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Featured Teresa of Avila and Watering the Garden

Discussion in 'Christian Spirituality Forum' started by Episkopos, Sep 6, 2019.

  1. Episkopos

    Episkopos Well-Known Member

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    St. Teresa of Avila and Watering the Garden


    Common Stages in the Spiritual Journey: Early Wisdom from St. Teresa of Avila



    The spiritual journey has some different elements to it than many of us learned about when we were growing up. We may have been taught how to pray for other people (known as intercessory prayer) and learned that we should do that. Beyond intercessory prayer, small group Bible studies, and attending worship, we were not exposed to many ways to deepen our Christian identity. A growing awareness in the Church is learning prayer practices which can help us awaken to God’s wonderful love pulsing in us and through us.

    For most of us, beginning the spiritual journey requires we commit to the inconvenience of making a new habit, forming a discipline. Many faithful Christians have not been taught or ever expected to incorporate prayer practices into their daily lifestyles. Happily, that expectation is changing.

    St. Teresa of Avila and Watering the Garden

    St. Teresa of Avila was a Carmelite nun in Spain during the same time that Martin Luther lived in Germany, in the 16th century. Her contemporaries also included St. John of the Cross and Ignatius of Loyola, both also in Spain. Teresa and Luther (and John and Ignatius) were busy trying to reform the Church of the day. Luther got booted out of the Roman Catholic Church altogether; Teresa had to explain herself to the Spanish Inquisition. She wrote her first book, The Book of Her Life, to describe her theology and faith practices to the Inquisitors. At this point in her life and career, she used the metaphor of watering a garden to describe the spiritual journey. Read how she describes it in The Book of Her Life:

    Beginners must realize that in order to give delight to the Lord they are starting to cultivate a garden on very barren soil, full of abominable weeds. His Majesty pulls up the weeds and plants good seed. Now let us keep in mind that all of this is already done by the time a soul is determined to practice prayer and has begun to make use of it. And with the help of God we must strive like good gardeners to get these plants to grow and take pains to water them so that they don’t wither but come to bud and flower and give forth a most pleasant fragrance to provide refreshment for this Lord of ours. Then He will often come to take delight in this garden and find His joy among these virtues.


    The First Stage


    When we first begin, it feels laborious to discipline ourselves to spend time in prayer each day—it feels like harder work than we think it should be. Teresa likens this first stage to watering the garden using a bucket to draw water out of a well. If we were watering a garden with a bucket and well, we would have to dip the bucket into the well, draw the heavy bucket up with the rope, carry it to the garden and water the plants. Then, we would walk back over to the well, let down the bucket, draw it up again, walk back to the garden and pour it on the plants. Over and over we would make that trip to give the garden all the water it needs. Similarly, when we first begin the spiritual journey and changing our habit, it can feel like an awkward and difficult task. It is only the first stage. Do not let such an inconvenience keep you from the rich and gracious life our good Lord has for your soul.

    Beginners in prayer, we can say, are those who draw water from the well. This involves a lot of work on their own part, as I have said. They must tire themselves in trying to recollect their senses. Since they are accustomed to being distracted, their recollection requires much effort. They need to get accustomed to caring nothing at all about seeing or hearing, to practicing the hours of prayer, and thus to solitude and withdrawal—and to thinking on their past life.



    The Second Stage

    After some time in this first stage, we will find that the journey is becoming a little easier and we can experience some times when we feel quite connected to God and blessed by this time alone with our Lord. Teresa likens it to now being able to fill our bucket from a water wheel where we have a little less work to do. The water wheel fills the bucket for us and we do not experience as much labor as when we filled it ourselves from the well.

    As she described it:

    Here the soul begins to be recollected and comes upon something supernatural because in no way can it acquire this prayer through any efforts it may make. . . Here the water is higher, and so the labor is much less than that required in pulling it up from the well. I mean that the water is closer because grace is more clearly manifest to the soul.
     
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  2. Episkopos

    Episkopos Well-Known Member

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    The Third Stage

    When our Gracious God continues to enlighten our soul and help us tame our will, our intellect and our memories so they are more aligned with the will of our soul, we may be drawn into the third stage of spiritual development. Here it feels like we are doing very little work and that God is the one “watering the garden” of our soul.

