Sunday, June 22, 2014

St. Teresa of Avila and Humility in Prayer

A patient and trusting humility must accompany perseverance:
What, then, will he do here who finds that for many days he experiences nothing but aridity, dislike, distaste and so little desire to go and draw water that he would give it up entirely if he did not remember that he is pleasing and serving the Lord of the garden; if he were not anxious that all his service should not be lost, so say nothing of the gain which he hopes for from the great labour [sic] of lowering the bucket so often into the well and drawing it up without water? ... What, then, as I say, will the gardener do here? He will be bold and take heart and consider it the greatest of favours [sic] to work in the garden of so great an Emperor; and, as he knows that he is pleasing Him by so working (and his purpose must be to please, not himself, but Him), let him render Him great praise for having placed such confidence in him; ... let him help Him to bear the Cross and consider how He lived with it all His life long; let him not wish to have his kingdom on earth or cease from prayer; and so let him resolve, even if this aridity should persist his whole life long, never to let Christ fall beneath the Cross. The time will come when he shall receive his whole reward at once. (Life, xi; Peers, I, 66-7)
Such dispositions of loving and patient humility are already one of the fruits of spiritual dryness. Because they bring the soul to share in the providential design that permits and uses aridities for the sanctification of the elect, they very soon obtain high favors from God:
These trials bring their own reward.... It has become clear to me that, even in this life, God does not fail to recompense them highly; for it is quite certain that a single one of those hours in which the Lord has granted me to taste of Himself has seemed to me later a recompense for all the afflictions which I endured over a long period while keeping up the practice of prayer. (Ibid.; 67)
Jesus conquered by a humble and loving patience. And this same disposition will assure the soul a triumph over the interior and exterior obstacles that hinder it from union with God.

In the Interior Castle, Saint Teresa sums up this doctrine:
As it has been such a troublesome thing for me, it may perhaps be so for you as well, so I am just going to describe it, first in one way and then in another, hoping that I may succeed in making you realize how necessary it is, so that you may not grow restless and distressed. The clacking old mill must keep on going round and we must grind our own flour: neither the will nor the understanding must cease working. 
This trouble will sometimes be worse, and sometimes better, according to our health and according to the times and seasons. The poor soul may not be to blame for this, but it must suffer none the less.... And as we are so ignorant that what we read and are advised—namely, that we should take no account of these thoughts—is not sufficient to teach us, it does not seem to me a waste of time if I go into it farther and offer you some consolation about it; though this will be of little help to you until the Lord is pleased to give us light. But it is necessary (and His Majesty's will) that we should take proper measures and learn to understand ourselves, and not blame our souls for what is the work of our weak imagination and our nature and the devil. (IV Mansions, i; Peers, II, 235 f.)

Source: Fr. Marie-Eug√©ne, I Want to See God, trans. by M. Verda Clare (Notre Dame, IN: Christian Classics, 1953), 248–249.

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