Feast Day of Teresa of Avila
I am more of a plodding soul than Teresa of Avila, but even I am pierced by an exquisite pain sometimes. When pale dawn light rinses charcoal darkness from the sky and the clouds appear, purple and magenta then brick red and salmon, I sometimes feel my heart excruciatingly opened. Or when the bright yellow leaves of the aspen catch the sun and shimmer; or when those same leaves fall like gold doubloons through air thick with green silence, I feel the stab of the angelic javelin. I have even been known to cry.
There are moments in church when meaning fills me so profoundly that I long to swoon like Teresa did. The spear of Love jabs through my heart, and I would fall, measuring my length on the red carpet in front of the altar, were it not that in the Episcopal Church such things are just Not Done.
It seems to me in such moments that I am wealthy beyond all measure. All the riches of the earth are mine to enjoy – the smells, the sounds, the visions. Water dark with shadows, clear and sparkling with light falls into the baptismal font. The soft croak of an iridescent crow drifts gently through the still, cold morning. A late yellow daisy reaches like an exquisite spider into gas flame blue air. The tear drop of light on the end of an altar candle dances to the tempo of a lively hymn. What else could I possibly need?
Perhaps the truth is that these are not the riches that really skewer me, that behind all this glory is another joy entirely, a quiet thing that sneaks into my moments like a mouse in the corner of the pantry, known in the single crunch of teeth on grain then hidden again as quickly. This is the knowledge of being loved by God.
“I am Teresa of Jesus,” Teresa once said in prayer. “And I,” came the response in the pantry of her soul, “am Jesus of Teresa.”
“You are the earth’s salt. . . . You are the world’s light.” What are humans made for except this incredible realization, this knowledge of being loved by the Creator? The deepest treasure of our souls is the belonging we find when we pray. Then, salt and light that we are, we shine forth. We enhance all the flavors of the world with our recognition, our acknowledgment, our praise. Brightly shining, pierced by the javelin of God, we fall, plummeting into ecstasy.
I am more of a plodding soul than Teresa of Jesus, but I can claim the same lineage as she does. Because Jesus is of me in the same way Jesus is of Teresa, all the moments in which I am truly present will tear open my heart. Alleluia that it is so.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: by Ann Fontaine Font at St Catherine of Alexandria Episcopal Church, Nehalem OR