“Peace I bequeath to you,
my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
Today the Carmelite family celebrates the Transverberation of the Heart of our Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus. This feast recalls the intimacy of God’s love in Teresa’s life and invites us to ponder the ways God’s love has touched the depths of our hearts.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini beautifully captured Teresa’s experience in art form. His statue, pictured above, can be found in the Cornaro Chapel of the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome.
Teresa writes about her unique experience of God’s love in The Book of Her Life, Chapter 29, paragraph 13. While the language Teresa uses may sound a bit unusual to us, I think it is a reminder that God often comes to us in surprising and unexpected ways.
Before recounting Teresa’s description of this experience, let us look at the hallmarks of her experience as I think this will help to open a space where our experiences of God can come into dialogue with Teresa’s experience. It is important to remember that God comes to us uniquely – according to the mode of the receiver, according to our unique disposition. God came to Teresa in ways that were meaningful for her, just as God comes to us in the ways that are most meaningful for us – ways that only God can know.
- Teresa says that she wouldn’t know how to explain it. This is the stammering of I-know-not-what that St. John of the Cross describes in his Spiritual Canticle. When we have experiences of God, all language seems to fall short of the experience.
- Teresa says that God’s love reached deep within her, and that she was left on fire with great love of God.
- Teresa describes an aching and a longing. This experience of God stirred her desire for God and was accompanied by joy.
- She says that after this experience her soul was not content with anything less that God.
- The experience Teresa recounts is an embodied experience. She felt God with the entirety of her being. There is a sense that this experience helped her to become more whole and integrated.
- Teresa describes her experience as a sweet and loving exchange between the soul and God, and she desires that we too experience the depth of God’s love in the deepest part of our souls.
How does this resonate with your experiences of God, with the times you have felt on fire with God’s love?
In The Living Flame of Love, St. John of the Cross comments on Teresa’s experience. He writes:
As Moses declares in Deuteronomy, ‘Our Lord is a consuming fire,’ that is, a fire of love, which being of infinite power, can inestimably consume and transform into itself the soul it touches.
[…] Since God’s purpose in granting these communications is to exalt the soul, he does not weary and restrict it, but enlarges and delights it, brightens and enriches it.
[…] It will happen that while the soul is inflamed with the love of God, it will feel that a seraph is assailing it by means of an arrow or dart which is all afire with love. And the seraph pierces and in an instant cauterizes this soul which, like a red-hot coal, or better a flame, is already enkindled. The soul is converted into an immense fire of love.
The psalmist writes,
I waited, I waited for the Lord
and God stooped down to me;
God heard my cry.
God put a new song into my mouth,
praise of our God (Psalm 40).
How are you being invited to share God’s love today?
On this day when we celebrate the intimacy of God’s love in our lives, let us join with Teresa and all our Carmelite Saints in singing the mercies of the Lord.