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Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, of The Order of Our Lady of Carmel
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Chapter XIV.

The Second State of Prayer. Its Supernatural Character.

1. Having spoken of the toilsome efforts and of the strength required for watering the garden when we have to draw the water out of the well, let us now speak of the second manner of drawing the water, which the Lord of the vineyard has ordained; of the machine of wheel and buckets whereby the gardener may draw more water with less labour, and be able to take some rest without being continually at work. This, then, is what I am now going to describe; and I apply it to the prayer called the prayer of quiet.

2. Herein the soul begins to be recollected; it is now touching on the supernatural—for it never could by any efforts of its own attain to this. True, it seems at times to have been wearied at the wheel, labouring with the understanding, and filling the buckets; but in this second degree the water is higher, and accordingly the labour is much less than it was when the water had to be drawn up out of the well; I mean, that the water is nearer to it, for grace reveals itself more distinctly to the soul.

3. This is a gathering together of the faculties of the soul within itself, in order that it may have the fruition of that contentment in greater sweetness; but the faculties are not lost, neither are they asleep: the will alone is occupied in such a way that, without knowing how it has become a captive, it gives a simple consent to become the prisoner of God; for it knows well what is to be the captive of Him it loves. O my Jesus and my Lord, how pressing now is Thy love!201201   2 Cor. v. 14: "Charitas enim Christi urget nos." It binds our love in bonds so straitly, that it is not in its power at this moment to love anything else but Thee.

4. The other two faculties help the will, that it may render itself capable of the fruition of so great a good; nevertheless, it occasionally happens, even when the will is in union, that they hinder it very much: but then it should never heed them at all, simply abiding in its fruition and quiet.202202   See ch. xvii. § 12; Way of Perfection, ch. liii., but xxxi. of the old editions. For if it tried to make them recollected, it would miss its way together with them, because they are at this time like doves which are not satisfied with the food the master of the dovecot gives them without any labouring for it on their part, and which go forth in quest of it elsewhere, and so hardly find it that they come back. And so the memory and the understanding come and go, seeking whether the will is going to give them that into the fruition ofwhich it has entered itself.

5. If it be our Lord's pleasure to throw them any food, they stop; if not, they go again to seek it. They must be thinking that they are of some service to the will; and now and then the memory or the imagination, seeking to represent to it that of which it has the fruition, does it harm. The will, therefore, should be careful to deal with them as I shall explain. Everything that takes place now in this state brings the very greatest consolation; and the labour is so slight, that prayer, even if persevered in for some time, is never wearisome. The reason is, that the understanding is now working very gently, and is drawing very much more water than it drew out of the well. The tears, which God now sends, flow with joy; though we feel them, they are not the result of any efforts of our own.

6. This water of grand blessings and graces, which our Lord now supplies, makes the virtues thrive much more, beyond all comparison, than they did in the previous state of prayer; for the soul is already ascending out of its wretched state, and some little knowledge of the blissfulness of glory is communicated to it. This, I believe, is it that makes the virtues grow the more, and also to draw nearer to essential virtue, God Himself, from Whom all virtues proceed; for His Majesty has begun to communicate Himself to this soul, and will have it feel how He is communicating Himself.

7. As soon as the soul has arrived thus far, it begins to lose the desire of earthly things,203203   See Relation, i. § 12. and no wonder; for it sees clearly that, even for a moment, this joy is not to be had on earth; that there are no riches, no dominion, no honours, no delights, that can for one instant, even for the twinkling of an eye, minister such a joy; for it is a true satisfaction, and the soul sees that it really does satisfy. Now, we who are on earth, as it seems to me, scarcely ever understand wherein our satisfaction lies, for it is always liable to disappointment; but in this, at that time, there is none: the disappointment cometh afterwards, when the soul sees that all is over, and that it has no power to recover it, neither does it know how; for if it cut itself in pieces by penance and prayer, and every other kind of austerities, all would be of little use, if our Lord did not grant it. God, in His great mercy, will have the soul comprehend that His Majesty is so near to it, that it need not send messengers to Him, but may speak to Him itself, and not with a loud crying, because so near is He already, that He understands even the movements of its lips.

8. It seems absurd to say this, seeing that we know that God understands us always, and is present with us. It is so, and there can be no doubt of it; but our Emperor and Lord will have us now understand that He understands us; and also have us understand what His presence bringeth about, and that He means in a special way to begin a work in the soul, which is manifested in the great joy, inward and outward, which He communicates, and in the difference there is, as I said just now, between this joy and delight and all the joys of earth; for He seems to be filling up the void in our souls occasioned by our sins.

9. This satisfaction lies in the innermost part of the soul, and the soul knows not whence, nor how, it came, very often it knows not what to do, or wish, or pray for. It seems to find all this at once, and knoweth not what it hath found; nor do I know how to explain it, because learning is necessary for many things. Here, indeed, learning would be very much to the purpose, in order to explain the general and particular helps of grace; for there are many who know nothing about them. Learning would serve to show how our Lord now will have the soul to see, as it were, with the naked eye, as men speak, this particular help of grace, and be also useful in many other ways wherein I am likely to go astray. But as what I write is to be seen by those who have the learning to discover whether I make mistakes or not, I go on without anxiety; for I know I need have none whatever about either the letter or the spirit, because it is in their power to whom it is to be sent to do with it as they will: they will understand it, and blot out whatever may be amiss.

10. I should like them to explain this, because it is a principal point, and because a soul, when our Lord begins to bestow these graces upon it, does not understand them, and does not know what to do with itself; for if God leads it by the way of fear, as He led me, its trial will be heavy, if there be no one who understands the state it is in; and to see itself as in a picture is a great comfort; and then it sees clearly that it is travelling on that road. The knowledge of what it has to do is a great blessing for it, so that it may advance forwards in every one of these degrees of prayer; for I have suffered greatly, and lost much time, because I did not know what to do; and I am very sorry for those souls who find themselves alone when they come to this state; for though I read many spiritual books, wherein this very matter is discussed, they threw very little light upon it. And if it be not a soul much exercised in prayer, it will find it enough to understand its state, be the books ever so clear.

11. I wish much that our Lord would help me to describe the effects on the soul of these things, now that they begin to be supernatural, so that men might know by these effects whether they come from the Spirit of God. I mean, known as things are known here below—though it is always well to live in fear, and on our guard; for even if they do come from God, now and then the devil will be able to transform himself into an angel of light;204204   2 Cor. xi. 14: "Ipse enim Satanas transfigurat se in angelum lucis." and the soul, if not experienced herein, will not understand the matter; and it must have so much experience for the understanding thereof, that it is necessary it should have attained to the highest perfection of prayer.

12. The little time I have helps me but little, and it is therefore necessary His Majesty should undertake it Himself; for I have to live in community, and have very many things to employ me, as I am in a house which is newly founded—as will appear hereafter;205205   See ch. x. § 11. As that passage refers probably to the monastery of the Incarnation, this must refer to that of St. Joseph, newly founded in Avila; for that of the Incarnation was founded a short time before the Saint was born; and she could hardly say of it, now that she was at least in her forty-seventh year, that it was newly founded. The house, however, was poor; for she says, ch. xxxii. § 12, that the nuns occasionally quitted the monastery for a time, because of its poverty. and so I am writing, with very many interruptions, by little and little at a time. I wish I had leisure; for when our Lord gives the spirit, it is more easily and better done; it is then as with a person working embroidery with the pattern before her; but if the spirit be wanting, there is no more meaning in the words than in gibberish, so to speak, though many years may have been spent in prayer. And thus I think it a very great advantage to be in this state of prayer when I am writing this; for I see clearly that it is not I who speak, nor is it I who with her understanding has arranged it; and afterwards I do not know how I came to speak so accurately.206206   See ch. xviii. § 10. In the second Report of the Rota, p. 477—quoted by Benedict XIV., De Canoniz. iii. 26, n. 12, and by the Bollandists in the Acta, 1315—we have these words, and they throw great light on the text: "Sunt et alli testes de visu affirmantes quod quando beata Teresa scribebat libros, facies ejus resplendebat." In the information taken in Granada, the Mother Anne of the Incarnation says she saw the Saint one night, while writing the Fortress of the Soul, with her face shining; and Mary of St. Francis deposes to the same effect in the informations taken in Medina (De la Fuente, vol. ii. pp. 389, 392). It has often happened to me thus.

13. Let us now return to our orchard, or flower-garden, and behold now how the trees begin to fill with sap for the bringing forth of the blossoms, and then of the fruit—the flowers and the plants, also, their fragrance. This illustration pleases me; for very often, when I was beginning—and our Lord grant that I have really begun to serve His Majesty—I mean, begun in relation to what I have to say of my life,—it was to me a great joy to consider my soul as a garden, and our Lord as walking in it. I used to beseech Him to increase the fragrance of the little flowers of virtues—which were beginning, as it seemed to bud—and preserve them, that they might be to His glory; for I desired nothing for myself. I prayed Him to cut those He liked, because I already knew that they would grow the better.

14. I say cut; for there are times in which the soul has no recollection of this garden—everything seems parched, and there is no water to be had for preserving it—and in which it seems as if the soul had never possessed any virtue at all. This is the season of heavy trials; for our Lord will have the poor gardener suppose all the trouble he took in maintaining and watering the garden to have been taken to no purpose. Then is the time really for weeding and rooting out every plant, however small it may be, that is worthless, in the knowledge that no efforts of ours are sufficient, if God withholds from us the waters of His grace; and in despising ourselves as being nothing, and even less than nothing.

In this way we gain great humility—the flowers grow afresh.

15. O my Lord and my Good! I cannot utter these words without tears, and rejoicing in my soul; for Thou wilt be thus with us, and art with us, in the Sacrament. We may believe so most truly; for so it is, and the comparison I make is a great truth; and, if our sins stand not in the way, we may rejoice in Thee, because Thou rejoicest in us; for Thou hast told us that Thy delight is to be with the children of men.207207   Prov. viii. 31: "Deliciæ meæ esse cum filiis hominum." O my Lord, what does it mean? Whenever I hear these words, they always give me great consolation, and did so even when I was most wicked.

16. Is it possible, Lord, that there can be a soul which, after attaining to this state wherein Thou bestowest upon it the like graces and consolations, and wherein it understands that Thou delightest to be with it, can yet fall back and offend Thee after so many favours, and such great demonstrations of the love Thou bearest it, and of which there cannot be any doubt, because the effect of it is so visible? Such a soul there certainly is; for I have done so, not once, but often. May it please Thy goodness, O Lord, that I may be alone in my ingratitude—the only one who has committed so great an iniquity, and whose ingratitude has been so immeasurable! But even out of my ingratitude Thine infinite goodness has brought forth some good; and the greater my wickedness, the greater the splendour of the great mercy of Thy compassions. Oh, what reasons have I to magnify them for ever!

17. May it be so, I beseech Thee, O my God, and may I sing of them for ever, now that Thou hast been pleased to show mercies so great unto me that they who see them are astonished, mercies which draw me out of myself continually, that I may praise Thee more and more! for, remaining in myself, without Thee, I could do nothing, O my Lord, but be as the withered flowers of the garden; so that this miserable earth of mine becomes a heap of refuse, as it was before. Let it not be so, O Lord!—let not a soul which Thou hast purchased with so many labours be lost, one which Thou hast so often ransomed anew, and delivered from between the teeth of the hideous dragon!

18. You, my father, must forgive me for wandering from the subject; and, as I am speaking to the purpose I have in view, you must not be surprised. What I write is what my soul has understood; and it is very often hard enough to abstain from the praises of God when, in the course of writing, the great debt I owe Him presents itself before me. Nor do I think that it can be disagreeable to you; because both of us, I believe, may sing the same song, though in a different way; for my debt is much the greater, seeing that God has forgiven me more, as you, my father, know.


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