The Fearless Cross

The well-known poem of St. Teresa of Jesus, Nada te turbe, “Let nothing disturb you,” is a masterpiece of literature in its simplicity, density, symmetry and rhythm.

Nada te turbe, nada te espante todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda, la paciencia todo lo alcanza,
quien a Dios tiene nada le falta sólo Dios basta.
Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you;
all things pass, God does not change;
patience attains all; one who has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

We even have an original autograph of the text written in Teresa’s own handwriting in the margin of her breviary:

This brief text is an existentially rich and poetic meditation on Christian faith and hope. Theologically speaking, the formal object of faith and hope is God, revealed in Jesus Christ, who alone is the origin and end of all things (Revelation 1:8; 22:13) and who alone is the immovable standard by which all change is judged. One who trusts this God amid life’s chaos, violence and storms discovers a counter-intuitively provident God. Why do I say counter-intuitively? Because God has fully revealed His provident care in a shockingly unlikely place: the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

This God reveals Himself to be both present and active above all in life’s darkest realms, seemingly farthest away from the reach of His omnipotent power. On the Cross, God reveals His omnipotence in impotence, His wisdom in folly, His love in the midst of hatred, His order in the midst of chaos, His life in the dungeon of death, heaven even in the bowels of hell. God does not promise a life free from disturbing or fearful circumstances, but provides an anchor sunk deep into the stormy abyss. Sinking your anchor into the crucified God brings stabilitas, “stability” to the center of your soul. This paradoxical stability in the midst of the earthquake, anchor in the midst of the storm is hauntingly extolled in this ancient Carthusian motto:

Stat crux dum volvitur orbis, “The cross is steady while the world whirls.”

Nada te turbe is not a prayer (since it is not addressed to God), but is a theological meditation providing the basis for praying with trust in the midst of the “terrors of the night” (Psalm 91:5). We trust not because we wishfully think away negative reality with positive thoughts, but because the God in whom we trust has dealt decisively with all reality in Jesus Christ, transforming the tomb into a womb, the desert into a place of springs, the cursèd tree into the Tree of Life, the night into a presage of the immortal Dawn. There in the tomb, in the desert, on the tree and in the night we meet Him as God-with-us, fashioning through, with and in us a new heavens and new earth.

Colleen Nixon sang a gorgeous rendition of Teresa’s meditation, and appended to it a prayer that asks God to “consume us” by His grace, especially as we consume His life-giving death in the Eucharistic banquet. Colleen chose a fitting coda to St Teresa’s words, as by it we are invited not to flee from reality into wishful fantasy, but rather to plunge into the heart of God’s confrontation with the darkness in the slain Lamb. Are you ready to be thus consumed unto trust?

Here’s Colleen:

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