St. Teresa of Jesus—also known as St. Teresa of Avila—was born in Avila, Spain, on March 28, 1515. Thus, today is the 500th anniversary of her birth.
So much to say. I will tweak a three year old post for it!
Like all genuine mystics, Teresa appears as an unexpected epiphany of God’s Fire into our shadowlands. Her remarkable, extra-ordinary encounters with God are dramatic signs of what every Christian bears within under the ordinary form of concealed mystery. Here’s an analogy that came to me. Just as the earth’s homely, stable crust conceals beneath its surface a burning cauldron of molten rock and iron, so the ordinary Christian bears within, sealed beneath the economy of faith, the coming Kingdom, the lumen gloriae, “light of glory” that awaits us beyond death and final Judgment. All the baptized are re-created as a Temple of the Trinity, a Holy of Holies filled with all the Fire of Pentecost, and remain so as long as they remain in grace. Or, as St. Symeon the New Theologian memorably phrased it, each soul in grace is “a living Paradise, a new Eden” where God dwells. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Cor. 6:19).
But in this life, this truth is only accessed through the inchoate darkness of faith (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12). However, on rare occasions — to exploit the analogy further — the earthen crust of faith ruptures, the magma wells up, the fire explodes and the blazing glory of the next world suddenly breaks into ours. Then the Church looks back discerningly, retrospectively and canonizes the site of the eruption. And we get a Saint. That is who Teresa is.
So to honor St. Teresa today, let me share here my favorite Teresa quotes:
“It is love alone that gives worth to all things.”
“It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering into ourselves.”
“Once after receiving Communion I was given understanding of how the Father receives within our soul the most holy Body of Christ, and of how I know and have seen that these divine Persons are present, and of how pleasing to the Father this offering of His Son is, because He delights and rejoices with Him here–let us say–on earth. For His humanity is not present with us in the soul, but His divinity is. Thus the humanity is so welcome and pleasing to the Father and bestows on us so many favors.” [mind blowing]
“You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him. And the greatest is love.”
“Be gentle to all, and stern with yourself.”
“God save us from gloomy saints!”
“Mental prayer is nothing else than a close sharing between friends.”
“The important thing is not to think much but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love.”
“In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient inn.”
“The closer one approaches to God, the simpler one becomes.”
“Often, as you have read, it is to the weakest that His Divine Majesty gives favors, which I believe they would not exchange for all the fortitude given to those who go forward in aridity of spirit. We are fonder for spiritual sweetness than of crosses. Test us, O Lord, Thou Who knowest all truth, that we may know ourselves.”
“Seek the God of consolations and not the consolations of God.”
“Perhaps we do not know what love is: it would not surprise me a great deal to learn this, for love consists, not in the extent of our happiness, but in the firmness of our determination to try to please God in everything.”
“God withholds Himself from no one who perseveres.”
“The devil frequently fills our thoughts with great schemes, so that instead of putting our hands to what work we can do to serve our Lord, we may rest satisfied with wishing to perform impossibilities.”
Amor saca amor, “Love begets love.”
“But here the Lord asks only two things of us: love of His Majesty and love of our neighbor. The surest sign that we are keeping these two commandments is, I think, that we should really be loving our neighbor; for we cannot be sure if we are loving God, although we may have good reasons for believing that we are, but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbor.”
“God has been very good to me, for I never dwell upon anything wrong which a person has done, so as to remember it afterwards. If I do remember it, I always see some other virtue in that person.”
“In order that love be fully satisfied, it is necessary that it lower itself and that it lower itself to nothingness and transform this nothingness into fire.”
“It is of great importance, when we begin to practice prayer, not to let ourselves be frightened by our own thoughts.”
“All the way to heaven is heaven.”
“Love turns work into rest.”