Sunday, October 26, 2008

The First Vision of St Teresa of Avila

Alonso Cano (1601-67).
The Vision of St Teresa c. 1629
Private Collection

4. On one of the feasts of St. Paul, when I was at Mass, there stood before me the most Sacred Humanity, as painters represent Him after the resurrection, in great beauty and majesty, as I particularly described it to you, my father, when you had insisted on it. It was painful enough to have to write about it, for I could not describe it without doing great violence to myself. But I described it as well as I could, and there is no reason why I should now recur to it. One thing, however, I have to say: if in heaven itself there were nothing else to delight our eyes but the great beauty of glorified bodies, that would be an excessive bliss, particularly the vision of the Humanity of Jesus Christ our Lord. If here below, where His Majesty shows Himself to us according to the measure which our wretchedness can bear, it is so great, what must it be there, where the fruition of it is complete!

5. This vision, though imaginary, I never saw with my bodily eyes, nor, indeed, any other, but only with the eyes of the soul. Those who understand these things better than I do, say that the intellectual vision is more perfect than this; and this, the imaginary vision, much more perfect than those visions which are seen by the bodily eyes. The latter kind of visions, they say, is the lowest; and it is by these that the devil can most delude us. I did not know it then; for I wished, when this grace had been granted me, that it had been so in such a way that I could see it with my bodily eyes, in order that my confessor might not say to me that I indulged in fancies.

6. After the vision was over, it happened that I too imagined--the thought came at once--I had fancied these things; so I was distressed, because I had spoken of them to my confessor, thinking that I might have been deceiving him. There was another lamentation: I went to my confessor, and told him of my doubts. He would ask me whether I told him the truth so far as I knew it; or, if not, had I intended to deceive him? I would reply, that I told the truth; for, to the best of my belief, I did not lie, nor did I mean anything of the kind; neither would I tell a lie for the whole world. This he knew well enough; and, accordingly, he contrived to quiet me; and I felt so much the going to him with these doubts, that I cannot tell how Satan could have put it into my head that I invented those things for the purpose of tormenting myself.

7. But our Lord made such haste to bestow this grace upon me, and to declare the reality of it, that all doubts of the vision being a fancy on my part were quickly taken away, and ever since I see most clearly how silly I was."

Chapter XXVIII The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, of the Order of Our Lady of Carmel.Written by Herself., Translated from the Spanish by David Lewis. (1904)