Sunday, March 24, 2013

74.   St Teresa of Avila . Part one

St Teresa of Avila was one of the greatest saints of all times. She left an account of her life in her own handwriting; therefore, we do not have to worry about the veracity of her account. However, some of her statements are so fantastic that one has to consider the possibility that during those deep trances she might be imagining things. She herself has not entirely ruled out that possibility.

 She was the author of multiple books. Her books were in Spanish language, but now they have been translated in many languages. She was born approximately in 1515 and died in 1582. She entered, as Novice nun in the Carmelite convent of the Incarnation, Avila, in 1536.

She became seriously ill when she was young. The illness lasted for about 3 years. About 2 years before she became ill, she saw a nun who was afflicted with a very severe illness. She had sores on her stomach and could not tolerate food.  She soon died. All the nuns were afraid of it but not St Teresa. She writes: “I begged God that He would send me any illness He pleased if only He would make her as patient as she. Her Majesty heard my prayer".

Be careful of what you pray, lest it may be granted!

 Initially she had severe pains from head to foot, which gave her no rest. Then she had convulsions. She herself describes:

My tongue was bitten to pieces………I could not take water. As a result of the torments I had suffered during these days, I was all doubled up like a ball, and no more able to move arm, foot, hand or head than if I had been dead…………I could move, I think, only one finger of my right hand…….They used to move me in a sheet.

My extreme weakness cannot be described. I was very glad when sharp and constant pains went away, although I could hardly endure the cold fits of quartan ague which were very severe. I remained in this condition for more than eight months, and my paralysis, though it kept improving, continued for nearly three years. When I began to get about on my hand and knees, I praised God. All this I bore with great resignation, and, except at the beginning, with great joy; for none of it could compare with the pain and torments which I had suffered at first.

Life of a mystic, before he or she reaches perfection, is very hard. She was attracted to both the world and the God. She writes “when I was in the midst of worldly pleasures, I was distressed by the remembrance of what I owed to God; when I was with God; I grew restless because of worldly affections. More than 18 of the 28 years, since I started prayer, have been spent in this battle.” Sometimes she would receive favors. God was very merciful to her to give her the gift of tears. Once, as she entered oratory, her eyes fell on an image of Christ, sorely wounded. She was deeply moved to see Him like that. She writes “I felt as if my heart was breaking, and I threw myself down beside Him, shedding flood of tears………………”

“When picturing Christ, wounded, I used unexpectedly to experience a consciousness of the presence of God”. She felt, He was within her and she was wholly engulfed in Him. It is called mystical theology. Her memory , would almost completely be lost, understanding would be present, but would not reason

In 1555-6, she thought that she was hearing inner voices, and seeing visions. She had her first imaginary vision of Christ in 1558. She had several visions of Jesus, Holy Mary, St Joseph (her patron saint), angels; all with the eyes and ears of mind. She never saw them with worldly eyes.

She considered herself very lucky to have received these favors in the amount of time she had spent. She states that His Majesty has given her these experiences in 27 years (from the time she started practicing prayer), which others might have needed 37 or 47 years (“Although ill as I have walked and often as I have stumbled on this road”)

In the next installment, she describes the four degrees of prayer



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