As the Moors were invading Spain in the 1500's, Teresa of Jesus as a child, went off towards the country with her brother Rodrigo in the hope that there they would have their heads cut off. Her uncle went out to seek them and brought them back to their anxious parents. She explained, “I went because I want to see God, and to see Him we must die.” As she grew up at home, she built little hermitages in the orchard. She finally enters the Carmel and God reveals His presence to Teresa in fleeting graces of union. This only increases her desire for God. She writes:
“Remember how St. Augustine tells us about his seeking God in many places and eventually finding Him within himself. Do you suppose it is of little importance that a soul which is often distracted should come to understand this truth and to find that, in order to speak to its Eternal Father and to take its delight in Him, it has no need to go to Heaven…We need no wings to go in search of Him but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us.” (Taken from her Life)
The whole of Teresian spirituality is in this movement towards God Who is present in the soul, seeking to be united perfectly with Him.
These are the essential elements:
Active Presence of Immensity
On a natural level, God created all things and by a continual act sustains His creatures in order to maintain it in existence.
The participation of the divine nature which is grace, is the highest work wrought by the presence of immensity. God is then present substantially in the soul of the just to whom He gives both natural being and the supernatural life of grace. He sustains us, but not as a mother sustains and carries her child in her arms; He penetrates us and envelops us. God is the soul of our soul, the life of our life, the great reality in which we are, as it were, immersed; He penetrates all that we have and all that we are by His active presence and His vivifying power; “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28
By the presence of immensity, God reveals His presence and His nature by His works. To the soul that has become His child by grace, God opens up His intimate life, His life in a Trinity, and has the soul enter to share in it like a true child. To these new relations created by grace there corresponds a new mode of divine presence that we shall call “objective presence”; because in this, God is embraced directly as the object of our knowing and our love. “If any one love me,…my Father will love him and we will come to him and will make our abode with him.” John 14:23
Localization of the Objective Presence in the Center of the Soul
The presence of God is localized in the most profound part of the soul, in the center, the room or palace occupied by the King. It is at the center of the castle that the soul will properly experience the active presence of God, the sanctifier. It is in the center that it will go to find Him and to be united perfectly with Him.
Thus the reign of God is established in the soul; the transforming union is effected by the invading of grace which progressively conquers, transforms and subjects the soul to God within. By freeing itself of the senses and its own egoistic tendencies, by obeying lights and motions that are more and more spiritual and interior, the soul deepens within until it belongs completely to Him who resides in its finest point. Such is the spiritual life and its movement.
St. Teresa in her Interior Castle states: “The desire of glorifying God completes this submission. These souls have now an equally strong desire to serve Him and to sing His praises, and to help some soul if they can. So what they desire now is not merely not to die but to live for a great many years and to suffer the severest trials, if by so doing they can become the means whereby the Lord is praised, even in the smallest things.” This union answers to the dearest desires of God Himself. God-Love needs to give Himself and finds His joy in this, a joy according to the measure of His giving. In all creation, God can give nothing more perfect than grace, so that the creature can participate in His nature. Hence, there is no joy for God superior to that which He finds in the diffusion of His grace. What will be God’s joy when He finds a soul that leaves Him entirely free, and in which He can pour out His love in the measure of His desire! The confidences made by our Lord to certain saints indicate this joy of God.
Conclusion: This unity, imposed by God on man as his supernatural end, has its value already here on earth. The effective power of the soul in the supernatural world is according to the measure of its unitive charity. A saint like St. Teresa, who has arrived at spiritual marriage, normally obtains much more from God by one sigh of the soul than do many imperfect souls by long prayers.
With St. Teresa, her desire of drawing from the infinite ocean of God’s love as directly as possible and with all the power of her being united herself perfectly with God, lifting up her soul and this gave her spirituality its force and its dynamism, its direction and its end.
St. Teresa calls us to accept the condition of giving ourselves completely to Him in order to be transformed by His love and to do His Will.
Mary’s life is a great example for us to imitate because She was the only one who fully understood and imitated the strength of the will of Jesus – Her Son. Jesus wished only and completely the will of His Father and therefore so did Mary. Mary’s life is one of strength because She was so united to the Most Blessed Trinity.
We see in Scripture her strength of will throughout the events of Mary’s life. In the presence of the Angel Gabriel, She accepted an almost infinite responsibility on which depended the future of Earth and even of Heaven. For us and in obedience to the Father, She kept silent Her pregnancy from St. Joseph so that it would be in Scripture for us that She conceived of the Holy Spirit. This took tremendous strength of will because She saw the pain and sorrow that St. Joseph was going through and could only offer this to the Father with Her prayers. She did not complain of no room in the inn and the lack of welcome for Jesus at Bethlehem; as well as not being frightened by the perspectives hinted at by the old priest Simeon. She did not protest the orders to flee into Egypt from Herod. She was always docile to the will of the Father in imitation of Her Son.
She needed strength of will to endure the agony of that unexplainable disappearance of the Child Jesus in Jerusalem. For thirty years She was at the side of Her Son, watching Him grow in stature, wisdom, grace and sensed every day that the hour was drawing nearer when He would be a “sign of contradiction” to His people. She willingly endured the sword that would pierce Her own Heart.
She had strength of will to assist at His Passion, to follow Him up to Calvary even though His own Apostles hid in fear. She stood bravely at the foot of the cross to see Him die before Her very eyes. She received Him into Her arms when He was taken down from the cross and personally cleaned His every wound before His burial. Not one complaint, not one bitter feeling against those who did this to Her Son. She never dreamed of escaping this or any of the trials. She did not cry out like Peter, “God forbid! That will never happen.” She embraced the will of the Father for good that would come of all of this suffering. Do we?
There was never a hero or a martyr with the courage of Mary. Her reply to the Angel Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to Me according to thy word” expresses Her attitude at every moment of Her life. She lived in perfect imitation of Her Son Who was in perfect union with the Father. The courage of Her Son sustained Her own courage, as did the joy of suffering for Him, and with Him for the glory of the Father and the redemption of all men, who were Her children.
Now a look at our own wills and what we can learn from this lesson. We are weak, capricious and changeable. We are wounded by original sin and by our own actual sins. Things change from moment to moment and therefore we are incapable of perseverance. The wills of Jesus and Mary were determined by the will of God, the Father. If we always turned to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and asked them for guidance and strength to do the will of the Father; we would be able to achieve constancy of will. Our love for Jesus and Mary and souls would give us the courage to do what it is the Father in Heaven wants of us. The more intimate our union with our Lord and His Mother is, the stronger will our wills be in doing what it is that is right and beneficial.
A resolution for this year may be to spend more time in prayer. Prayer, done well, will help us to imitate Jesus and Mary and therefore please the Father. Our Lady has constantly asked for the rosary. Many promises are given to us through this prayer that takes us through the great Mysteries of the Life of Jesus and Mary. We are guaranteed to grow in grace and knowledge with this daily rosary. If we already pray one – increase it to two. That may take a full 45 minutes to an hour of your day. In imitation of Mary, may we give God our first fruits – not our left-overs. May we choose to love God above all things and make greater time for prayer in order to unite our own will more closely to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene