La Madre muy práctico--Santa Teresa

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Reading once again in the marvelous anthology of essays Carmelite Prayer: A Tradition for the 21st Century (ed. Keith Egan). I cam upon this marvelous observation:

from "Jesus Christ in Carmelite Prayer"
Margaret Dorgan

Teresa urges gentleness, no forcing. "Taking it upon oneself to stop and suspend thought is what I mean should not be done. . . . " She tells us that in regard to "this effort to suspend the intellect. . . labor will be wasted. . ." (BL 12.5). She warns against a kind of mental coercion to empty ourselves of thoughts in order to achieve a held absorption. St. Teresa was familiar with this experience in herself and in others, based on a too-demanding cut-down of outside stimuli, that could lead to quietism. "To be always withdrawn from corporeal things. . . is the trait of angelic spirits, not of those who live in mortal bodies. . . . How much more is it necessary not to withdraw through one's own efforts from all our good and help which is the most sacred humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ." (IC 6.7.6)

In one stroke we are told two important things. Prayer is never our effort unaided. When we think so we become more Buddhist than Christian. Prayer is always an invitation from above to converse. WE needn't chastise ourselves because of our distractions, nor need we try to force ourselves to be empty of them. We need to pursue the invitation in the ways that allow us the best communication. As we no longer need those ways of praying, God will gradually remove them from us. When He starts to do so, we must be willing to let them go.

We are also told something tremendously important to the understanding of the nature of detachment. We are not disembodied spirits, as much as some of us would like to behave so (not me, I'm afraid I'm all too embodied as yet). Having corporeal needs, we must attend to them. It is the right use of created things to meet our needs. It is also the right use of created things to appreciate the goodness that is in them and that is meant for us. Jesus did not constantly eschew food, wine, and company. Indeed, several of His miracles provided food for hungry people desiring to learn from Him. Yes, he fasted, which is also proper use of created things. But He did not fast limitlessly AND he even advised those criticizing his disciples that "the time for fasting is when the bridegroom has left."

It is not the use of created things that causes a problem ever. When we become detached it isn't about trying to become like the angels, but trying to train ourselves to the proper use of created things. We need not empty our houses until they all resemble Japanses interior design (unless that suits us). Detachment is about ever refining our sense of what we NEED against what we DESIRE. As we become more aware of what we need, we become more capable of limiting or seeing what we desire as distraction from the One Thing Needful.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 14, 2005 9:13 AM.

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