    Here are Teresa’s words for it:

    Let us come now to speak of the third water by which this garden is irrigated, that is, the water flowing the garden is irrigated with much less labor, although some labor is required to direct the flow of water. The Lord so desires to help the gardener here that He Himself becomes practically the gardener and the one who does everything. . . .The consolation, the sweetness, and the delight are incomparably greater than that experienced in the previous prayer



    The Fourth Stage

    Some dear souls will continue on the journey and the Holy Spirit may choose to invite them into the fourth way of “watering the garden.” Here, we have no work to do—the “garden” of our soul is watered by God’s “rain” and we are passive receivers of this great gift. It is living the truth of Jesus’ statement, “but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

    Teresa wrote of the union of our soul with God in this stage:

    In all the prayer and modes of prayer that were explained, the gardener does some work, even though in these latter modes the work is accompanied by so much glory and consolation for the soul that it would never want to abandon this prayer. As a result, the prayer is not experienced as work but as glory. In this fourth water the soul isn’t in possession of its senses, but it rejoices without understanding what it is rejoicing in. It understands that it is enjoying a good in which are gathered together all good, but this good is incomprehensible. All the senses are occupied in this joy in such a way that none is free to be taken up with any other exterior or interior thing.

    Our Lovely Lord draws us in at a pace our souls can handle. Even though we might think we want to rush right into the most mature stages, the heart is so fragile we would not be able to handle it if God chose to reveal the great truths to us too soon. Graciously, God lets us see a bit at a time and adjust to our new way of living.

    This is a marathon, not a sprint. We spend our entire life time growing more deeply into our relationship with God.
     
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  3. Episkopos

    Episkopos Well-Known Member

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    In the preceding 2 pages of the OP subject, we see the experience of a sister who found her way to God. Her journey begins by her tapping into grace...a grace that is available to all. As she pushes her way towards God (as in... draw near to Me and I will draw near to you), God allows her to experience MORE grace...and more grace until she receives the gift of grace from the fulness of God's grace and love.

    This is very helpful and encouraging especially for they who lack personal discipline in their devotions to God. This knowledge from her testimony can be a help towards a more intimate encounter with God. It encourages asking, seeking and knocking...watching and praying.

    I especially like her statements about bringing refreshment to God. This is not a philosophical pursuit....but a life that is brought before God so that He might find pleasure in the devotion that we are cultivating to that effect.

    Now it would seem that she is speaking of a progression from one level to another...as if these were automatic. But at every stage it must be God who decides to give the seeker more of His grace. We could see holiness as one big jump...a a few lesser jumps...and this in order to encourage a robust prayer life.

    These are some of my own thoughts on the matter.

    I, personally would add in another level...let's call it Level 5 or the Fifth Stage. Of course these names are arbitrary...even if the intimacy with God they seek to describe are not. These levels of intimacy with God are attested to by saints throughout history. We do have a few thousand years of history and testimonials to draw from after all.

    The Fifth Stage : At this level one walks in the light as He is in the Light. One is crucified to his own strength so that one is almost a spectator in one's own body. The Holy Spirit runs the show at this stage...no longer I, but Christ.

    This overpowering gift of grace takes...or translates...the believer into the realm of the Spirit in Zion...to be WHERE Jesus is. To walk in a heavenly place...to walk as Jesus did. In that place there are spiritual faculties to see things in the Spirit....with little to no explanation..at least at first. It takes a renewing of the mind just to be able to grasp what is happening.

    And this level is powerful in the sense of the keeping power of God. One remains in holiness..as if trapped (crucified) between two realms...that of this world and the next one.

    At this level one perceives the armour of light by actual rays of light coming from one's eyes....like a helmet of salvation.

    Now of course these things are too wonderful to explain properly with mere words. And most people, who live life as any other human on earth, would find it near impossible to accept that God could be that powerful towards us.

    But some can find a great source of hope in this. Some can be encouraged and edified to seek the Lord more boldly. And this is the purpose of this thread. :)
     
  4. Miss Hepburn

    Miss Hepburn Well-Known Member

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    Oh my gosh, a thread on Teresa!!! My sister!!! Yay!
     
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  5. Episkopos

    Episkopos Well-Known Member

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    There is a conundrum to receiving grace. And that is that the more grace we receive the less we need to go after it. When we receive grace...an abundant grace...as a free gift...we tend to not understand the discipline part of the Christian walk.

    In my experience I have been progressing backwards...from level 5 to level 4....all by the free gift of God in His mercy. In betwen those times I struggled with Stage 2 or even Stage 1.

    So I would seem to have a gap in my experience.

    When I was parachuted into a better grace location...and this is by the will of God... I didn't have to conform myself in a gradual maturity so as to experience God in a series of smaller steps into His greater intimacy.

    So I tended to be spoiled.

