Teresa of Avila: We should Know and Abide with the Person with Whom we are Speaking Tuesday, Oct 15 2013 

SantaTeresaTurn your eyes upon yourself and look at yourself inwardly….

You will find your Master; He will not fail you: indeed, the less outward comfort you have, the greater the joy He will give you.

He is full of compassion and never fails those who are afflicted and out of favour if they trust in Him alone….

Either you believe this or you do not: if you do, as you should, why do you wear yourselves to death with worry?

[…] I should like to be able to explain the nature of this holy companionship with our great Companion, the Holiest of the holy, in which there is nothing to hinder the soul and her Spouse from remaining alone together, when the soul desires to enter within herself, to shut the door behind her so as to keep out all that is worldly and to dwell in that Paradise with her God.

I say “desires”, because you must understand that this is not a supernatural state but depends upon our volition, and that, by God’s favour, we can enter it of our own accord: for without it nothing can be accomplished and we have not the power to think a single good thought.

For this is not a silence of the faculties: it is a shutting-up of the faculties within itself by the soul. There are many ways in which we can gradually acquire this habit….

We must cast aside everything else, they say, in order to approach God inwardly and we must retire within ourselves even during our ordinary occupations.

If I can recall the companionship which I have within my soul for as much as a moment, that is of great utility. But as I am speaking only about the way to recite vocal prayers well, there is no need for me to say as much as this.

All I want is that we should know and abide with the Person with Whom we are speaking, and not turn our backs upon Him; for that, it seems to me, is what we are doing when we talk to God and yet think of all kinds of vanity.

The whole mischief comes from our not really grasping the fact that He is near us, and imagining Him far away—so far, that we shall have to go to Heaven in order to find Him.

How is it, Lord, that we do not look at Thy face, when it is so near us? We do not think people are listening to us when we are speaking to them unless we see them looking at us. And do we close our eyes so as not to see that Thou art looking at us?

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): Way of Perfection, 29.

Teresa of Avila: The Lord Is Within Us – We Should Be There With Him Monday, Oct 15 2012 

Our Father, who art in heaven…

Consider now what your Master says next: “Who art in the Heavens.”

Do you suppose it matters little what Heaven is and where you must seek your most holy Father?

I assure you that for minds which wander it is of great importance not only to have a right belief about this but to try to learn it by experience, for it is one of the best ways of concentrating the mind and effecting recollection in the soul.

You know that God is everywhere; and this is a great truth, for, of course, wherever the king is, or so they say, the court is too: that is to say, wherever God is, there is Heaven.

No doubt you can believe that, in any place where His Majesty is, there is fulness of glory.

Remember how Saint Augustine tells us about his seeking God in many places and eventually finding Him within himself.

Do you suppose it is of little importance that a soul which is often distracted should come to understand this truth and to find that, in order to speak to its Eternal Father and to take its delight in Him, it has no need to go to Heaven or to speak in a loud voice?

However quietly we speak, He is so near that He will hear us: we need no wings to go in search of Him but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us.

Nor need we feel strange in the presence of so kind a Guest; we must talk to Him very humbly, as we should to our father, ask Him for things as we should ask a father, tell Him our troubles, beg Him to put them right, and yet realize that we are not worthy to be called His children.

[…] It would not be humility on your part if the King were to do you a favour and you refused to accept it; but you would be showing humility by taking it, and being pleased with it, yet realizing how far you are from deserving it.

[…] Have nothing to do with that kind of humility, daughters, but speak with Him as with a Father, a Brother, a Lord and a Spouse—and, sometimes in one way and sometimes in another, He will teach you what you must do to please Him.

[…] Remember how important it is for you to have understood this truth— that the Lord is within us and that we should be there with Him.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): Way of Perfection, 28.

Teresa of Avila: Acquiring the Habit of Prayer and Recollection Monday, Mar 7 2011 

Continued from here, where Teresa is discussing interior battles with thoughts and passions.

By the blood which our Lord shed for us, I implore those who have not yet begun to enter into themselves, to stop this warfare.

I beg those already started in the right path, not to let the combat turn them back from it.

They should confide in God’s mercy, trusting nothing in themselves; then they will see how His Majesty will lead them from one mansion to another, and will set them in a place where these wild beasts can no more touch or annoy them….

Then, even in this life, they will enjoy a far greater happiness than they are able even to desire….

I have explained elsewhere how you should behave when the devil thus disturbs you.

I also told you that the habit of recollection is not to be gained by force of arms, but with calmness, which will enable you to practise it for a longer space of time.

[…] The only remedy for having given up a habit of recollection is to recommence it, otherwise the soul will continue to lose it more and more every day, and God grant it may realize its danger.

[…] “He that loves danger shall perish by it” (Sirach 3:27) and the door by which we must enter this castle is prayer.

Remember, we must get to heaven, and it would be madness to think we could do so without sometimes retiring into our souls so as to know ourselves, or thinking of our failings and of what we owe to God, or frequently imploring His mercy.

Our Lord also says “No man cometh to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6)…and “He that sees Me sees the Father also” (John 14:9).

If we never look up at Him and reflect on what we owe Him for having died for us, I do not understand how we can know Him, or perform good deeds in His service.

What value is there in faith without works?

And what are they worth if they are not united to the merits of Jesus Christ, our only good?

What would incite us to love our Lord unless we thought of Him?

May He give us grace to understand how much we cost Him;

that “the servant is not above his lord” (Matt. 10:24);

that we must toil for Him if we would enjoy His glory;

and prayer is a necessity to prevent us from constantly falling into temptation (Matt. 26:41).

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): Interior Castle 2,1,17-20.

Teresa of Avila: Spiritual Battles and Interior Peace Tuesday, Jan 12 2010 

Let us endeavour to do our best: beware of the poisonous reptiles – that is to say, the bad thoughts and aridities which are often permitted by God to assail and torment us so that we cannot repel them.

Indeed, perchance we feel their sting! He allows this to teach us to be more on our guard in the future and to see whether we grieve much at offending Him.

Therefore if you occasionally lapse into sin, do not lose heart and cease trying to advance, for God will draw good even out of our falls, like the merchant who sells theriac, who first takes poison, then the theriac, to prove the power of his elixir.

This combat would suffice to teach us to amend our habits if we realized our failings in no other way, and would show us the injury we receive from a life of dissipation.

Can any evil be greater than that we find at home? What peace can we hope to find elsewhere, if we have none within us?

What friends or kindred can be so close and intimate as the powers of our soul, which, whether we will or no, must ever bear us company?

These seem to wage war on us as if they knew the harm our vices had wrought them. “Peace, peace be unto you”, my sisters, as our Lord said, and many a time proclaimed to His Apostles.

Believe me, if we neither possess nor strive to obtain this peace at home, we shall never find it abroad.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): Interior Castle 2,1,16.

Teresa of Avila: Two Kinds of Prayer Saturday, Dec 12 2009 

Let us imagine we see two fountains with basins which fill with water.

I can find no simile more appropriate than water by which to explain spiritual things.

[…] These two basins are filled in different ways; the one with water from a distance flowing into it through many pipes and waterworks, while the other basin is built near the source of the spring itself and fills quite noiselessly.

If the fountain is plentiful, like the one we speak of, after the basin is full the water overflows in a great stream which flows continually. No machinery is needed here, nor does the water run through aqueducts.

Such is the difference between the two kinds of prayer. The water running through the aqueducts resembles sensible devotion, which is obtained by meditation.

We gain it by our thoughts, by meditating on created things, and by the labour of our minds. In short, it is the result of our endeavours, and so makes the commotion I spoke of, while profiting the soul.

The other fountain, like divine consolations, receives the water from the source itself, which signifies God.

As usual, when His Majesty wills to bestow on us any supernatural favours, we experience the greatest peace, calm, and sweetness in the inmost depths of our being. I know neither where nor how.

This joy is not, like earthly happiness, at once felt by the heart; after gradually filling it to the brim, the delight overflows throughout all the mansions and faculties, until at last it reaches the body.

Therefore, I say it arises from God and ends in ourselves, for whoever experiences it will find that the whole physical part of our nature shares in this delight and sweetness.

