Henry Suso: In the Ante-Chamber of Eternal Salvation Monday, Feb 1 2010 

Lord, truly I seek and find in myself a great inequality.

When my soul is deserted, she is like a sick person who can relish nothing; who is disgusted with everything; the body is languid, the spirits are dull; dryness within, and sadness without.

All that I see and hear is then repugnant to me, and I know not how good it is, for I have lost all discrimination. I am then inclined to sin, weak in resisting my enemies, cold and lukewarm in all that is good.

He who visits me finds an empty house, for the master, who gives wise counsel and makes all the family glad at heart, is not within.

But, Lord, when in the midst of my soul the bright morning star rises, all my sorrow passes away, all my darkness is scattered, and laughing cheerfulness appears.

Lord, then leaps my heart, then are my spirits gladdened, then rejoices my soul, then is it my marriage feast, while all that is in me or about me is turned to Thy praise.

What before was hard, troublesome, and impossible, becomes easy and pleasant; fasting, watching, praying, self-denial, and every sort of rigour, are made sweet by Thy presence.

Then do I acquire great assurance in many things, which, in my dereliction I had lost; my soul is then overflowed with clearness, truth, and sweetness, so that she forgets all her toil.

My heart can sweetly meditate, my tongue loftily discourse, and whoever seeks high counsel from me touching his heart’s desire finds it; for then I am as though I had overstepped the bounds of time and space, and stood in the ante-chamber of eternal salvation.

Alas, Lord! who will grant that it might only be of longer duration, for behold, in a moment it is snatched away, and I am again stripped and forsaken.

Sometimes I pursue it as if I had never gained it, till at last, after much sorrow and trouble of heart, it comes back.

Henry Suso (c. 1296 – 1366): The Little Book of Divine Wisdom, 1,9.


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: 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.


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