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A Feast for Teresa, Mystic & Founder

A Feast for Teresa, Mystic & Founder October 15, 2021

Teresa of Avila

 

 

 

Teresa Sanchez de Cepeda y Ahumada died in a moment when time ceased to be. It was in 1582 exactly as the Julian calendar was replaced by the Gregorian. And with it ten days vanished, the 5th through the 15th. In this negative time, so did Teresa.

We know her as Teresa of Avila.

The Churches of the West celebrate today, the 15th of October, as a feast in her honor.

She is one of only four women to be named a “Doctor” of the Roman Catholic Church. And to my mind one of the greatest of Catholic theologians. She is a glorious example of the Christian church’s potential for leading people into lives of depth and authenticity.

Teresa was born was born on the 28th of March, 1515, in Avila, Spain. Her paternal grandfather was a Converso, a Jew forced to convert to Catholicism. He spent his life under suspicion and was for a time investigated by the Inquisition. Her father successfully assimilated, made a fortune as a wool merchant, and even obtained a knighthood. His second wife, Beatriz de Ahumada y Cuevas was a devout Catholic who dreamed of the convent, bowed to family demands and married. Her only child was Teresa (there were other children by the first wife).

Teresa’s mother died when she was eleven. This tragedy turned her to religion and especially to devotion to Mary. After completing scholastic studies, at twenty she became a Carmelite nun. After a period of extreme austerities she began to have moments of ecstatic encounter.

She delved deeply into the Medieval mystical literature trying to understand her experiences. Later Augustine’s writings helped to ground her. But the experiences continued, including a period lasting for two years and culminating in an angle appearing and thrusting a spear into her heart.

I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it.”

She would go on to become a monastic reformer and founder, establishing convents for women and later, several for men, as well.

She worked right up until her death.

Teresa and her special friend and sometime confessor St John of the Cross are the great masters of the Christian version of the Via Negativa, the “Negative Way.” the Negative theology is, to my mind and heart, the reach across time and space and culture that connects Christianity and Buddhism. Actually within the great silence it is the connection of all religion, or that part which is worth pursuing.

***

She sang to us:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

In these videos Sister Donna D’Alla walks us through Teresa’s teachings & her Prayer of the Heart.

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