Monday, July 11, 2011

The Book of the Foundations - Discussion of Chapter 6 - St. Teresa of Avila - Teresa of Jesus

        The Book of the Foundations
                of S. Teresa of Jesus 
     of the Order of our Lady of Carmel 

               Discussion of Chapter 6

       Chapter 6  Contents:
  - the harm it may do spiritual persons 
       not to know 
     when they are to resist the spirit. 
 - Of the desire for Communion, and 
       of delusions involved in it. 
 - Important Matters for those 
      who rule over these convents               

St. Teresa continues to give advice 
     to the Prioresses of the Foundations:
 "especially prioresses 
      and mistresses of novices 
   who have to direct the sisters 
      in the way of prayer
   for if they are not careful 
       in the beginning, 
   they will see 
        that they require much time afterwards 
   to redress weaknesses of this kind. 
                                [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #10]
She teaches  regarding:
Dreaminess   (false raptures)

Delusive longings for Communion

  Dreaminess   (false raptures)
     ▪ "...Except in so far 
            as it has a good beginning  (in prayer)
       I see no good in this bodily weakness
        ...dreaming so long"
                               [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #6]
      ▪ often occurs in those  
         who strive in prayer 
        "whom our Lord gives 
              much sweetness in prayer, and 
          who do all they can to prepare themselves
              for the reception of His graces"
                               [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #1]
       But because of the human nature's fondness 
            for spiritual consolation and comfort
        it becomes an attachment and self-love
           manifested by languidness and lethargy
                               [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #1]
     ▪ " begins in a kind of prayer of quiet
           which is like a spiritual sleep, and 
           which throws the soul into a dreamy state
                          [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #1]
    ▪   "... they say or think
           that they are
               absorbed in God, 
               unable to exert themselves, 
                   so rapt are they,  and
               unable to change 
                   the current of their thoughts, and
           that it often happens..."
                            [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #18]
     ▪ "the soul, 
         when our Lord begins 
             to caress it in this way
                — and we are by nature so fond 
                     of that which pleases us — 
         gives itself up 
           so much to that pleasure, 
         that it would 
              not stir, move
         nor on any account whatever 
                          [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #3]

     ▪ "On feeling any interior joy,                        [1]
            their bodies being languid and weak"
     ▪ "seven or eight hours at a time
           thinking it all to be a rapture, and...   
         thinking it not right 
            to offer any resistance...
                          [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #2]
       ▪ " be carried away too much by it"
                           [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #4]
       "They fancy this is a trance and call it one, 
          but I call it nonsense"
            [ Interior Castle: Mansion 4: Ch. 3: #11 ]  
     ▪ "...delusion"
                          [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #2]
      ▪ "Natural, not divine"
                           [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #3]
     ▪ "though the body 
             be a prisoner, 
         the will, memory, and understanding 
             are not; 
         yet their operations are disorderly, 
         and if by chance 
         they settle on a particular subject, 
             they will stay there"                        
                        [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #5]
     ▪ Not  a true rapture:
         - which is supernatural gift from God,
           "during which His Majesty 
               lifts up the soul 
               carries it away in rapture"
           "which forces us 
               to lose all control over ourselves (and)
             lasts but a moment".
         - discussed in "The Life": Ch. 20 
         - discussed in "Interior Castle: Mansion 6: Ch.4
                           [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #1]
     ▪ Not Union or Contemplation
       "a trance or 
         the union of all the powers of the soul   
            - lasts but a moment, and 
            - leaves 
               -- great fruit behind, and 
               -- an inward light, 
               -- with many other blessings: 
               -- the understanding does not work at all, 
               -- only our Lord is working in the will. 
            - discussed in "Life": Ch. 18: # 14 ]
                                   "Life": Ch. 17: # 2   ]
                           [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #5]
       "if...a real trance
         there would have been no help for it 
            until God wished it should cease; 
        because the vehemence of the spirit 
            is so great 
        that we have not strength enough 
            to withstand it, 

