The Abbess Tumbles Down a Hill: A Christian Story Retold by a Zen Priest

The Abbess Tumbles Down a Hill: A Christian Story Retold by a Zen Priest June 10, 2019



The Abbess Huntress Tumbles Down a Hill

(An anecdote from the life Teresa of Avila, re-imagined)

James Ishmael Ford

Once upon a time long ago and far away there was an abbess. Her name was Huntress. Huntress spent years on the intimate way and had come to be wise. She was also a powerful preacher and a subtle counselor and people flocked to her as their spiritual director. While she never suggested it was in any way superior, many decided to follow her into the monastic life.

There were so many that she decided to send her senior disciples out to found their own communities. Most were small, but a few grew to be larger than her own. She found a small pleasure in that.

‘She kept in touch. Mostly by letters. But, also twice a year she would hitch a donkey to a small wagon and would take herself on a journey visiting the communities.

One day on her way to the largest of the communities, she was making her way through a mountain pass when a torrential rain began. There was nothing to do but continue. And through the driving rain she did. Eventually Huntress was soaked to the skin. And her small bundle of clothing and small presents for the abbot of the community were equally soaked. She didn’t really think much about it, she was simply trying to keep the donkey going forward.

Then there was a terrible flash of lightning, and in the same moment, a sharp turn. And, well, the hitch to the donkey broke, and as the donkey ran forward in full panic, her cart continued turning and before she could catch her breath both she and the cart tumbled down the side of the mountain. She barely avoided being struck by the cart itself as it careened down past her and crashed into a rock, splintering, and throwing everything she’d been transporting into the mud and brush.

Huntress rolled down after the cart, coming to a stop just before hitting the same rock. Dazed, soaked, mud covering nearly every inch of her, she stood up. Huntress looked up into the storming skies, water streaming down her face. She thought it felt like there may have been some blood mixed in with the water.

She raised her fist to the heavens and yelled out, “Oh mystery! If this is how you treat your friends, its small wonder you have so few of them!”



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