While writing this I have been thinking that the verse dilatasti cor meum, “Thou hast dilated my heart” (Ps. 118:32), declares that the heart is dilated.

This joy does not appear to me to originate in the heart, but in some more interior part and, as it were, in the depths of our being. I think this must be the centre of the soul, as I have since learnt and will explain later on.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): Interior Castle 4, 2, 3-5.

Teresa of Avila: The Aim of One Beginning to Practise Prayer Wednesday, Nov 11 2009 

Let no one think on starting of the reward to be reaped: this would be a very ignoble way of commencing such a large and stately building.

If built on sand it would soon fall down. Souls who acted thus would continually suffer from discouragement and temptations, for in these mansions no manna rains

What a farce it is! Here are we, with a thousand obstacles, drawbacks, and imperfections within ourselves, our virtues so newly born that they have scarcely the strength to act (and God grant that they exist at all!) yet we are not ashamed to expect sweetness in prayer and to complain of feeling dryness.

Do not act thus, sisters; embrace the cross your Spouse bore on His shoulders; know that your motto should be: ‘Most happy she who suffers most if it be for Christ!’

All else should be looked upon as secondary: if our Lord give it you, render Him grateful thanks. You may imagine you would be resolute in enduring external trials if God gave you interior consolations:

His Majesty knows best what is good for us; it is not for us to advise Him how to treat us, for He has the right to tell us that we know not what we ask.

Remember, it is of the greatest importance – the sole aim of one beginning to practise prayer should be to endure trials, and to resolve and strive to the utmost of her power to conform her own will to the will of God.

Be certain that in this consists all the greatest perfection to be attained in the spiritual life, as I will explain later.

She who practises this most perfectly will receive from God the highest reward and is the farthest advanced on the right road.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): Interior Castle 2,1,13-15.

Teresa of Avila: Troubled by this Turmoil of Thoughts Tuesday, Nov 3 2009 

I, myself, have sometimes been troubled by this turmoil of thought.

I learnt by experience, but little more than four years ago, that our thoughts, or it is clearer to call it our imagination, are not the same thing as the understanding.

I questioned a theologian on the subject; he told me it was the fact, which consoled me not a little.

As the understanding is one of the powers of the soul, it puzzled me to see it so sluggish at times, while, as a rule, the imagination takes flight at once, so that God alone can control it by so uniting us to Himself that we seem, in a manner, detached from our bodies.

It puzzled me to see that while to all appearance the powers of the soul were occupied with God and recollected in Him, the imagination was wandering elsewhere.

…We cannot stop the revolution of the heavens as they rush with velocity upon their course, neither can we control our imagination.

When this wanders we at once imagine that all the powers of the soul follow it; we think everything is lost, and that the time spent in God’s presence is wasted.

Meanwhile, the soul is perhaps entirely united to Him in the innermost mansions, while the imagination is in the precincts of the castle, struggling with a thousand wild and venomous creatures and gaining merit by its warfare.

Therefore we need not let ourselves be disturbed, nor give up prayer, as the devil is striving to persuade us. As a rule, all our anxieties and troubles come from misunderstanding our own nature.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): Interior Castle 4,1,8-9.

Teresa of Avila: Perhaps We Do Not Know What Love Is Wednesday, Oct 28 2009 

Sensible devotion is very desirable if the soul is humble enough to understand that it is not more holy on account of these sentiments, which cannot always with certainty be ascribed to charity, and even then are still the gift of God.

These feelings of devotion are most common with souls in the first three mansions, who are nearly always using their understanding and reason in making meditations.

This is good for them, for they have not been given grace for more; they should, however, try occasionally to elicit some acts such as praising God, rejoicing in His goodness and that He is what He is: let them desire that He may be honoured and glorified. They must do this as best they can, for it greatly inflames the will.

Let them be very careful, when God gives these sentiments, not to set them aside in order to finish their accustomed meditation. But, having spoken fully on this subject elsewhere, I will say no more now.

I only wish to warn you that to make rapid progress and to reach the mansions we wish to enter, it is not so essential to think much as to love much: therefore you must practise whatever most excites you to this. Perhaps we do not know what love is, nor does this greatly surprise me.