        ... it leaves behind 
           - in the soul a great work, and 
           - in the body weariness; 
        the other  (delusion) is 
           as if it had never taken place. 
                    [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #16]
 Associated factors: 
     weak constitutions;
     debility of health;
     naturally sluggish disposition;
     with mind or imagination fixed on one thing;            
     Penances, prayer, and vigils of  long duration;
     or melancholia.
    ▪ "I wish to warn you...of a special danger 
          to which those who practise prayer are subject,
        particularly... a weakness of constitution 
          makes them more liable to such mistakes"
    ▪ "... person of weak constitution, or
        whose mind or...imagination
          is not naturally given to change, 
        but one that dwells upon a subject
          without further distraction, 
        who, when they have 
          fixed their thoughts on anything... 
        become absent..."
      "...people naturally sluggish
          who, through negligence, 
        seem to forget 
          what they were going to say, 
           — so is it in this case, 
        according to our nature, disposition, 
          or weakness"
                       [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #3] 
   ▪ "(those) who,
          though not subject to this faintness, 
       are too much carried away 
         by their imagination"
   ▪ "and that it is the result 
         either of great bodily weakness, 
          or of the imagination, 
               which is very much worse. 
                   [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #8]
   ▪ "On account 
           of their penances, prayers, and vigils
           or...because of debility of health
       some persons cannot 
           receive spiritual consolation
       without being overcome by it".
               [ Interior Castle: Mansion 4: Ch. 3: #11 ]  
   ▪ "and in those persons also 
          who are wasted by penance
                       [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #4]
   ▪ "Oh, if a soul of this kind
           be given to melancholy !
        it will become the prey 
           of a thousand pleasing delusions".
                    [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #3]

   ▪ "- may lose much time, 
             and through our own fault 
       - waste our strength and 
       - merit little. 
                         [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #1]
   ▪ "it does nothing but 
        - waste their time and 
        - injure their health"
               [ Interior Castle: Mansion 4: Ch. 3: #11 ]  
  ▪ "in this way they might 
         come by their death, or 
          become foolish".
                        [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #2]
  ▪ "lest we should so ruin our health 
         as to lose the fruition of it. 
                        [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #8]
 ▪   "if not  (restrained) 
           the time will come 
        when she will learn 
           the harm she has done to herself...
         ...the madness, however, is pleasant. 
                         [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #8]
   ▪ "...blunt the faculties and the senses 
         so that they shall not do 
       that which the soul requires of them, 
       and thereby rob them 
           of that blessing 
       which carefulness to please our Lord      
           ordinarily brings them. 
                       [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #6]
   ▪ "The good side of this is,
        that there is 
            no guilt of sin and 
            no loss of merit; 
        but it involves the inconveniences".
                    [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #18]
  Advice for  the person 
          who experiences this dreaminess:
    ▪ Resist 
      ◦ "their love would be more perfect
          if they did not give way
              to this dreaminess, 
        for they could very well resist it 
              at this point in their prayer".
                      [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #4]
   ▪ Self - Knowledge
       ◦ "it behoves many persons, 
           whose heads or imaginations are weak
          to know themselves
           which is 
             a greater service to our Lord, and 
             most necessary. 
       ◦ And if anyone sees 
           that when her imagination 
              - dwells 
                  on a mystery of the Passion, or 
                  on the glory of heaven, or 
                  on any other matter of that kind, 
             - remains for many days 
                unable,  though desirous of doing so, 
                    to think on any other, or 
                    to rouse herself from dwelling on it, 
          she must know 
            that she should distract herself 
                 as well as she can; 
                        [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #8]
       ◦ "... they...think that they are
               absorbed in God..., 
               unable to change...their thoughts...
          let them look to it; 
                  [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #18]
  Advice for  the Prioress 
   ▪ Curtail this dreamy behavior
      ◦ "My the prioresses 
          is...the banishing of these protracted fits 
             of dreaminess" 
                       [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #6]
      ◦ "For, as a person of disordered mind, 
                 if  he applies himself to anything, 
            - is not master of himself 
            - can 
                neither withdraw his mind 
                nor think of anything else, 
                nor be influenced by reason, 
         because his reason is 
                not under control 
                          [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #8]
      ◦ if it be so 
         for a day, or for four, or for eight, 
           there is no reason for fear, 
         because it is nothing wonderful 
           that a person of weak constitution 
         should remain so long 
            in a state of amazement; 
         if it continues longer, 
            measures must be taken. 
                     [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #18]
   ▪ Employment in good works 
     ◦ "assign them duties in the house 
          for the purpose of taking their attention
              away from themselves. 
                             [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #6]
      ◦ "far better to spend the time 
            in some good work 
          than to be thus dreaming so long".
      ◦ "There is much more merit 
            in a single act, and 
            in the frequent moving 
                 of the will to love God, 
           than in leaving it at rest in this way"
                          [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #6]
  ▪ Removal of the associated causes
        in susceptible persons:
       ◦ "If  they find 
            it proceeds from weakness
        then they must 
            forbid fasting and mortification 
             — that is, when not of obligation; 
            and the time may come 
                  when with a safe conscience 
            they may 
                   forbid them altogether..." 
                             [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #6]
  ▪ Consult regarding prayer habits:
       ◦ "to strive to change the subject 
            of her meditation; 
         and provided she applies herself 
            to the things of God in her meditation,
         there is nothing unseemly 
            in changing the subject 
         so long as she is intent 
            on the things of God; 
         for meditation 
            on the creature,  and
            on His power in creating them, 
         may be  at times as pleasing unto Him 
            as meditation on Himself, the Creator. 
                              [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #7]
       ◦ "why should the soul, 
              seeing that God is infinite, 
           remain the captive of one 
              of His attributes or mysteries, 
           when there is so much to occupy us ? 
          ...the more of His works 
                 we meditate upon,
             the more we discern His greatness"
                            [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #7]
       ◦ St. Teresa clarifies this by advising
          - not to jump from one topic to another
                during a meditation
                  "I am not saying...
                   we should meditate 
                        on many subjects, 
                   for that perhaps would result 
                       in fruit from none".
          - but to change from  that topic
             which inclines one to this languidness.
                             [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #10]
  St. Teresa's Advise for  a Confessor
        who consulted her about a nun who
        when "she communicated, 
            or when "quickening her devotion, 
         she fell down  and there remained 
            eight or nine hours,  
          thinking it was a trance";
     "I told him 
        - what I thought of the matter, and 
        - how it was loss of time; 
        - that it could not possibly be a trance, 
        - that it was only weakness; 
        - (that) he should 
              forbid the fast and the disciplines
              make her take some distraction
                   [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #16]


