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"Let nothing disturb you; Let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God alone suffices."
-St. Teresa of Avila
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Her Spirituality
"Spirituality refers to any religious or ethical value that is concretized as an attitude of spirit from which one's actions flow."[1] With this definition it will be also helpful to keep in mind that the Church has held, as confirmed by the Vatican Council II, that there is only one spirituality for all and it consists in a participation in the mystery of Christ.[2] Logically, then theology and religious experience are guided and directed by the ecclesiastical Magisterium for the sake of integration or reintegration.[3] In this light we can clearly see that the spirituality of Carmel which is Christocentric rests upon the Magisterium of the Church.

The attitude of spirit from which the Carmelite's actions flow focus upon the particular charisms of Christ: those of prayer, propitiation and intercession. Whereas a Dominican may exemplify more of Our Lord's charism of teaching and a Franciscan, His poverty, a Carmelite seeks to manifest His life of love and prayer.

We see this best expressed in Teresa herself. Teresa wanted to love God more than anyone. She could not stand the thought that anyone loved Him more. This was not jealousy. It was the love of a passionate Spanish woman for her Beloved. The sacred humanity of Christ was the irreplaceable core of her spirituality.[4] She wanted to love Him in that sacred humanity with all of her nature. That simplicity is at the root of Carmelite Spirituality which with all of its profound mystical life is based upon the desire to love God and pray for others. The the true test of prayer is even simpler. It is the acquisition of two simple virtues, humility and obedience.

The Two Great Images
Among hundreds of images used by Teresa, the two greatest are the soul as a watered garden and the soul as a castle. In these two images that we find the finest and most profound examples of Teresa's prowess as a consummate theologian who makes the obscure become clear.[5]

Living Water: the Soul as a Garden
Teresa's first gift was to see the soul as a garden with the person as the gardener. The life of the soul's garden is the water or grace that comes from God. In presenting the four degrees of prayer, she shows the soul as progressively more dependent upon the grace of God with each successive level. At the first level it seems that prayer is all our labor, because the buckets of water are hand-carried to the garden by the gardener. In the end it is obvious that the fruitfulness of prayer is totally dependent upon Divine favor, as in rain from heaven.

The first degree of prayer is described as water from a well. This level is discursive meditation.[6] Here one works to keep the senses recollected by such things as thinking over one's past life, meditating on the life of Christ, sacred images etc.

The second degree of prayer is water wheel or windlass and buckets. Here one finds the gift of the prayer of quiet which consists in a recollecting of the faculties within the soul. The faculties are not lost or asleep, and the will alone is occupied without knowing how; it is captive by Him whom it loves. Other faculties will help or sometimes hinder but the will takes no notice. This brings the consolations of understanding, tears, rest, very great joy and satisfaction. By means of this prayer the virtues grow much more and the soul no longer covets things of the earth. In Teresa's opinion, few souls pass beyond the prayer of quiet.[7]

The third degree of prayer is likened to diverting a stream or a brook. In this degree we find the prayer of sleep of the faculties. This is not a complete union of all the faculties for although the faculties are almost totally united with God they are not so absorbed as not to function. The faculties have only the ability to be occupied completely with God..."one dares to move...cannot stir them.{faculties}" One utters many words in praise of God without thinking them up. The intellect is worth nothing here and the soul would desire to cry out praises and is beside itself. Present within the soul is a delightful disquiet.

The fourth degree of prayer is described as rain from heaven. This is the prayer of union. It is a union of all the faculties in which the soul is unable to communicate its joy. All the senses are occupied in this joy; none is free to be taken up with any other exterior or interior thing. It is not free to communicate joy.

The Interior Castle
The crowning achievement of Teresa's descriptions of mystical theology, the life of prayer and providential grace is her image of the Interior Castle. Just as with her other works, Teresa wrote under obedience to a confessor. Her method of writing was consistent in that she sat down to write whenever she could spare the time and put down the thoughts that came to mind sometimes with many different ones jostling for position.[8] She almost never rewrote anything she put down and seldom even read what she had written. The Interior Castle which represents the first authority on the mystical life of prayer was written in this fashion in less than two months.[9]

The culmination of all of her gifts for analogy was this description of the soul as a jeweled castle with many mansions. At the center of the castle is God, Himself, the fountain of all light and love. Outside of the castle is a mote with lizards and reptiles which symbolized the world. As one withdraws from the world and as one responds to God's call to enter the castle, these creatures pull and weaken the person. They even enter into the first mansions at times where they represent the habits and vices of the world that blind us to the truth. At first God may grant favors to attract the weak souls away from the sensible experiences of the world. Thus the consolations and delights are like kisses and whispers upon the soul. However, as one proceeds to the inner mansions, God weans souls through aridity and the practice of the moral virtues. This practice brings union within the person[10] and prepares them for the theological union with God. Union with God is through the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity with the greatest of these being Charity.[11]

The first three mansions are descriptive of the religious life common to every Christian. The person grows in a love for the things of God, religious practice, virtue, hearing inspiring sermons, devotions etc. He also grows in an avoidance of and hatred for sin.[12] The third mansion represents a certain maturation of the human person and also the limit of what can be accomplished through human effort accompanied by grace. Hence, Teresa compares the person in the third mansion with the rich young man who knew the consolation of a virtuous and just life. She believed that there were many who come into this mansion. However, when our Lord called the young man and asked him to give up everything to follow Him, the young man could not give up the riches of the spiritual life that he had known. There is a security and comfort in living a moral life. People can become attached to prayer forms and practices that prepare them for God. When God calls He may ask them to abandon themselves to Him in every way, and they may hold on to His gifts and forsake the Giver.[13] This interesting insight by Teresa enables us to see the young man in a different light from the normal reflections upon worldly possessions. It also exemplifies a major theme by the parents of Carmelite spirituality, Teresa and John, who discuss at length the attachments to spiritual delights and things. Hence there can be avarice for spiritual books for example as well as secular.

