76. St Teresa of Avila. Part three
Third way. The saint does not dwell much on this stage. To summarize:
This is a state of partial union (with God)
This is a very lofty stage. The pleasures and joys of this stage are far sublime than those of the second stage. It is at least of two types.
The faculties are in a state of sleep, they are neither wholly lost, nor can understand how they work
Sensations are absent, or almost absent
Union is incomplete
Will is gone
Understanding is partly gone
Memory is present
Imagination is present but cannot concentrate
Another type may be so different from the Prayer of the Quiet, in which the soul does not want to move, that it may be active in works of charity and at the same time in contemplative life
Fourth Way. This last water is characterized by complete union (with God). This is the highest state, in mysticism, that can be achieved by a human being while alive. Perhaps it is the same as nirbi kalpa Samadhi of Hinduism. There are no feelings, except happiness.
Sensations are absent
Power (to move) is gone
Understanding is gone
Union is complete
Will is gone
Imagination is gone
Memory is lost
Rejoicing is present. Joy is ineffable
Person finds him/herself bathed in tears
When we say, sensations are gone, we mean, the soul cannot see or hear or speak (If she sees or hears, she does not know what she is seeing or hearing). If the soul can communicate in any form, her rejoicing, then it is not union
This stage, at least initially, often comes after prolonged meditation. It often comes without warning, when the person least expects it. It is very brief, at the most half an hour.
St Teresa was very curious as to what the soul experienced during this stage. She could not describe it. As she was going to write this chapter ( she had just undergone this stage) , God spoke to her “ it dies to itself wholly, daughter, in order that it may fix itself more and more upon Me; it is no longer itself that lives, but I………………………..
St Teresa became certain that God is physically present in the room, and a very learned man confirmed it.
What are the benefits to the soul? They are many; contentment, joy, bursting with love for God, helping others, piety,etc. but here is one which is special;”……………………..it begins to benefit its neighbors, and they become aware of this benefit because the flowers have now so powerful a fragrance as to make them desire to approach them. They realize that the soul has virtues…..”
Rapture. This is a form of union or something higher than union. It is also called, ecstasy, flight of the spirit or transport. How is it different from union?
A tremendous power descends upon one. One is helpless against this strong, swift impulse. No resistance is possible, whereas in union, one could resist the union. It is as if a little sparrow was being carried away by a mighty eagle. As if one was being ground to powder. The Lord raises the soul up till it is right out of itself. The soul seems no longer to animate the body. The soul, then, seems to be, not in itself at all, but on the house-top, or the roof, of its own house, and raised above all created things; “she thought it was far above even its own very highest part.”
The soul goes through various feelings, which are so different from each other. For instance there is great happiness, but at the same time there is great weariness and detachment. At times soul feels great loneliness. She is away from God. She is searching for God. She asks herself “where is thy God” There is death-like yearning for God. This suffering also brings greatest happiness, so much so that she would like to spend the rest of her life in this suffering and joy. “Pain is excessive, the pulses almost cease, bones are all disjointed, and the hands are stiff. Until the next day I have pains in my wrists and the entire body” the Lord told her that her soul was being purified by this distress like gold in a crucible.
One feels cold (away from body heat)
The Lord’s mighty power makes one humble
Initially it produces great fear
At the end of a deep rapture, the body is incapable of movement, sometimes for hours. The faculties may remain absorbed for a day or two, or even for three days, as if they were in a state of stupor.
It is more beneficial. The soul has no desire to seek or possess any free will. She wants nothing except the will of God; the soul wants to be neither her own master nor anybody else’s. Worldly matters are of little concern.
“Once when we were together in choir, and I was on my knees and about to communicate, my body was raised from the ground. It caused me the greatest distress. It seemed to me the most extraordinary thing, and I thought there would be a great deal of talk about it, so I ordered the nuns not to speak of it. On other occasions, when I felt that the Lord was going to enrapture me, I have lain on the ground and the sisters have come and held me down. I begged the lord not to grant me any favors which had visible and exterior signs. He was pleased to accept my desire, and since then I have not received such favors.
My soul, now, when not occupied, finds itself continually in this death-like yearning for God. They make me afraid. But once in the state, I want to stay in the state, forever.”
The soul is in such a torment, that it does not want solitude (like it used to), the only companionship it seeks is with one to whom it can voice its complaint
In this state of ecstasy occur true revelations, great favors and visions.
To be continued