Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

I accompanied Clare last night to this:
St Joseph & St Teresa Catholic Church

Everyone is warmly invited to the start of our 9-day celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Teresa of Avila.  Our parish’s former association with a Carmelite convent makes this a very special time for us.

The celebrations begin  next Tuesday 6 October at 7.30pm with a talk on St Teresa of Avila – writer , reformer and mystic.   The talk will be given by Louis Carruthers who is a recent young graduate of the Department of Religion & Theology at Bristol University.

Louis is about to start post-graduate study on St Teresa.   He says his interests include Teresa as a mystic and, more recently, applying the teachings of Teresa to everyday life.
Louis was a young, engaging man with a fashionably small beard. His 30-40 strong audience consisted mostly of women with a median age of sixty. We were in the old Carmelite convent chapel.

It turns out that Saint Teresa was an interesting person in the Spanish Counter-Reformation - who had celebrated visions. Louis reverentially read out one of her most famous (the subject of this statue from Bernini).

The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa
" I saw an angel near me, on the left side, in bodily form. This I am not wont to see, save very rarely.... In this vision it pleased the Lord that I should see it thus.

He was not tall, but short, marvellously beautiful, with a face which shone as though he were one of the highest of the angels, who seem to be all of fire: they must be those whom we call Seraphim....

I saw in his hands a long golden spear, and at the point of the iron there seemed to be a little fire. This I thought that he thrust several times into my heart, and that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew out the spear he seemed to be drawing them with it, leaving me all on fire with a wondrous love for God.

The pain was so great that it caused me to utter several moans; and yet so exceeding sweet is this greatest of pains that it is impossible to desire to be rid of it, or for the soul to be content with less than God."
So, my emphasis. As the young man calmly read all this out, taking the words at face value, and as his audience carefully didn't react at all, I thought: 'Freud would have had a field day with this.'