Quote of the day, 13 April: St. Teresa of Avila

Now then let us deal with the divine and spiritual marriage, although this great favor does not come to its perfect fullness as long as we live; for if we were to withdraw from God, this remarkable blessing would be lost.

The first time the favor is granted, His Majesty desires to show Himself to the soul through an imaginative vision of His most sacred humanity so that the soul will understand and not be ignorant of receiving this sovereign gift. With other persons, the favor will be received in another form.

With regard to the one of whom we are speaking [Teresa is referring to herself], the Lord represented Himself to her, just after she had received Communion, in the form of shining splendor, beauty, and majesty, as He was after His resurrection, and told her that now it was time that she consider as her own what belonged to Him and that He would take care of what was hers, and He spoke other words destined more to be heard than to be mentioned [cf. Teresa’s account of this favor in Spiritual Testimonies, 31: “Behold this nail; it is a sign you will be My bride from today on. Until now you have not merited this; from now on not only will you look after My honor as being the honor of your Creator, King, and God, but you will look after it as My true bride. My honor is yours, and yours Mine”].

It may seem that this experience was nothing new since at other times the Lord had represented Himself to the soul in such a way. The experience was so different that it left her indeed stupefied and frightened: first, because this vision came with great force; second, because of the words the Lord spoke to her; and also because in the interior of her soul, where He represented Himself to her, she had not seen other visions except the former one [cf. Interior Castle VII, ch. 1, nos. 6–7].

You must understand that there is the greatest difference between all the previous visions and those of this dwelling place. Between the spiritual betrothal and the spiritual marriage, the difference is as great as that which exists between two who are betrothed and two who can no longer be separated [Editor Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD indicates that Teresa first wrote: “between two who have consummated marriage.” She then changed it to the present reading].

I have already said that even though these comparisons are used because there are no others better suited to our purpose, it should be understood that in this state there is no more thought of the body than if the soul were not in it, but one’s thought is only of the spirit.

In the spiritual marriage, there is still much less remembrance of the body because this secret union takes place in the very interior center of the soul, which must be where God Himself is, and in my opinion, there is no need of any door for Him to enter.

I say there is no need of any door because everything that has been said up until now seems to take place by means of the senses and faculties, and this appearance of the humanity of the Lord must also [cf. Spiritual Testimonies, 31].

But that which comes to pass in the union of the spiritual marriage is very different. The Lord appears in this center of the soul, not in an imaginative vision but in an intellectual one, although more delicate than those mentioned [cf. Interior Castle VI, ch. 8], as He appeared to the apostles without entering through the door when He said to them pax vobis [cf. Jn 20:19–21; Interior Castle V, ch. 1, no. 12].

What God communicates here to the soul in an instant is a secret so great and a favor so sublime—and the delight the soul experiences so extreme—that I don’t know what to compare it to. I can say only that the Lord wishes to reveal for that moment, in a more sublime manner than through any spiritual vision or taste, the glory of heaven. One can say no more—insofar as can be understood—than that the soul, I mean the spirit, is made one with God.

For since His Majesty is also spirit, He has wished to show His love for us by giving some persons understanding of the point to which this love reaches so that we might praise His grandeur. For He has desired to be so joined with the creature that, just as those who are married cannot be separated, He doesn’t want to be separated from the soul [previously she wrote, “those who have consummated marriage”].

Saint Teresa of Avila

The Interior Castle VII, ch. 2, nos. 1–3

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Featured image: The Vision of the Nail is a large oil on canvas painting dating to 1609 by an artist from the Cuzco school of artists. It forms part of the large format series on The Life of Saint Teresa in the Convento del Carmen San José, Santiago, Chile. A detail is seen here. Image credit: PESSCA 5375B, PESSCA Archive, Ojeda, A 20052023 (Some rights reserved)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: