Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Wednesday
Dec032014

PART 3, FOUR WAYS TO WATER THE GARDEN OF YOUR SOUL

By Teresa of Ávila

PART  THREE

10. Rapture and the Prayer of Pain. I will need God’s help to explain the difference between the prayer of union and the experience call rapture. Other terms for rapture are flight of the spirit, transport, and ecstasy.

In the prayer of union, we are still connected to the earth. If we choose, we can still resist. It may be difficult, but it is still possible. But in these raptures, there is no remedy. They rush on the soul like a mighty eagle and carry her away. The experience is delightful, but scary.

During these raptures, the Beloved suddenly pulls the soul completely out of herself. The divine cloud ascends to heaven, taking the soul along with it, and begins to reveal the heavenly wonders prepared for her. I’m not sure if this metaphor works, but in fact, this is what happens.

The soul no longer seems to live in the body, and the body temperature drops. A tremendous ease and delight accompany the growing coldness. The rapture is now impossible to resist. We need a courageous spirit to risk everything and abandon ourselves into the Beloved’s hands. Like it or not, we have already been transported, so we might as well go willingly. This experience has been so traumatic that several times I have tried to resist. Sometimes the experience has taken up my whole body and lifted me off the ground.

I haven’t levitated very often. The first time it happened, I was kneeling in the choir, waiting to go up to the altar and receive Communion. I was immediately distressed and was afraid everyone would start talking about it. So I ordered the sisters to keep it to themselves. Since I was their prioress, they had to do what I asked.

After that, when I felt that the LORD was about to enrapture me again, I would stretch out on the floor and ask the nuns to hold me down. This occurred recently during a sermon. Even though we tried to hide it, some noble ladies saw the whole thing. I implored the LORD not to give me any more favors with an outward show. I was tired of being considered special. It seems that God in His mercy acknowledged my prayer. Although the incident was recent, I have not experienced another levitation since.

The effects of rapture are remarkable. This particular favor terrified me. When you see yourself lifted off the ground, the majesty of God makes your hair stand on end. The fear of offending such an awesome God stays with you. However, with this fear comes a great love for Him. Rapture also leaves a detachment of the soul that I can’t explain. Its effects are not just spiritual. The soul is ripped away the world. Life becomes harder.

Pain follows rapture, and it comes from outside us. Nor can we let it go once we have felt it. The Prayer of Pain comes after the wondrous visions and voices. My prayer time occasionally has these delightful blessings, but now, it is primarily spent in pain. This spiritual distress causes a terrible desolation of the soul.

I don’t play an active role in the Prayer of Pain. God strips the soul of everything. She is alone in this desert. But, she does not want companionship. She wants to die here in this radical solitude. In this state, the soul suffers a kind of crucifixion. She receives no consolation from heaven or from earth. She hangs between.

But, when God seems farthest away, He communicates His presence in the strangest ways imaginable. He gives the soul a heavenly knowledge of God. It is both the agony of death and unimaginable joy. It is a delightful martyrdom. The spirit, which is the higher part of the soul, does not want to turn away from the grace of the pain.

The soul now knows she wants nothing but God. None of her senses function. Joy suspends her senses in union and in rapture. Pain suspends them here. My soul is in this state all the time now. If I am not occupied, my soul plunges into this yearning for death. When I feel it coming on, I am afraid that I will never die. Yet, as the pain overwhelms me, I long to suffer like this for the rest of my life, even though the pain is so great that I can’t possibly endure it.

O Jesus, please explain all this to my confessor so he can explain it to me!

My sisters sometimes see me in this state. They say that sometimes my pulse stops. My arms become rigid. My hands are so stiff I can’t even clasp them in prayer. The next day, my wrists ache. My whole body hurts, as if all my joints were dislocated.

Believe me, I know what it feels like to be close to death. My illnesses have brought me to death’s door before. This spiritual distress is as serious as any fever I ever endured.

Apparently, this is what happens: The soul finds little rest in this life. The LORD used to comfort my soul through prayer and solitude. Now, prayer and solitude only bring torment. The body experiences only pain. The soul both suffers and rejoices. This torment pleases the soul so deeply that she desires this suffering beyond all the former holy favors. This suffering is the safer path, because it is the way of the cross. This is the favor the Beloved grants me now.

In the beginning I was afraid. I’m always frightened when the LORD gives me a new gift. But, His Majesty reassures me. With the Prayer of Pain, God told me not to fear, but treasure this gift above all others. The soul is purified by this pain.

I’ve wandered off the subject again. Let’s get back to rapture. When the body is in rapture, it is like a corpse. It feels as if the weight is draining from my body. My body is frozen in the position it was when the rapture began. Rapture is supremely disorienting. The soul is able to see and hear things, although they seem to come from far away.

Bernini's statue of Teresa's Transverberation of the HeartI will give you an example of a painful, rapturous vision which the LORD gave me:

I saw an angel standing close to me on my left side. The angel was quite small and very beautiful. His face was brilliantly lit. He held a great golden spear, and the iron tip was on fire. The angel plunged the flaming spear through my heart again and again until it penetrated my inmost core. When He withdrew it, it felt like he was carrying the deepest part of me away with him. He left me utterly consumed with the love of God. The pain was so intense that it made me moan. This anguish is so sweet, so bountiful, that I wished it would never stop. The soul will not be content with anything less than God.

The pain is spiritual, not physical. The love between the soul and her God is so sweet that I beg Him to give a taste of it to anyone who thinks that I am lying.

If a person is ill and in pain before a rapture, she often returns afterward healthy and strong. This is a mysterious medicine available to us in prayer. Rapture teaches the body to obey the soul. When the LORD wants the body and senses to share in the blessing, His healing happens.

Behold, now the gardener is promoted to steward. Her only desire is to do God’s will. The soul doesn’t speak or act for herself anymore. She is shocked by how blind she was. What sorrow she feels for those who are still blind. She wants to cry out how deluded they are. They are living as captives. Sometimes, she does cry out, and then a thousand persecutions follow.

People judge such a soul as seriously lacking in humility. They point out that she is trying to teach the people from whom she should be learning. They can’t understand the love that moves her.

The soul used to worry about reputation and honor. This is just a big lie, and we are all beguiled by it. Also, the soul laughs when she remembers being attached to money. I have only been blessed by giving up everything.

O LORD: Here is my life. Here is my honor. Here is my will. I give them all to You. I am Yours. Use me as You will. Now I can accomplish anything if You don’t leave me. If You do leave, I’ll go back where I was – which was hell.

It’s excruciating pain for a soul who has been in heaven to return to this world. Life is a farce. Sleeping and eating are a complete waste of time. Everything wearies the soul, and she doesn’t know how to escape. She sees herself as a prisoner in chains. Worse, she is a slave sold into a foreign land.

I am still an ungrateful wretch. But may it please Your Majesty to inspire those who read this to give up everything for You. If the rewards You give us in this life are so radical, imagine what You have in store for us in the next.

11. Advice to World Leaders. I don’t have access to political leaders, so I beg You, my LORD, to make all things right. If they could experience what I have experienced, it would be impossible for them to continue with deceit, betrayal, robbery, cruelty and slaughter. 

If they could grow accustomed to dwelling on God’s real truth, anything else would feel like a game of make-believe. Instead, they claim that the more prestigious their position, the more good they can do. They would do far more good in one day than in ten years if they forgot about their authority and simply loved God.

____________

Source for these excerpts is Teresa of Ávila. 2007. The Book of My Life. Translated by Mirabai Star. Boston & London: New Seeds. The excerpts come from part two of the book, “The Four Waters,” chapters 11 to 21.

You can read a brief biography of Teresa, by going to the column on the right and scrolling down to the section “Santa Teresa.”

Note: The original Spanish title for this book, finished in 1560, was Su Vida. The Spanish has an intriguing ambiguity. It can mean either “Her Life” or “Your Life.”

____________

Purpose of this blog is to compile several books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

____________

I welcome your reactions.  Please click below on "Post a Comment.”