 Delusive longings for Communion
    Like the dreaminess mentioned above,
     these longings occur in 
        people striving for holiness.
    St. Teresa described these longing in nuns
      who were
         "mortified, humble, and good, 
           receiving many consolations from our Lord...          
              so detached and 
              so engrossed by His love, 
   appearance of negligence...        
            in answering to the graces 
             which our Lord gave them."
                                [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #11]
  ▪ "They began with great impetuous longings 
        after our Lord, 
      which they were not able to control" 
      " they thought those longings 
          were satisfied at communion, and 
       so they obtained leave 
          from their confessor 
        to communicate frequently"
       "and thereby their suffering grew 
          so much upon them 
       that they thought they were going to die 
          if they could not communicate every day."

        "It did not stop here
            for the longings of one of them 
          became so vehement 
          as to make it necessary for her 
            to communicate early in the morning 
          to enable her, as she thought, 
                    to live"

          "...the prioress told me in a letter     
            - that she could do nothing with them"        
                    [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #12]

     ▪  "The harm...reached so far,
          — Satan must have had a hand in it — 
          that when they did not communicate, 
             they really seemed 
          as if they were going to die. 

    ▪  "...they were 
            not submissive under obedience
                because they thought 
                they could not keep it, 
         "As to Communions,
           there will be a very grave inconvenience 
           if a soul, because of its love, 
              is not obedient with it 
           to the Confessor and the Prioress...
                  [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #18]
           As the days progressed,
           Their distress was " somewhat less
            and thus it went on lessening,".
                   [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #14]
  Advice for  the persons 
          who experienced this "delusive longings"
     ▪ "I gave them many reasons,            
            sufficient to make them see 
         - that it was a mere fancy:
            their thinking, 
              (that) they should die 
              if they did not communicate. 
     ▪ "Since nothing moved them... 
           in the way of reasoning with them. 
         (I)  told them that I,  too, 
          -  had these desires 
          - yet would abstain from communion...
         that they might believe 
             that we would all three die together"
     ▪ "they were not to communicate 
             except when all (the nuns) did 
          for I thought that better 
          than that a custom of this kind 
             should be brought into these houses 
          wherein lived those 
             who loved God 
                 as much as they did, and 
             who might wish to do 
                 what they were doing"
                         [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #13]
       ▪  " was a temptation"
                   [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #14]
       ▪ St. Teresa "wished to see her 
           - obeying one confessor 
           - rather than going often to communion. 
                             [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #20]
     Advice for  the Prioress
     ▪ "It is necessary, also, herein, 
             as in other ways, 
          - to mortify them, and 
          - to make them understand 
             that it is better for them
                not to do their own will 
             than to have this consolation."
                        [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #18]
            "...I understood the evil that comes 
                 from doing our own will in anything"
                        [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #21]
         "... if a person draws near 
             to receive our Lord so often, 
          it is only reasonable 
             he should be so aware 
                - of his own unworthiness 
                     as not to do so of his own will
                - that our shortcomings, 
                     necessarily great, 
                   which make us unfit
                     to approach our Lord...
                   can be supplied only by obedience
                     which bids us receive Him. 
                            [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #21] 
      ▪ "Obedience is better than sacrifice".
                            [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #21]
         - "that the prioress 
             may be on her guard, and 
         - that the sisters may 
             fear and consider, 
             examine themselves 
                  why they draw near 
              to receive so great a gift.  (Communion)
             If to please God,
                  they know already 
             that He is better pleased 
                  by obedience 
                  by sacrifice"                                
                  Samuel: 1:15:22
                  "For obedience is better than sacrifices" 

