Today, the Church puts on our lips at the entrance antiphon a wonderful psalm verse that captures Saint Teresa of Avila to a “T”: As the deer
longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts
for God, the living God. When can I enter and see the face of God? (Psalm 42: 2-3).
Teresa of Avila is one of my favorite Spanish saints: her intensity is beyond compare, her fidelity is extraordinary. I was searching for something on Saint Teresa and I found the following from our Holy Father. These few paragraphs really capture for me what the Christian life is about, what Teresa was about, what I want to be about. Perhaps what the pope says will orient your thoughts today:
It is far
from easy to sum up in a few words Teresa’s profound and articulate
spirituality. I would like to mention a few essential points. In the first
place St Teresa proposes the evangelical virtues as the basis of all Christian
and human life and in particular, detachment from possessions, that is,
evangelical poverty, and this concerns all of us; love for one another as an
essential element of community and social life; humility as love for the truth;
determination as a fruit of Christian daring; theological hope, which she
describes as the thirst for living water. Then we should not forget the human
virtues: affability, truthfulness, modesty, courtesy, cheerfulness, culture.
Secondly, St Teresa proposes a profound harmony with the great biblical figures and eager listening to the word of God. She feels above all closely in tune with the Bride in the Song of Songs and with the Apostle Paul, as well as with Christ in the Passion and with Jesus in the Eucharist. The Saint then stresses how essential prayer is. Praying, she says, “means being on terms of friendship with God frequently conversing in secret with him who, we know, loves us” (Vida 8, 5). St Teresa’s idea coincides with Thomas Aquinas’ definition of theological charity as “amicitia quaedam hominis ad Deum”, a type of human friendship with God, who offered humanity his friendship first; it is from God that the initiative comes (cf. Summa Theologiae II-II, 23, 1).
Prayer is life and develops gradually, in pace with the growth of Christian life: it begins with vocal prayer, passes through interiorization by means of meditation and recollection, until it attains the union of love with Christ and with the Holy Trinity. Obviously, in the development of prayer climbing to the highest steps does not mean abandoning the previous type of prayer. Rather, it is a gradual deepening of the relationship with God that envelops the whole of life.
Rather than a pedagogy Teresa’s is a true “mystagogy” of prayer: she teaches those who read her works how to pray by praying with them. Indeed, she often interrupts her account or exposition with a prayerful outburst.
Another subject dear to the Saint is the centrality of Christ’s humanity. For Teresa, in fact, Christian life is the personal relationship with Jesus that culminates in union with him through grace, love and imitation. Hence the importance she attaches to meditation on the Passion and on the Eucharist as the presence of Christ in the Church for the life of every believer, and as the heart of the Liturgy. St Teresa lives out unconditional love for the Church: she shows a lively “sensus Ecclesiae”, in the face of the episodes of division and conflict in the Church of her time.
Pope Benedict XVI
2 February 2011