Monday, October 18, 2010

Interpreting Saint Teresa- Part 4

Patrick Burke, O.Carm.
“It's as though Jesus tells the Father that He is now ours since the Father has given Him to us to die for us; and asks that the Father not take Him from us until the end of the world; that He allow Him serve each day.”
(The Way 33, 4)
 St Teresa in commenting on the petition of the Our Father, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is quite practical and blunt when she tells her nuns: “Look, daughters, His will must be done whether we like this or not, and it will be done in heaven and on earth. Believe me, take my advice and make a virtue of necessity” (The Way of Perfection, 32, 4). For Teresa, our human will is the faculty by which we form an attitude to what is around us and create a relationship which reflects our wanting, our desires and our hopes. The will of God is the mind that was in Christ. “He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Phil.2, 5). Such a will is rooted in love - love of God and love of neighbor. This inevitably involves a suffering we cannot control. Since it is God’s will, it results in openness to God rather than planned self-directed desires. The thrust of Teresa’s writing was directed toward the complete gift of ourselves to the Creator, the surrender of our wills to His and detachment from creatures. “Unless we give our wills entirely to the Lord so that in everything pertaining to us He might do what conforms with His will, we will never be allowed to drink of the living water.” (W. 32, 9).
Teresa begins Chapter 33 of The Way of Perfection by stating that “Jesus understands what a difficult thing it is He offers us. He knows our weakness, that we often show that we do not understand what the Lord’s will is. We are weak and He is merciful.” In fact we are slow to let go our own mentality because of our selfish purposes. She cites the case of a rich person living in luxury who is told to be moderate at table so that the hungry may have something to eat; and he replies with a thousand excuses for not understanding this. Or a backbiter, told that it is God’s will that he love his neighbor as himself, becomes annoyed and cannot understand. But Teresa reminds us too of a religious who has grown accustomed to freedom and comfort that he should remember his obligations and keep in mind that it is God’s will that he be faithful to his vows. It seems so difficult to do God’s will.
So Teresa explains. “Once Jesus saw the need, He sought out a wonderful means by which to show the extreme of His love for us, and in His own name and in that of His brothers He made the following petition: “Give us this day, Lord, our daily bread.”

Teresa devotes the three following chapters (33-35) to the Eucharist, explaining how we could not even begin to do God’s will without the companionship and faithful presence of Christ who prays with us to the Father. This presence that is required is not merely the individual’s spiritual communion or the result of personal devotion. Recognizing the difficulty people have in doing God’s will, she sees that it was necessary for us to see His love and courage in order to be awakened -not just once but every day. “Thy will be done” is addressed by Jesus to the Father: and Teresa says that “since by sharing in our nature He has become one with us here below, He reminds the Father that because He belongs to Him the Father in turn can give Him to us.” (Way, 33,5). And so Jesus says our bread”. He doesn’t make any difference between Himself and us.
Teresa then considers the word “daily”. The petition has the words “Give us this day our daily bread”, referring to one day which “lasts as long as the world and no longer.” She sees the Eucharist as the Blessed Sacrament, which witnesses to God’s desire to be with us. “Since the Father has given us His Son and sent Him into the world, the Son, just because He wants to, desires not to abandon us but to remain here with us, to the greater glory of His friends and the affliction of His enemies.” (34.2). The Sisters are to receive the Blessed Sacrament and to “ask the Father together with the Lord to give you your Spouse this day so that you will not be seen in this world without Him.” She explains that “receiving Communion is not like picturing with the imagination as when we reflect upon the Lord on the Cross or on other episodes of the Passion. In Communion the event is happening now, and it is entirely true. There’s no reason to go looking for Him in some other place farther away. Since we know that Jesus is with us as long as the natural heat doesn’t consume the accidents of bread, we should approach Him. If when He went about in the world the mere touch of His robes cured the sick, why doubt, if we have faith, that miracles will be worked while He is within us and that He will give what we ask of Him, since He is in our house?” (34,8)
For Teresa herself the post-Communion meditation and thanksgiving were in fact the heart of her prayer life. Since God desires to be with His creation, the Eucharist is for her the one true and contemporary sign of this reality linking the theology of the Cross to the Eucharistic presence.

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