The soul does not fear death when she loves; rather she desires it. Yet sinners are always fearful of death. They foresee that death will take everything away and bring them all evils. As David says, the death of sinners is very evil [Ps. 34:21]. And hence, as the Wise Man says, the remembrance of it is bitter [Sir. 41:1].
Since sinners love the life of this world intensely and have little love for that of the other, they have an intense fear of death. But the soul that loves God lives more in the next life than in this, for a soul lives where it loves more than where it gives life, and thus takes little account of this temporal life.
Saint John of the Cross
The Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 11, no. 10 (excerpt)
Featured image: On the first altar to the left in the Discalced Carmelite friars’ Church of San Pietro in Oliveto in Brescia, Italy, we find the last of six artworks commissioned by the friars. Like all of the half-moon canvases in the series of six paintings, it hangs over the side altars in the church that was entrusted to the care of the Teresian Carmel in the summer of 1669. The Discalced Carmelites decided from the outset that they would make artistic improvements to the interior of the church, especially to give it a more distinctive appearance in keeping with the presence of the Teresian Carmelite community.
In 1696, the Carmelite friars commissioned six of the finest artists in northern Italy to execute the oil paintings to adorn the side altars. The themes represent scenes from the life of Saint Teresa, foundress of the Discalced Carmelites:
- Two angels guide St. Teresa as she travels to the new foundation in Salamanca (Book of the Foundations, 18)
- The ‘apparition of the collar’, where St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin appear to St. Teresa and place a golden necklace around her neck (Book of Her Life, 33)
- St. Teresa’s intellectual vision of the Blessed Trinity (Spiritual Testimonies, 13)
- St. Teresa’s vision of hell (Book of Her Life, 32)
- The vision of the Infant Jesus during the Eucharistic procession in Villanueva de la Jara (Book of the Foundations, 28), as described by Mother Anne of St. Augustine in her testimony for the process of canonization; Mother Anne also witnessed the vision
- The moment of death of St. Teresa (Autobiography of Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew, II, ch. 10)
Giovanni Segala of Murano won the commission to paint the sixth and final artwork to adorn the first altar on the left in 1696. The friars of the Venice province describe the scene:
The cycle of canvases opened with Teresa, who needed the heavenly guidance of two angels to carry out her mission as foundress. Now, in the last canvas, it is Jesus himself, the Bridegroom, who descends from heaven to guide the Saint’s soul to the heavenly homeland.
Source: La vita di S. Teresa raccontata dal ciclo di tele della chiesa di S. Pietro in Oliveto a Brescia 2015, viewed 26 June 2021, <https://www.carmeloveneto.it/joomla/2014-11-25-14-48-11/cultura-carmelo/205-un-capolavoro-di-vita >
John of the Cross, St. 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Translation from the Italian text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.