Love does not consist in great sweetness of devotion, but in a fervent determination to strive to please God in all things, in avoiding, as far as possible, all that would offend Him, and in praying for the increase of the glory and honour of His Son and for the growth of the Catholic Church.

These are the signs of love; do not imagine that it consists in never thinking of anything but God, and that if your thoughts wander a little all is lost.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): Interior Castle 4,1,6-7.

Teresa of Avila: Dilating the Heart Thursday, Oct 22 2009 

I will now describe, as I promised, the difference between sweetness in prayer and spiritual consolations.

It appears to me that what we acquire for ourselves in meditation and petitions to our Lord may be termed ‘sweetness in devotion.’ It is natural, although ultimately aided by the grace of God.

I must be understood to imply this in all I say, for we can do nothing without Him. This sweetness arises principally from the good work we perform, and appears to result from our labours: well may we feel happy at having thus spent our time.

We shall find, on consideration, that many temporal matters give us the same pleasure….I have seen people weep from such happiness, as I have done myself. I consider both these joys and those we feel in religious matters to be natural ones.

Although there is nothing wrong about the former, yet those produced by devotion spring from a more noble source—in short, they begin in ourselves and end in God. Spiritual consolations, on the contrary, arise from God, and our nature feels them and rejoices as keenly in them, and indeed far more keenly, than in the others I described.

O Jesus! how I wish I could elucidate this point! It seems to me that I can perfectly distinguish the difference between the two joys, yet I have not the skill to make myself understood; may God give it me!

I remember a verse we say at Prime at the end of the final Psalm; the last words are: Cum dilatasti cor meum – ‘When Thou didst dilate my heart’ (Psalm 118:32).

To those with much experience, this suffices to show the difference between sweetness in prayer and spiritual consolations; other people will require more explanation.

The sensible devotion I mentioned does not dilate the heart, but generally appears to narrow it slightly; although joyful at seeing herself work for God, yet such a person sheds tears of sorrow which seem partly produced by the passions.

I know little about the passions of the soul, or I could write of them more clearly and could better define what comes from the sensitive disposition and what is natural, having passed through this state myself, but I am very stupid. Knowledge and learning are a great advantage to every one.

My own experience of this delight and sweetness in meditation was that when I began to weep over the Passion I could not stop until I had a severe headache; the same thing occurred when I grieved over my sins: this was a great grace from our Lord.

I do not intend to inquire now which of these states of prayer is the better, but I wish I knew how to explain the difference between the two. In that of which I speak, the tears and good desires are often partly caused by the natural disposition, but although this may be the case, yet, as I said, these feelings terminate in God.

Sensible devotion is very desirable if the soul is humble enough to understand that it is not more holy on account of these sentiments, which cannot always with certainty be ascribed to charity, and even then are still the gift of God.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): Interior Castle 4,1,4-6.

Teresa of Avila: A Soul Which Gives Itself to Prayer Thursday, Oct 15 2009 

A soul which gives itself to prayer, either much or little, should on no account be kept within narrow bounds.

Since God has given it such great dignity, permit it to wander at will through the rooms of the castle, from the lowest to the highest.

Let it not force itself to remain for very long in the same mansion, even that of self-knowledge.

Mark well, however, that self-knowledge is indispensable, even for those whom God takes to dwell in the same mansion with Himself.

Nothing else, however elevated, perfects the soul which must never seek to forget its own nothingness. Let humility be always at work, like the bee at the honeycomb, or all will be lost.

But, remember, the bee leaves its hive to fly in search of flowers and the soul should sometimes cease thinking of itself to rise in meditation on the grandeur and majesty of its God.

It will learn its own baseness better thus than by self-contemplation, and will be freer from the reptiles which enter the first room where self-knowledge is acquired.

Although it is a great grace from God to practise self-examination, yet ‘too much is as bad as too little,’ as they say; believe me, by God’s help, we shall advance more by contemplating the Divinity than by keeping our eyes fixed on ourselves, poor creatures of earth that we are.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): Interior Castle 1,2,9.

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