The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus

Relation V. -Observations on Certain Points of Spirituality.

1. "What is it that distresses thee, little sinner? Am I not thy God? Dost thou not see how ill I am treated here? If thou lovest Me, why art thou not sorry for Me? Daughter, light is very different from darkness. I am faithful; no one will be lost without knowing it. He must be deceiving himself who relies on spiritual sweetnesses; the true safety lies in the witness of a good conscience. [1] But let no one think that of himself he can abide in the light, any more than he can hinder the natural night from coming on; for that depends on My grace. The best means he can have for retaining the light is the conviction in his soul that he can do nothing of himself, and that it comes from Me; for, even if he were in the light, the instant I withdraw, night will come. True humility is this: the soul's knowing what itself can do, and what I can do. Do not neglect to write down the counsels I give thee, that thou mayest not forget them. Thou seekest to have the counsels of men in writing; why, then, thinkest thou that thou art wasting time in writing down those I give thee? The time will come when thou shalt require them all."

On Union.

2. "Do not suppose, My daughter, that to be near to Me is union; for they who sin against Me are near Me, though they do not wish it. Nor is union the joys and comforts of union, [2] though they be of the very highest kind, and though they come from Me. These very often are means of winning souls, even if they are not in a state of grace." When I heard this, I was in a high degree lifted up in spirit. Our Lord showed me what the spirit was, and what the state of the soul was then, and the meaning of those words of the Magnificat, "Exultavit spiritus meus." He showed me that the spirit was the higher part of the will.

3. To return to union; I understood it to be a spirit, pure and raised up above all the things of earth, with nothing remaining in it that would swerve from the will of God, being a spirit and a will resigned to His will, and in detachment from all things, occupied in God in such a way as to leave no trace of any love of self, or of any created thing whatever. [3] Thereupon, I considered that, if this be union, it comes to this, that, as my soul is always abiding in this resolution, we can say of it that it is always in this prayer of union: and yet it is true that the union lasts but a very short time. It was suggested to me that, as to living in justice, meriting and making progress, it will be so; but it cannot be said that the soul is in union as it is when in contemplation; and I thought I understood, yet not by words heard, that the dust of our wretchedness, faults, and imperfections, wherein we bury ourselves, is so great, that it is not possible to live in such pureness as the spirit is in when in union with God, raised up and out of our wretched misery. And I think, if it be union to have our will and spirit in union with the will and Spirit of God, that it is not possible for any one not in a state of grace to attain thereto; and I have been told so. Accordingly, I believe it is very difficult to know when the soul is in union; to have that knowledge is a special grace of God, because nobody can tell whether he is in a state of grace or not. [4]

4. You will show me in writing, my father, what you think of this, and how I am in the wrong, and send me this paper back.

5. I had read in a book that it was an imperfection to possess pictures well painted,−−and I would not, therefore, retain in my cell one that I had; and also, before I had read this, I thought that it was poverty to possess none, except those made of paper,−−and, as I read this afterwards, I would not have any of any other material. I learnt from our Lord, when I was not thinking at all about this, what I am going to say: "that this mortification was not right. Which is better, poverty or charity? But as love was the better, whatever kindled love in me, that I must not give up, nor take away from my nuns; for the book spoke of much adorning and curious devices−−not of pictures. [5] What Satan was doing among the Lutherans was the taking away from them all those means by which their love might be the more quickened; and thus they were going to perdition. Those who are loyal to Me, My daughter, must now, more than ever, do the very reverse of what they do." I understood that I was under great obligations to serve our Lady and St. Joseph, because, when I was utterly lost, God, through their prayers, came and saved me.

6. One day, after the feast of St. Matthew, [6] I was as is usual with me, after seeing in a vision the most Holy Trinity, and how It is present in a soul in a state of grace. [7] I understood the mystery most clearly, in such a way that, after a certain fashion and comparisons, I saw It in an imaginary vision. And though at other times I have seen the most Holy Trinity in an intellectual vision, for some days after the truth of it did not rest with me,−−as it does now,−−I mean, so that I could dwell upon it. I see now that it is just as learned men told me; and I did not understand it as I do now, though I believed them without the least hesitation; for I never had any temptations against the faith.

7. It seems to us ignorant women that the Persons of the most Holy Trinity are all Three, as we see Them painted, in one Person, after the manner of those pictures, which represent a body with three faces; and thus it causes such astonishment in us that we look on it as impossible, and so there is nobody who dares to think of it; for the understanding is perplexed, is afraid it may come to doubt the truth, and that robs us of a great blessing.

8. What I have seen is this: Three distinct Persons each one by Himself visible, and by Himself speaking. [8] And afterwards I have been thinking that the Son alone took human flesh, whereby this truth is known. The Persons love, communicate, and know Themselves. Then, if each one is by Himself, how can we say that the Three are one Essence, and so believe? That is a most deep truth, and I would die for it a thousand times. In the Three Persons there is but one will and one power and one might; neither can One be without Another: so that of all created things there is but one sole Creator. Could the Son create an ant without the Father? No; because the power is all one. The same is to be said of the Holy Ghost. Thus, there is one God Almighty, and the Three Persons are one Majesty. Is it possible to love the Father without loving the Son and the Holy Ghost? No; for he who shall please One of the Three pleases the Three Persons; and he who shall offend One offends All. Can the Father be without the Son and without the Holy Ghost? No; for They are one substance, and where One is there are the Three; for they cannot be divided. How, then, is it that we see the Three Persons distinct? and how is it that the Son, not the Father, nor the Holy Ghost, took human flesh? This is what I have never understood; theologians know it. I know well that the Three were there when that marvellous work was done, and I do not busy myself with much thinking thereon. All my thinking thereon comes at once to this: that I see God is almighty, that He has done what He would, and so can do what He will. The less I understand it, the more I believe it, and the greater the devotion it excites in me. May He be blessed for ever! Amen.

9. If our Lord had not been so gracious with me as He has been, I do not think I should have had the courage to do what has been done, nor strength to undergo the labours endured, with the contradictions and the opinions of men. And accordingly, since the beginning of the foundations, I have lost the fears I formerly had, thinking that I was under delusions,−−and I had a conviction that it was the work of God: having this, I ventured upon difficult things, though always with advice and under obedience. I see in this that when our Lord willed to make a beginning of the Order, and of His mercy made use of me, His Majesty had to supply all that I was deficient in, which was everything, in order that the work might be effected, and that His greatness might be the more clearly revealed in one so wicked.

10. Antiochus was unendurable to himself, and to those who were about him, because of the stench of his many sins. [9]

11. Confession is for faults and sins, and not for virtues, nor for anything of the kind relating to prayer. These things are to be treated of out of confession with one who understands the matter,−−and let the prioress see to this; and the nun must explain the straits she is in, in order that the proper helps may be found for her; for Cassian says that he who does not know the fact, as well as he who has never seen or learnt, that men can swim, will think, when he sees people throw themselves into the river, that they will all be drowned. [10]

12. Our Lord would have Joseph tell the vision to his brethren, and have it known, though it was to cost Joseph so much.

13. How the soul has a sense of fear when God is about to bestow any great grace upon it; that sense is the worship of the spirit, as that of the four [11] elders spoken of in Scripture.

14. How, when the faculties are suspended, it is to be understood that certain matters are suggested to the soul, to be by it recommended to God; that an angel suggests them, of whom it is said in the Scriptures that he was burning incense and offering up the prayers of the saints. [12]

15. How there are no sins where there is no knowledge; and thus our Lord did not permit the king to sin with the wife of Abraham, for he thought that she was his sister, not his wife.

1. 2 Cor. i. 12: "Gloria nostra hæc est, testimonium conscientiæ nostræ."

2. See St. John of the Cross, Mount Carmel, bk. ii. ch. v.

3. See Foundations, ch. v. § 10.

4. Eccl. ix. 1: "Nescit homo utrum amore an odio dignus sit."

5. See St. John of the Cross, Mount Carmel, bk. iii. ch. xxxiv.

6. The §§ 6, 7, and 8 are the thirteenth letter of the second volume, ed. Doblado.

7. See Relation iii. § 13.

8. Anton. a Sancto Joseph, in his notes on this passage, is anxious to save the Thomist doctrine that one of the Divine Persons cannot be seen without the other, and so he says that the Saint speaks of the Three Persons as she saw Them−−not as They are in Themselves.

9. 2 Maccab. ix. 10, 12: "Eum nemo poterat propter intolerantiam foetoris portare, . . . . nec ipse jam foetorem suum ferre posset."

10. Cassian, Collat. vii. cap. iv. p. 311: "Nec enim si quis ignarus natandi, sciens pondus corporis sui ferre aquarum liquorem non posse, experimento suæ voluerit imperitiæ definire, neminem penitus posse liquidis elementis solida carne circumdatum sustineri."

11. Anton. a Sancto Joseph says that the Saint meant to write four−and−twenty, in allusion to Apoc. iv. 4.

  1. Apoc. viii. 4.

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