of Avila (1515- 1582)
Catholic belief, prayers and spiritual teaching
of Avila (1515- 1582)
By St Teresa of Avila
SIXTH MANSIONS (cont)
In which there are Eleven Chapters.
Treats of the way in which God communicates Himself to the soul through intellectual vision. Describes the effects which this produces when genuine. Charges that these favours be kept secret.
In order, sisters, that you may the better appreciate the accuracy of what I have been saying to you and see that the farther a soul progresses the closer becomes its companionship with this good Jesus, it will be well for us to consider how, when His Majesty so wills, we cannot do otherwise than walk with Him all the times as is clear from the ways and methods whereby His Majesty communicates Himself to us, and reveals His love for us by means of such wonderful appearances and visions.
Should the Lord grant you any of the favours which
I shall describe (I mean, if He grants me ability to
describe any of them), you must not be dismayed. Even
though it be not to us that He grants them, we must
give Him hearty praise that He should be pleased to
commune with a creature -- He Who is of such great
majesty and power.
I saw a person to whom God had granted this
favour, together with other favours which I shall
describe later. At first that person was greatly
perturbed, for she could not understand what the
vision was, not having seen anything. She realized
with such certainty that it was Jesus Christ Our Lord
Who had revealed Himself to her in that way that she
could not doubt it -- I mean, could not doubt that
that vision was there. But as to its being from God
or no she had great misgivings, although the effects
which it produced were so remarkable that they
suggested it came from Him. She had never heard of an
intellectual vision, or realized that there was any
such thing, but she understood quite clearly that it
was this Lord Who often spoke to her in the way I
have described: until He granted her this favour to
which I am referring she never knew Who was speaking
to her, although she understood the words.
These words had such power that when she heard them she could not doubt, and she was greatly strengthened and gladdened by such good companionship. For she saw plainly that it was a great help to her to be habitually thinking of God wherever she went and to be taking such care to do nothing which would displease Him because she felt that He was always looking at her. Whenever she wanted to draw near to His Majesty in prayer, and at other times as well, she felt He was so near that He could not fail to hear her, although she was unable to hear Him speaking to her whenever she wished, but did so at quite unexpected times, when it became necessary.
She was conscious that He was walking at her right
hand, but this consciousness arose, not from those
senses which tell us that another person is near us,
but in another and a subtler way which is
indescribable. It is quite as unmistakable, however,
and produces a feeling of equal certainty, or even
greater. Other things of the kind might be
attributable to fancy, but this thing is not, for it
brings such great benefits and produces such effects
upon the interior life as could not occur if it were
the result of melancholy. The devil again, could not
do so much good: were it his work, the soul would not
have such peace and such constant desires to please
God and such scorn for everything that does not lead
it to Him. Later, this person attained a clear
realization that it was not the work of the devil and
came to understand it better and better.
As it is a thing which can be clearly recognized as the gift of God and such feelings could not possibly be produced by human effort, anyone who has it must know it does not in reality come from him, but is a gift from the hand of God. And although, as I believe, some of the other experiences that have been described are greater favours than this, yet this brings a special knowledge of God, and from this constant companionship is born a most tender love toward His Majesty, and yearnings, even deeper than those already described, to give oneself wholly up to His service, and a great purity of conscience; for the Presence Which the soul has at its side makes it sensitive to everything.
For though we know quite well that God is present
in all that we do, our nature is such that it makes
us lose sight of the fact; but when this favour is
granted it can no longer do so, for the Lord, Who is
near at hand, awakens it. And even the favours
aforementioned occur much more commonly, as the soul
experiences a vivid and almost constant love for Him
Whom it sees or knows to be at its side.
There are also other spiritual experiences which cannot be described, but they all help to show us how impotent our nature is, when it comes to understanding the great wonders of God, for we are not capable of understanding these but can only marvel and praise His Majesty for giving them to us. So let us give Him special thanks for them; for, as this is not a favour which is granted to all, it is one which should be highly esteemed and we must try to render the greatest services to God Who has so many ways of helping us.
For this reason no one thus favoured has any
better opinion of himself on that account. On the
contrary, he feels that he is serving God less than
anyone else on the earth, and yet that no one else
has so great an obligation to serve Him. Any fault
which he commits, therefore, pierces his very vitals
and has every reason to do so.
It will be well at first for you to
communicate this, in confession, to some very learned
man (for it is from such men that we must seek
illumination) or to any highly spiritual person if
you know one. Should your confessor not be a very
spiritual man, someone with learning is better; or,
if you know such a person, it is best to consult one
both spiritual and learned. If he tells you that it
is fancy, do not let that trouble you, for fancy can
have little effect on your soul, either for good or
for evil: commend yourself to the Divine Majesty and
pray Him not to allow you to be deceived. If he tells
you that it is the devil, this will be a greater
trial to you, though no learned man would say such a
thing if you have experienced the effects described;
but, if he says it, I know that the Lord Himself, Who
is walking at your side, will console you and
reassure you, and will continue to give him light, so
that he in his turn may give it to you.
When you have finished these consultations, calm yourself and do not go on talking about the matter, for sometimes, when there is no reason for fear, the devil implants such excessive misgivings that they prevent the soul from being content with a single consultation, especially if the confessor has had little experience and treats the matter timorously and enjoins you to go and consult others.
In such a case what should by rights be a close
secret gets noised abroad and the penitent is
persecuted and tormented; for she finds that what she
thought was secret has become public, and this leads
to many sore trials, which, as things are at present,
might affect the Order. Great caution, then, is
necessary here and such caution I strongly recommend
We must base our judgments on the virtues. The
saintliest will be she who serves Our Lord with the
greatest mortification and humility and purity of
conscience. Little, however, can be known with any
certainty about this on earth, nor until the true
Judge gives each his deserts. Then we shall be amazed
to see how different His judgment is from the ideas
which we have formed on earth. May He be for ever