                  Mark 12:33 
                  "To love him with all your heart, 
                      with all your understanding and 
                      with all your strength, and 
                    to love your neighbor as yourself 
                       is more important 
                    than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

        "...if  the will is perfectly detached 
             from all selfish considerations, 
         it is clear that 
             there will be no sense of pain ;
         on the contrary,
             there will be a great joy
         because the opportunity has arrived 
            for giving pleasure to our Lord 
         by so costly a sacrifice
         the soul will humble itself, 
            and be satisfied 
         with communicating spiritually. 
         is of the goodness of our Lord 
         that we have these great desires 
           of drawing near unto Him
         souls may be allowed 
           to feel some uneasiness and pain 
         when they are refused communion,
         yet they must 
            possess their souls in peace, and 
            make acts of humility 
         because of that refusal. 
                      [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #24]
         But if there should be 
             any trouble...anger, or impatience 
         with the prioress or confessor... 
         the desire for communion 
            is a plain temptation. 
         (Or)  if any one is bent on communicating 
         when the confessor has forbidden her 
                 to go to communion.  
                      [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #25]
      ▪ "True devotion is calm. 
         "if it stirs our feelings 
            in such a way                               
          as to end 
            in some offence against Him, 
            in so troubling the peace 
                of the loving soul 
            that it cannot listen to reason
          is plainly self-seeking only"
                         [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #23]
        "whatever masters us 
            in such a way as to make us feel 
          that our reason is not free, 
           - should be looked on as: 
             -- suspicious, 
             -- that we shall never 
                  in that way 
                 attain to liberty of spirit

             -- is subjection of  spirit, 
             -- it confines the soul 
                  and hinders its growth...
             -- besides the harm it does to the body..." 
         St. Teresa describes Liberty of Spirit as:           
          ◦ "finding God in all things
          ◦ being able to think of Him 
                in the midst of them".
                            [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #17]
     ▪ "Our self-love 
           also may thrust itself in here. 
         It has been so with me; 
         for it has happened to me often
            when I had first communicated, 
         the Host being still almost whole, 
            to wish I had not communicated myself !
         when I saw others do so, 
            in order that I might communicate again. 
         As this happened so often,  I 
            - reflected on it after a time, 
                for then there seemed no reason 
                for dwelling on it, and 
            - saw it came 
                more from my own satisfaction
                than from any love of God; 
         for when we go to communion,  
            there is a sense, 
         for the most part, 
            of tenderness and joy, 
         and I was carried away thereby. 
         If I went to communion 
            - in order to have God in my soul, 
                      -- I had Him already ; 
           - if out of obedience to those          ^
               who enjoined communion, 
                     -- I had done so, 
           - if for the purpose of receiving
                 those graces which in the Most 
              Holy Sacrament are given us, 
                     -- these also I had received. 
         In short, 
            I came clearly to understand 
         that it was nothing else 
            but a desire to obtain 
         that sensible sweetness over again. 
                       [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #19]
     ▪  St. Teresa counseled all to 
            "prefer...the honour of God 
              to (their)..own"
                         [ Foundations: Ch. 6: #22]

                           Foot Notes
[1]  Excerpt from
       "The Interior Castle": 
        Mansion 4: Ch. 3: #11 
"...I wish to warn you here of a special danger 
   to which those who practise prayer are subject,
     particularly women, 
  whose weakness of constitution 
     makes them more liable to such mistakes. 
On account 
  of their penances, prayers, and vigils, 
  or even merely because of debility of health, 
some persons cannot receive spiritual consolation
  without being overcome by it
On feeling any interior joy, 
   their bodies being languid and weak,
   they fall into a slumber—
   they call it spiritual sleep—
 which is a more advanced stage 
    of what I have described; 
  they think the soul shares in it 
       as well as the body, 
   and abandon themselves to a sort of intoxication. 
The more they lose self-control, 
 the more do their feelings get possession of them, 
  because the frame becomes more feeble. 
 They fancy this is a trance and call it one, 
    but I call it nonsense
  it does nothing but 
    waste their time and 
    injure their health..."


      End of  the Discussion 
           of Chapter 6
                of the 
      Book of the Foundations
        of S. Teresa of Jesus 
  of the Order of our Lady of Carmel 

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