Two Sisters

Teresa_of_ÁvilaOn this Feast Day of St. Teresa of Jesus, I am reminded that the 16th-century Spanish mystic’s  autobiography was instrumental in the conversion of the philosopher-martyr Edith Stein [St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross]. In this post I share some of Edith Stein’s reflections on the Spanish Carmelite. The passages that I selected underscore that mysticism is firstly not an extraordinary event, but is a relationship of prayerful dialogue with God and the soul. Secondly, this prayerful relationship permits us to see the pro nobis [for us] structure of existence. That the most fundamental form of being is love; that the structure of existence is triune. Thirdly, this relationship goes beyond the intellect and that the basic and utmost communication is from the heart–the seat of freedom.

Selections taken from: Love for Love: Life and Works of St. Teresa of Jesus” in The Collected Works of Edith Stein: the Hidden Life


St Edith Stein in lay clothesPrayer is the communication of the soul with God. God is love, and love is goodness giving itself away. It is a fullness of being that does not want to remain enclosed in itself, but rather to share itself with others, to give itself to them, and to make them happy. All creation exists to thanks to this divine love spending in itself. However, the highest of all creatures are those endowed with spirit, able to receive God’s love with understanding and to return it freely… Prayer is the highest achievement of which the human spirit is capable. But it is not merely a human achievement. Prayer is Jacob’s ladder on which the human spirit ascends to God and God’s grace descends to people…

St. Teresa calls the next stage the prayer of quiet or simplicity. Various activities are replaced by a recollection of spiritual energies. The soul is no longer in a position to reflect intellectually or to make definite decisions; she is completely engaged by something she cannot avoid, the presence of God who is close to her and allows her to rest in him…

Intellect and memory could cease their activity. In this prayer of the quiet, “the will alone is active and, without knowing how, it delivers itself to God like a prisoner for him to chain to himself through his love.”

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