In his podcast Turning to the Mystics, CAC teacher James Finley uses the teachings of Spanish mystic Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) as a starting point to talk about intimacy with God:
Let’s say that we’re approaching Teresa for spiritual direction, and we’re coming to her saying that we want her to help us to deepen our experience of and response to God’s presence in our life, and we seek her guidance. . . . We’re turning to God and from this present situation of our busy-ness, and our limitations, and our confusion, and all the rest of it, and we’re seeking to know, “How can I enter into a deeper, habitual relationship with God, a deeper sense of God’s presence in my life, my presence in God? I want to learn to do that. I want to deepen my spiritual life.” . . .
We listen to [Teresa] then as she says to us, “You know, you’re seeking union with God, which is a grace to desire this.” And it is helpful to know, in the light of faith, that you and God are already one in the intimate and mysterious sense in which God is creating you as God’s self-donating love. God makes your very soul, that is, your very essence of who you are as a person created by God in the image and likeness of God, to be a relational mystery with God. That in your very soul, the very mystery of who you are and the very mystery of who God is are already intertwined. . . .
I think a way of maybe getting at this, too, is to say, when two people love each other very, very much, when we’re in love with and deeply love someone, we might say that in our love for them, we see their soul. That is, we see in our love for them, the preciousness of who they are, like the innermost depths of the gift and the miracle of their presence. . . .
Then they return the favor, by seeing that self-same preciousness in you. That is, in their love for you, they see through the appearances. They see this kind of indescribable preciousness of you that they’re empowered to see in you, through their love. You can see that they see you. You can see that you’re seen. This mutuality of seeing and being seen by and with each other in love, I think that’s why the Church speaks of matrimony as a sacrament. But a sacrament of what? It’s a sacrament that God sees you, that you’re God’s beloved, that God sees in you the God-given godly preciousness of you, in which the very depths of God, by the generosity of God, have been given to you as the very depths and reality of the mystery of your own soul in the presence of God. That God sees that. God sees that.
Adapted from James Finley with Kirsten Oates, “Teresa of Avila: Session One,” June 22, 2020, in Turning to the Mystics, season 2 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2020), podcast, MP3 audio.
Explore Further. . .
- Read John of the Cross’s poetry about being transformed in the Beloved.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Barbara Holmes, Untitled 1 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States, used with permission. Jack Delano, View of crowd dancing to the music of “Red” Sounders and his band, at the Club DeLisa, Chicago, Illinois (detail), 1942, photograph, New York Public Library, public domain. Nathan Dumlao, Untitled, 2020 (detail), photograph, Unsplash, free use. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.
The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to core teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. Her photos are featured here together with historical images in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: In the center photo we see two bushes, separate but entwined, touching and sharing space. Human intimacy requires us to come as ourselves, undefended, co-creating a space for connection. Friends, lovers, communities who share raw hopes for change: we welcome each other into the intimacy of authentic presence.
Story from Our Community:
I celebrate 50 years of sobriety today in Alcoholics Anonymous. My recovery is a miracle but it was not until I encountered the work of Father Richard in recent years did my spiritual life begin to thrive as my punitive Catholic background in my childhood had destroyed all belief in God. I am so grateful now for this spiritual connection/guidance in my old age. Thank you Father Richard and CAC.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.