Advice on Prayer by St. Teresa of Avila

“Never set aside the Sacred Humanity of Christ”

~ St. Teresa of Avila
c. 1510, Dirk Bouts, Carmel of Toledo. It is believed that this is the image of Christ the St. Teresa was praying before when her dramatic conversion occurred.

Why is devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus so important for contemplative prayer? Because it is that by contemplating Jesus’s Face that His whole humanity is brought before us. St. Teresa of Jesus, the foundress of the Discalced Carmelites, and Doctor of the Church suffered many years as a religious from an inability to pray, so she gives some solid advice to those who struggle as they seek the Face of God in prayer: “when we pray we must be very careful never to set aside the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ.

St. Teresa’s statue of Jesus scourged

We cannot come to the Father except through Him.  Intimacy with Jesus draws us into the life of the Trinity. “If we can, we should occupy ourselves in looking at Him Who is looking at us; keep Him company; talk with Him; pray to Him; humble ourselves before Him; have our delight in Him.”  St. Teresa complained that she didn’t have much of an imagination, so she found it helpful to have an image of Christ to look at as she prayed, especially an image of Jesus in His Passion. “Speak with Him as with a Father, a Brother, a Lord and a Spouse–and, sometimes in one way and sometimes in another.  He will teach you what you must do to please Him… Remember how important it is for you to have understood this truth–that the Lord is within us and that we should be there with Him.”

St. Teresa of Jesus, Doctor of the Church

Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent a leader as is Jesus Christ can endure all things. Christ helps us and strengthens us and never fails; he is a true friend. And I see clearly that God desires that if we are going to please him and receive his great favors this must come about through the most sacred humanity of Christ, in whom he takes his delight.

Many, many times have I perceived this through experience. The Lord told it to me.  I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we desire his sovereign Majesty to show his great secrets. A person should desire no other path, even if he be at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. This Lord of ours is the one through whom all blessings come to us. He will teach us these things. In beholding his life we find that he is the best example.

What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side, who will not abandon us in our labors and tribulations, as friends in the world do? Blessed is the one who truly loves Him and always keeps im near. Let us consider the glorious St. Paul: it doesn’t seem that any other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, as coming from one who kept the Lord close to his heart. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they hadn’t taken any other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Sienna. A person must alk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s hands. If His Majesty should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares His secrets, we ought to accept gladly.

Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near…As often as we think of Christ we should recall the love with which he bestowed on us so many favors, and the great things God showed in giving us a pledge like this of his love; for love begets love. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to waken ourselves to love. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the favor of impressing this love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall carry out our tasks quickly and without much effort.” ~St. Teresa of Avila 

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello (photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)
My beloved passing fair,
Love has drawn thy likeness, see,
In my inmost Heart, and there--
Lost or straying unaware--
Thou must seek thyself in me.

Well I know that thou shalt find
This thine image in my Heart 
Pictured to the life, with art
So amazing, that thy mind 
Sees thy very counterpart.

If by chance thou e'er shalt doubt
Where to turn in search of me,
Seek not all the world about;
Only this can find me out--
Thou must seek myself in thee.

In the mansion of thy mind
Is my dwelling place; and more''
There I wander, unconfined,
Knocking loud if e'er I find 
In thy thought a closed door. 

Search for me without ere vain, 
Since, when thou hast need of me,
Only call me, and again
To thy side I haste amain;
Thou must seek myself in thee. 

~ St. Teresa of Jesus

The Majesty! How victorious! How joyful! Indeed, like one coming forth from a battle where He has gained a great kingdom! And all of that, plus Himself, He desires for you. Well, is it such a big thing that from time to time you turn your eyes to look upon one who gives you so much?”  ~St. Teresa of Jesus

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