Contemplative teacher Tessa Bielecki captures Teresa of Ávila’s love for God revealed through creation:
Teresa teaches us how to live the human adventure with zest and enthusiasm. She was in love with every dimension of life: with people and places, music, laughter and celebration, with nature and its abundance.
We see her enthusiasm in the vibrant imagery she draws from her experience of the earth. She speaks of sun and wind and rain, clouds, crystal, and falling comets, tempests, thunderclaps and lightning. She calls God the Sun in the interior of the soul, casting brilliant light into every corner of our being. When she prayed, Teresa loved to look at fields and flowers, “reading” from the book of nature. She loved to live near water, with good soil and gardens….
Teresa urges us to embrace nature in our prayer because nature awakens us, reminding us of the Creator. She can’t contain her praise and glorifies God as Lord of the world and Beauty exceeding all other beauties. “Who could make known the majesty with which You reveal Yourself!” she cries out in one of her spontaneous prayers. “O my God, God, God, author of all creation! And what is creation if You, Lord, should desire to create more? You are almighty; Your works are incomprehensible.”
When we have trouble praying, Teresa recommends that we turn to nature: “Go to some place where you can see the sky, and walk up and down a little.” Since God is infinite and everywhere, sometimes we rejoice as much in meditating on creation as in meditating on the Divine. Why limit ourselves to only one of creation’s mysteries when there are so many? Teresa mentions the mystery of water, the sparrowhawk, and the tiny ant. Any of these is enough for a whole period of prayer, immersing us in the wonder and wisdom of God. What would happen if we knew “the property of every created thing?”
Bielecki shows how Teresa drew upon nature to describe the soul’s journey with God:
Since [Teresa] lived close to the earth, she said the spiritual life is like bees making honey, silkworms spinning their cocoons, fish swimming in a running stream. Depending on our stage of spiritual growth, we may be like mice, toads or snakes, flitting moths, butterflies, doves, wild horses or wounded deer. We may encounter God’s majesty as a mighty eagle or a roaring lion.
Teresa’s favorite nature image was water. She speaks lavishly of flowing springs, pools, wells, and fountains, rivers, waves, and the sea, urging us to irrigate our hearts with the waters of Life. When instead we clog our lives with triviality and endless distraction, she sees us bogged down in a swamp, struggling to get muddy water out of a puddle.
Teresa also loved fire imagery. If we build a fire in our living room or out in the wilds, we can reflect with her on the raging conflagration which enkindles us with the fire of divine love.
Tessa Bielecki, Holy Daring: The Earthy Mysticism of St. Teresa, the Wild Woman of Ávila, 2nd ed. (Rhinebeck, NY: Adam Kadmon Books, 2016), 11–12.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Les Argonauts, Camino de Santiago, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper, Winter Bird. Jenna Keiper, Mystic. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
Perched in solitude, in communion with the Beloved.
Story from Our Community:
This year’s Daily Meditations theme of the Prophetic Path has been a wonderful guide to me in a year so far spent mostly in the hospital with a treatable but rare neurological condition. When I realized I was not well, I handed myself over utterly to God’s providence in the whole process, whatever that may be, whatever outcome. I have been held in love in amazing ways and am encouraged to use this time as a special Lenten retreat. I am so grateful for the inspiring threads I can follow on the early Christians, desert mothers and fathers, and other topics. I am such a beginner on this path—but I’m finding great riches in that experience. Thank you. —Anna W.