Teresa of Avila lived in sixteenth century Spain and, after a devout upbringing, entered a Carmelite monastery at the age of twenty. After twenty years in the community, she had a profound spiritual experience, her faith was re-vitalised and her prayer life entered new mystical depths. For most of her life she had suffered from poor health but, despite this, in 1562 aged forty seven, she founded a small Carmelite community of her own at Avila whose emphasis was on interior contemplative prayer. Teresa went on to found several more convents and with the help of the friar, John of the Cross, introduced her ways of contemplative prayer to the male Carmelite communities.
Teresa met with considerable opposition from within the Catholic Church during her life but always remained faithful to her call to found contemplative communities. Eventually in 1582 the discalced friars and nuns were allowed to found their own separate province.
Over the next few Sundays, I will post excerpts of her teaching on prayer, taken from The Way of Prayer edited by Kieran Kananaugh.
I'm not asking you now that you think about him or that you draw out a lot of concepts or make long and subtle reflections with your intellect. I'm not asking you to do anything more than look at him. For who can keep you from turning the eyes of your soul toward this Lord, even if you do so just for a moment if you can't do more? You can look at very ugly things; won't you be able to look at the most beautiful thing imaginable? Well now, daughters, your Spouse never takes his eyes off you. He has suffered your committing a thousand ugly offenses and abominations against him, and this suffering wasn't enough for him to cease looking at you. Is it too much to ask you to turn your eyes from these exterior things in order to look at him sometimes? Behold, he is not waiting for anything else, as he says to the bride, than that we look at him. In the measure you desire him, you will find him. He so esteems our turning to look at him that no diligence will be lacking on his part.
The Way of Perfection Part 2
Teresa of Avila
For a meditation on Looking at God click here.