September 21st, 2009

St. Teresa

I’ve been reading St. Teresa of Avila. She’s the one in the statue in Angels and Demons (which you can see here), in case you need a reference other than a mystic saint from the renaissance. It’s part of my continuing pursuit of a good prayer life.

I’m struck by a couple of things (besides hands to the side of the head…). One is her assumption that visions and the like are basically normal experience. She seems to know plenty of people who have them. Maybe it helps to be in a religious order where you hang out with people who focus on God all day. She discusses how to determine whether visions are truly from God or not. Times change, I suppose. Unless it is the lens we use to look at the times. Maybe we just don’t talk about our visions anymore lest we end up in scary places where they won’t let you have your deodorant (true story, although not as a result of visions).

The other is the kind of union she feels is possible. I noticed this kind of thinking in The Cloud of Unknowing as well. She’s talking marriage, in pretty much every sense, except with God. This is one of those places where I have to be careful about not getting all literal with the metaphor because I start to wonder about power dynamics in relationships, about faithfulness from above and below, about why.

It’s disturbing, actually. As I often say, I don’t want a God small enough to fit in my understanding. The thing is, sometimes God is so much beyond my understanding that I freak out a little. Okay, a lot. It makes me use my faith that I don’t have to know how it all works out; I just have to trust that it will.