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Bernini's St. Teresa of Jesus

Bernini’s St. Teresa of Jesus

 

St. Teresa is best known for her love of God. Jesus Christ increased this virtue and many others in this saint. She experienced many visions and revelations from Christ. One time she saw an angel with a flaming dart piercing her heart. She explains this mystical experience in her autobiography, chapter 19:

“I saw an angel beside me toward the left side, in bodily form…He was not very large, but small, very beautiful, his face so blazing with light that he seemed to be one of the very highest angels, who appear all on fire. They must be those they call Cherubim…I saw in his hands a long dart of gold, and at the end of the iron there seemed to me to be a little fire. This I thought he thrust through my heart several times, and that it reached my very entrails. As he withdrew it, I thought it brought them with it, and left me all burning with a great love of God. So great was the pain, that it made me give those moans; and so utter the sweetness that this sharpest of pains gave me, that there was no wanting it to stop, nor is there any contenting of the soul with less than God”.

This heavenly gift, this flame of divine love in her heart, which penetrated her being and made her so strong that she vowed to always do what seemed to her most perfect and for God’s glory.

St. John of the Cross explains this fire of love in his work The Living Flame of Love:

“When he wills to touch somewhat vehemently, the soul’s burning reaches such a high degree of love that it seems to surpass that of all the fires of the world: for he is an infinite fire of love. Because the soul in this case is entirely transformed by the divine flame, it not only feels a cautery, but has become a cautery of blazing fire.”

“…it does not afflict it: rather, commensurate with the strength of the love, it divinized and delights it, burning gently.”

May God’s love transform our hearts and may our love of God grow, blazing like fire, burning gently.

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The third trait of this silent and solitary soul is that it holds it beak in the air of the Holy Spirit, responding to his inspirations, that by so doing it may become worthy of his company. This soul realizes the need to rid itself of all attachments so that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be received and the soul be transformed. The soul possesses these gifts according to its capacity for receiving them and “pure contemplation lies in receiving”. (LF 3:36) The delicate, hidden unctions of the Holy Spirit “secretly fill (this) soul with spiritual riches, gifts and graces”. (LF 3:40)

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The second condition of the contemplative soul is that it withstands no company. This does not mean it is a soul cut off from others living in isolation. It is authentic solitude which is not necessarily physical solitude. It is a solitude of detachment for the sake of God. St. John of the Cross writes in The Living Flame that “in contemplation the activity of the sense and of discursive reflection terminates, and God alone is the agent who then speaks secretly to the solitary and silent soul” (LF 3:44) This soul has learned “to silence and quiet the faculties so that God may speak” (Ascent 3:3,4). Any attachment will gradually empty the soul of holy solitude and the spirit and joy of God. That is why this soul is so fond of silence and solitude that it does not tolerate the company of another creature. God alone. No other thought, person, idea, or desire is occupying the soul.

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