Daily Archives: June 28, 2010

St. Teresa of Avila on the prayer of quiet, continued

“Thus when the will finds itself in this quiet, . . . it shouldn’t pay any more attention to the intellect than it would to a madman” (Way of Perfection, Ch. 31, para. 8).

Interestingly, St. Teresa de Jesus seems to hold, with C. S. Lewis later, that the will is the most important faculty of the human soul. It is what keeps the soul in motion.

“Note carefully, friends, this piece of advice which I want to give you now. You will often find that these other two faculties are of no help to you. It may come about that the soul is enjoying the highest degree of quiet, and that the understanding has soared so far aloft that what is happening to it seems not to be going on in its own house at all; it really seems to be a guest in somebody else’s house, looking for other lodgings, since its own lodging no longer satisfies it and it cannot remain there for long together. Perhaps this is only my own experience and other people do not find it so. But, speaking for myself, I sometimes long to die because I cannot cure this wandering of the mind. At other times the mind seems to be settled in its own abode and to be remaining there with the will as its companion. When all three faculties work together it is wonderful. The harmony is like that between husband and wife: if they are happy and love each other, both desire the same thing; but if the husband is unhappy in his marriage he soon begins to make the wife restless. Just so, when the will finds itself in this state of quiet, it must take no more notice of the understanding than it would of a madman, for, if it tries to draw the understanding along with it, it is bound to grow preoccupied and restless, with the result that this state of prayer will be all effort and no gain and the soul will lose what God has been giving it without any effort of its own.” (Way of Perfection, Ch. 31, para. 9).

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