meditation on
the Passion and on the Eucharist as the presence of Christ in the Church for
the life of every believer, and as the heart of the Liturgy. St Teresa lives
out unconditional love for the Church: she shows a lively “sensus
Ecclesiae”, in the face of the episodes of division and conflict in the
Church of her time.
A final essential aspect of Teresian
doctrine which I would like to emphasize is perfection, as the aspiration of
the whole of Christian life and as its ultimate goal. The Saint has a very
clear idea of the “fullness” of Christ, relived by the Christian. At the end of
the route through The Interior Castle, in the last “room”, Teresa
describes this fullness, achieved in the indwelling of the Trinity, in union
with Christ through the mystery of his humanity.
Dear brothers and sisters, St Teresa
of Jesus is a true teacher of Christian life for the faithful of every time. In
our society, which all too often lacks spiritual values, St Teresa teaches us
to be unflagging witnesses of God, of his presence and of his action. She
teaches us truly to feel this thirst for God that exists in the depths of our
hearts, this desire to see God, to seek God, to be in conversation with him and
to be his friends. This is the friendship we all need that we must seek anew,
day after day. May the example of this Saint, profoundly contemplative and
effectively active, spur us too every day to dedicate the right time to prayer,
to this openness to God, to this journey, in order to seek God, to see him, to
discover his friendship and so to find true life; indeed many of us should
truly say: “I am not alive, I am not truly alive because I do not live the
essence of my life”. Therefore, time devoted to prayer is not time wasted, it
is time in which the path of life unfolds, the path unfolds to learning from
God an ardent love for him, for his Church, and practical charity for our
brothers and sisters.
of the Catholic Church
PART THREE: LIFE IN CHRIST
SECTION ONE-MAN'S VOCATION LIFE IN THE
CHAPTER ONE THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN
Article 5-THE MORALITY OF THE PASSIONS
1762 The human person is ordered to beatitude by his deliberate
acts: the passions or feelings he experiences can dispose him to it and
contribute to it.
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