Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

(Teresa of Avila, by Peter Paul Reubens, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.

--Teresa of Avila

You might recognize this prayer as a Taizé song, Nada te Turbe (in fact, it's one of my favorite Taizé songs...)

The version I know goes like this:

Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten,
Those who seek God shall never go wanting.
Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten,
God alone fills us.

For those who appreciate contemplative prayer, Teresa of Avila was a person who had "figured it out" as early as when she was eleven years old.  What she called "mental prayer" was one of the roots of what we would now call contemplative prayer.

Reams and reams have been written on what it is.  I get to laughing because many high-credentialed folks get into great detail about what it is, how to do it, how long to do it, etc., and the thought that keeps running through my mind is, "Excuuuuse me, I think it's important to remember that this was first practiced by an eleven year old child--I really truly doubt it's all that detailed."

I think the only legitimate definition is Teresa's own definition:

“Mental Prayer is nothing else than an intimate friendship, a frequent heart-to-heart with Him by whom we know ourselves to be loved.”

If I were to describe it in one line, it's this:  Mental prayer is a silent conversation with God.

It's simply a matter of reflecting and actively listing to what comes up in our minds and heart in the presence of full trust--that no thought in the matter is a stray thought, or a bad thought.  After all, don't we let our guard down in the presence of trusted friends and vent, break down, or reveal innermost things?  It's the idea that no thought is "too much" for God.

What I find interesting about many of the mystics, and Teresa in particular, is that they become known for their mysticism and asceticism but their actions and deeds following these inner revelations doesn't get as much press.  Teresa ended up founding a whole new order of Carmelites.  That took action, leg work, and elbow grease.

I truly believe that the rhythm of contemplation is an inward/outward one, like the waves of the ocean.  Yet our tendency is to only "see" the inward movement.  Think for a minute, if you will about ocean waves on a beach.  We tend to, in our mind's eye, see the waves crashing IN--but we tend not to focus on the part where the wave recedes and goes back out into the sea.

I spent a long time learning to even be halfway contemplative, and what I discovered is I was only taught about the "in" part.  I was not taught much at all about the "out" part.  Yet I kept wondering why I kept feeling so stuffed full of things to the point I felt I was going to explode.  Then one day, I realized I had to breathe out with the Holy Spirit, as well as in.

I discovered when one sits in the nothingness too long, it will be filled with something, and in that time we will be shown what to do with it, and where to take it.  Another way to think about it is we have to be emptied in order to be filled.

Remember, the prayer below was also a prayer of Terese's...

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

When we allow ourselves to be filled, we truly find union with God, and that union can take us out into the world as Christ's emissary.  We are free to pour it all out on the world, because in our contemplative spaces we will always be fed.  There is no need to hoard what we receive in this union.  We are called to give it all away.  There will always be more.  We will never go wanting.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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