Entrance into the fourth and remaining mansions is only possible by the pure grace of God. This is critical as human efforts have nothing to do with the reception of the divine favors. It is all dependent upon the calling and grace of God.

Importance of the Mansions
In summation, entrance into the different mansions is completely dependent upon the grace of God and cannot be obtained through one's own efforts; spiritual delights and consolations not indicative of holiness but rather a means to holiness; sanctification is possible without these gifts since not all are called in this way;[14] intellectual visions are greater than the imaginative visions; recollection, contemplation, prayers of quiet and sleep are all passive purifications in which some or all of the faculties are captured by God.[15] As for discernment, it remains that humility and obedience are the true signs of prayer and are irreplaceable for union with God. Locutions are to be ignored if possible. The mansions proceed toward a courtship of the soul by God resulting in the spiritual marriage of the sixth mansion and the union with God in the seventh. Visions and locutions do not take place there but the soul is hidden from sin and the revelation of the Trinity.

Carmelite Spirituality possesses a simplicity. It unfolds in daily life. Profound realities are expressed in simple terms. For example prayer between God and self is described as "an intimate conversation between friends,"[16] and humility as walking in the truth. The great contribution of Teresa as a leader of the Counter-Reformation is simply that she would help the Church by forming a community of friends of Christ who would pray for the priests and defenders of the Church. They performed the simple daily tasks of life in a spirit of prayer and love.

At the same time Carmelite Spirituality is most profound because it is the life of one who is called to live the charism of the love of God and prayer.

Teresa can be difficult to understand because the subject, God is spirit, and nothing in creation bears any proportion to Him.[17] Man is concrete in his understanding, and he can imagine the concrete form of creation but not its Creator. While he has the capacity to know the abstract nature of God he lacks the vocabulary to express it. Jesus Christ is the spoken word which enables a finite being to express the totality of an infinite God. Man can say that God is infinite, and his intellect can know this to be true. Man can speak of the Trinity and have the same certitude. Yet he longs for his body and senses to share in this knowledge for he is not an angel. Man longs to experience God throughout his whole nature. Music can allow his senses and imagination to participate in the beautiful. God provides man with the gift of art which enables him to express through metaphors of sight and sound, what is otherwise inexpressible. The art which remains an imitation allows man to approach a mystery all the while proclaiming that it remains a mystery.

So just as Teresa sought to help others know God and the mystical life through her analogies and images, the Cantata seeks to help the reader to know Teresa and her images of the mystical life through music. The Cantata will look at the prayers of her daily life and try to create an imitation of the experience of her prayer.

[1] Ibid., p. 17.
[2] Vatican Council II, Nostra Aetate, n. 2., pp. 738-739.
[3] Yves Congar, A History of Theology, trans. and ed. by, H. Guthrie (New York: Doubleday, 1968), p. 273, Jordan Aumann, Thomas Hopko, and Donald Bloesch, Christian Spirituality: East and West (Chicago: Priory Press, 1968), pp. 105-106.
[4] LF, Kavanaugh states, "Stressing throughout her life the absolute necessity of prayer and the interior life her path was that of a devotee of Christ. She found it extremely difficult to be open to any system of mysticism that would demand setting aside the corporeal for the sake of mounting to the spiritual." p. 11.
[5] Peter Kreeft, Summa of the Summa (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1992), p. 8.
[6] IC, p. 10.
[7] WP, p. 141.
[8] LF, p. 17-19.
[9] IC, pp. 265-267.
[10] Prior the to fall man possessed personal integrity, i.e. his passions were ordered by right reason. One of the effects of original sin is blindness to the intellect and another is the great struggle for man to control his passions, "you will toil with the sweat of your brow." Gen. 3:16-19 refers not only to the struggle for food but for the struggle for personal unity. This is echoed by St. Paul's famous, "I do not do what I want to do but what I hate.", Rom. 7:15.
[11] 1 Cor. 13:13.
[12] IC, p. 306.
[13] Ibid., pp. 310-313.
[14] WP, pp. 98-101.
[15] It should be noted however, that Teresa at times will confuse us describing active forms of contemplation and recollection. It is because at times she is speaking of what might be called active contemplation which is similar to meditation because we can control this experience and an active recollection where we can recollect our faculties within ourselves to reflect upon something of God. This differs from the passive forms of each which God initiates and sustains. The confusion comes from the fact that she will use the same word in both instances. On this point St. Thomas was in agreement with Teresa, see Summa Theologica, IIa, IIae, Q. 180.
[16] LF, p. 67
[17] JC, p. 126.