Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Poetry of St. Teresa of Avila

The 500th Centenary of St. Teresa of Avila occurred this week and amongst the many wonderful aspects of her life that we can reflect on, one in particular that always stood out for me was her love of poetry.

This remarkable woman, a member of the Discalced Carmelites, has been a source of inspiration for many Catholics in the past five centuries. Borne out of the darkness of the Counter Reformation's resolved determination to undo the Satanic destruction of Luther, Calvin et al., St. Teresa's words and actions were great guiding lights in an era that saw people like St. Ignatius of Loyala and St. John of the Cross bring a glory to the faith that seemed impossible during the dark days of Protestantism's foundation.

While many read St. Teresa's longer work The Interior Castle (and rightly so) there is much comfort to be found in some of shorter works, namely her poems. Many of these poems are succinct snippets of mystical wisdom, of the kind that can connect with a person in a split second. St. Therese of Lisieux called prayer a surge of the heart, an instantaneous transformation. St. Teresa spoke of it in a similar way when she spoke of mental prayer, of the ecstasies and abandonment of subjugation to mental things that can be found when immersed in reflection and prayer.

In her poems, any line can automatically stick in the mind and transport the reader to that world. Of serenity. Of faith.

They are worth reading, particularly for their imagery relating to forgetting about the material world around us and connecting with the rich world unseen, both our interior souls and the souls of those around us.

Below are a few samples of her work.

      Let Mine Eyes See

      Let mine eyes see thee, sweet Jesus of Nazareth,
      Let mine eyes see thee, and then see death.
      Let them see that can, Roses and Jessamine,
      Seeing thy face most fair, all blossom are therein.
      Flower of seraphin, sweet Jesus of Nazareth.
      Let mine eyes see thee, and then see death.
      Nothing I require, where my Jesus is;
      Anguish all desire, saving only this;
      All my help is his, He only succoureth.
     Let mine eyes see thee, and then see death.

 God Alone is Enough 
Let nothing upset you,
let nothing disturb you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins
all it seeks.
Whoever has God
lacks nothing:
God alone is enough

Divine Beauty 

Oh beauty that does far transcend 
All other beauty! That you design. 
Without a wound our hearts to pain - 
Without a pang our wills to bend 
To hold all love for creatures vain. 

O mystic love-knot that dost bind. 
Two beings of such diverse kind. 
How can you ever be severed? 
For bound, such strength we gain from Thee, 
We take for joy the griefs we find! 

Things void of being linked, unite
With that great Beauty Infinite 
You fill my soul, which still hungers
You love where men find only ill 
Our nothing grows precious, by your might! 


How blessed is the heart with love fast bound
With God the centre of every thought 
Renouncing all created things as naught
In Him its glory and joy are found 
Even from self, its cares are now set free 
T'wards God alone it aims- its actions tend 
Joyful and Swift it journeys to its end 
O'er the wild waves of life's tempestuous seas. 

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