St Teresa of Avila on the Humanity of Jesus

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It is interesting to me how there is sometimes a Zeitgeist that pervades portions of blogdom. Yesterday I elided this passage from the quote from Father Healey because I felt it needed further discussion by itself. At the same time Tom, at Disputations is talking about a topic that touches on this peripherally.

from Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God
Fr. Kilian Healey, O. Carm

Now we can understand why it is so helpful to meditate on the life of Jesus and why St. Teresa of Avila could suggest this method to her nuns: "The soul can picture itself in the presence of Christ, and accustom itself to become enkindled with great love for His sacred humanity and to have Him ever with it and speak with Him, ask Him for the things it has need of, make complaints to Him of its trials, rejoice with Him in its joys, and yet never allow its joys to make it forgetful of Him. It has no need to think out set prayers but can use just such words as suit its desires and needs."

Another quotation from St. Teresa:

If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend. And I clearly see that is we expect to please him and receive an abundance of his graces, God desires that these graces must come to us from the hands of Christ, through his most sacred humanity, in which God takes delight.

and this quote from an interesting Oratorian Essay on St. Teresa:

St Teresa insists that assimilating the truths of our faith through meditation, especially on the sacred humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, should always be part of our life of prayer. When they become a part of ourselves, they will make us grow in love of God and love of neighbour. Only then are we able to offer a 'real assent' to the faith as opposed to a mere 'notional assent', as John Henry Cardinal Newman put it so well. Even in the Sixth Mansions of the Interior Castle, a state which is close to the highest degree of the spiritual life, we must never abandon the humanity of Christ, especially his passion and death which won the price of salvation for us: 'the last thing we should do is to withdraw of set purpose from the greatest help and blessing, which is the most sacred Humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.' Christ is our guide and without him we would be lost even if we had made much spiritual progress: 'For the Lord Himself says that He is the Way; the Lord also says that He is light and that no one can come to the Father save by Him; and he that seeth Me seeth my Father.'

What does all this mean? To be honest, I am uncertain, but it speaks to me and to a certain error I am prone to. I acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I pray to Him as God incarnate, but I often overlook the fact of His humanity. That is, while I believe that he was fully human and fully God, I behave more as though He were only fully God. While I acknowledge what the theologians say about His humanity and His divinity, I am too often caught up in the Divinity and pay little attention to the humanity. Understand that I am talking about the real conduct of my devotional life. Yes, I acknowledge the nativity, and often when I think about it, I think about it as "God Incarnate." The focus of the nativity for me is not the "sacred humanity" of Jesus, but His divinity. So too with much of His life. If anything, I may be prone to the error opposite that noted by Tom, in which love of the humanity is equated with love of God Himself. I asked about this error because it boggles my mind.

So, for me, and perhaps for many, the necessary corrective isn't to move from the humanity to the divinity, but not to forget the humanity in the course of devotion. Now, very honestly, I'm not quite certain what this means or what the implications are. When I meditate upon passages of sacred Scripture, I think I encounter Jesus in His sacred humanity, but much has to do I suppose with attitude of heart. I must admit that I don't necessarily regard Jesus as the kind of friend St. Teresa notes above. I love Him as Lord and Savior, I am only just beginning to know Him as friend and confidant (as it were.) I think I am so much in awe of Him that it would be similar to being invited to dine and converse with Queen Elizabeth, only a million times more difficult in every way. I guess there is enough of the protestant left in me that I tremble in awe at the Divinity. I wonder at people who so casually regard and partake of the Eucharist, of those jaunty genuflectors who never make it even halfway to the floor but give a kind of bob. Would it not cause scandal and sheer chaos, I would throw myself down before the tabernacle and the altar. For this reason I have long loved the profound bow practiced by the Byzantine rite.

All that said, my "problem" in devotional life is to really get down to Jesus as friend and conversationalist. I do reach that point, I have experienced it, but I am not in the continual intimate communion that St. Teresa implies is possible if one has the proper grasp of both the sacred humanity and the divinity of Jesus.

All of that said, I also trust Him to correct what errors I have in my devotional and religious life as He sees fit. I trust Him to draw me closer through such interchanges and readings and practice of what I learn. I trust Him because I know that He wants what is best for me, and the long, hard trek to His sacred humanity has a purpose that I may not be able to divine at the moment (or ever), but I trust it to be purposeful and the path for my life.

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Great post, thanks for your honesty. Lots of food for thought both here and Tom's blog.

You touch on a real issue for many of us. Balancing our "state in life", with the sufferings and joys of our sojourn, and our need to give and receive love (both human and divine) can be so difficult. It all begins with prayer for me (conversation!) and I'm still learning.

Walk with me, Lord,
as I go through my day.
Be there with each step,
no matter how trivial
no matter how grave.
Give me your patience
when I feel the irritation surging,
give me your wisdom
when I want to say the wrong word,
give me your endurance
when I want to play when I should work.
Help me to love,
in the way I interact with those around me,
in the plans I make,
in how I use my assets.
Bring your own precious self to mind
as I work through this day,
and let me never forget
how you might present yourself
through the needs of another,
and at the end of the day,
may I know
I have spent the day in your company
and thus rest contented
in the palm of your hand.


Ah, but to first get to that relationship as friend and conversationalist - that seems to be the difficulty. Because anyone can audaciously presume it without actually being His friend (although he will love them anyway), but to change oneself enough to reach this state authentically is difficult and requires self-gift. Please pray for me so He can convert my heart.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 12, 2004 7:11 AM.

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