Alonso Cano 1601-1667
The Vision of Christ Crucified to St Teresa of Jesus (St Teresa of Avila)
Oil on canvas
99 cm x 43,5 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
Cano was one of the great Spanish Baroque artists.
He eventually took Holy Orders
The work was only acquired by the Prado in 2013 and information about the above work is limited
It may have been commissioned for the church of the former Carmelite monastery of San Alberto de Sicilia in Seville, Spain but until further information is provided that is just speculation
Cano painted the same theme on a number of occasions: see here
In essence there are only two figures: Christ and the Saint. There is no noise only silence
The saint is in rapt attention on the figure of the crucified Christ
In his Apostolic Letter Multiformis Sapientia Dei (27th September 1970) Pope Paul VI proclaimed St Teresa of Jesus as a Doctor of the Church
In it he wrote:
"As the centre of the spiritual doctrine of Teresa is Christ who reveals the Father, unites us to Him and joins us to himself. Therefore the best foundations of this doctrine are Christian prayer as a life of love, and the Church, by which is achieved in us the Kingdom of God ...
Man, in fact, reach perfection only when you can say with Paul: My life is Christ (cf. Mansiones , VII, 2, 5). On the other hand the life of prayer that Teresa teaches in the same book of his life (8, 5). It may be described as a lifetime of love, because prayer is the necessity of friendship, so we talk for a long time alone with God by whom we know we are loved"
St Teresa herself said that her prayer was «a dialogue of friendship with One Who, we know, loves us» (Life, 8, 5)
On another occasion when she was faltering under the pressure of the setting up of her foundations in the period 1562 - 1572 she recalled that Our Lord said to her:
«It cannot be otherwise ... But do everything you can to have the right intention and detachment. Fix your glance upon Me, and make sure that whatever you do be in conformity with what I did» (Favours, 11)
Next year is the 500th anniersary of the birth of the great Saint
Recently Kirsty Jane McCulloch published an interview which she had with Lord Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury about the saint. In 1991 he published his biography of the saint
The interview will be published in the May/June 2014 issue of Theology.
In the interview Lord Williams discussed at length his fascination with the saint
Of her spirituality and mysticism he said:
"People have certainly tried to pathologise Teresa, in particular, and she undoubtedly had some very strange experiences.
At the same time, people do still have these experiences and are sometimes very frightened of talking about them, because they don’t want to be thought insane or disturbed.
People look with a mixture of suspicion, respect and envy at those who claim some sort of connection with the transcendent, and don’t quite know what to do with it.
There are two problems, I think, in our modern discourse about mysticism.
One—I hinted at this, I suppose, in the book—is to identify mysticism with a whole succession of odd experiences; whereas I think that for Teresa, and certainly for John [of the Cross], the really stomach-churning, dramatic and bizarre experiences are just your entry into another level.
It’s not that you go on having stomach-churning, bizarre experiences and mystical ecstasy right up to the end. The whole point is to get you to another kind of normality, almost.
So the mistake now is often to see mysticism as just about ecstasy.
People look at Bernini’s famous statue and think that’s mysticism, whereas Teresa, I think, would have taken a very dim view indeed of that statue, very dim. “That’s precisely not the point: of course I had these extraordinary experiences, and I wished at the time I wasn’t having them, but eventually what it permitted me to do was to wash the dishes mindfully and prayerfully.” She more or less says that.
Now the other error, I think, is the old chestnut about spirituality and religion: “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.” A statement which drives me to distraction, as you can imagine, because there the spiritual becomes something very private, very interior, which doesn’t really threaten anybody very much and doesn’t do what people like Teresa are doing, which is to put a sharp question from the margin.
To say, well, if you’re serious about being spiritual, you live differently: get used to it.
Those two problems make these questions all the harder these day"