    Why seek God or discipline my devotional seeking when it's all just a free gift? So then my own "exaggerated" experience shows a greater trend in the church. That of being spoiled by grace.

    And that is why it is important to understand that grace can actually be harmful to us if we take it wrong. Grace can be deceitful to the one who is not careful to keep the experience of God as something that should humble us...not puff us up by a false assessment in drawing the wrong conclusions.

    This is something I had to overcome...through a lot of pain and anguish...and this to learn how important humility really is.
     
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  6. VictoryinJesus

    VictoryinJesus Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for all you shared here. Two passages come to mind Ezekiel 36:34-36 And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. [35] And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. [36] Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.

    There has always been a tension between us ...I don’t want it to be there. I’ve only meant to keep asserting God does it. Maybe I’ve misunderstood and you are saying the same. You are encouraging, very much so.

    Isaiah 27:1-6 In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea. [2] In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. [3] I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day. [4] Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together. [5] Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me. [6] He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.
     
  7. GodsGrace

    GodsGrace Well-Known Member

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    It's not so much about what God does for us ... although it's definitely a part of the journey ... He certainly does water the field.

    I learned about this journey as being 7 rooms that we go through..each room is a step toward God.

    It's about what we learn and what happens to us with the help of the Holy Spirit; how we change and become closer to God.

    I could get my notes..I studied this for about a year, if you're interested.
     
  8. Episkopos

    Episkopos Well-Known Member

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    Thought I would add this as a note from the person who wrote the OP...

    One last note:

    Committing to develop our faith practices is not a case of “works righteousness.” Our salvation does not depend on whether or not we engage this seriously. What is impacted is the quality of our lives and the integrity of our faith.

    There is a distinction between the validity and the integrity of our faith. Our relationship with God is valid because God has come to us and created a relationship with us through the powerful gift of grace that we find in Jesus Christ. Through the sacrament of Holy Baptism (or whatever means of grace God chooses to use), we are drawn into a relationship with our Lord. It is a one-sided decision!

    I had no say in whom my birth parents were, yet they are my parents. It was a one-way decision that made our relationship valid. Yet, I do have responsibility, along with them, for the integrity of our relationship. I can care for them, care about them, share my life with them, respect them, and listen to them. Those are signs of integrity. If I ignore them, disrespect them, do not talk to them, or even refuse to ever see them again—our relationship lacks integrity but the truth is, they are still my parents. The relationship is still valid even though it has no integrity.

    Growing in our spiritual discipline helps us grow in the integrity of the relationship God has created with each one of us. We do not “earn” our way into heaven by embracing these faith practices; instead, they are something we are free to do so that we might discover and recognize some of the powerful love and grace with which God has already blessed us.

    I got this article from here...St. Teresa of Avila and Watering the Garden
     
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  9. Episkopos

    Episkopos Well-Known Member

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    I think testimony is far better than theory...do you have any experience of these steps to intimacy? That is what matters.
     
  10. GodsGrace

    GodsGrace Well-Known Member

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    Sure...all believers do.
    Not in the precise order that she listed them.
    Some come in room 2 according to her writing,,but we might experience it in room 5,,,
    or V V.

    I believe the important learning is that it's a growing....
     
  11. Miss Hepburn

    Miss Hepburn Well-Known Member

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    Teresa, Teresa, Teresa, my funny sister...we are like twins. We relate to God the same way....
    having conversations with Him.
    Once in the 1500s, mind you, her superior called her to another convent...so here she is in the night in one of those wagons,
    stagecoaches...Oh bloody hell... so of course there is a storm....the driver mistakes the creek as passable...
    WELL, it's overflowing and the wagon turns over....Yes...here is Teresa in the water at night.

    She says to God...Thanks a lot. He says, But Teresa this is how I treat My friends....
    She says, "Yes, and this is why You don't have many."
     
  12. stunnedbygrace

    stunnedbygrace Well-Known Member

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    Of course God does it! We see our lack ( God has shown it to us), we pray for and about what we see we lack ( He helps us in this because we don't even know how to pray, mostly), and then He gives to us what we lack and grows our virtue.

    But there is our part. When He shows us our lack, we ask, seek and knock. We fear Him. We learn humility. We learn to wait and trust. This is growth in righteousness.

    It has taken me a long time to learn to separate righteousness from holiness. Growth in righteousness leads to holiness. That's Gods goal. Yet we don't grow in holiness. One isn't partway holy or holier than he used to be. Holy is an either/or thing. Righteousness is a growth. But there is a goal. That goal, far off as it might be, is to enter into holiness. That's Gods goal.

    With what Epi writes, its important to take note that he is usually speaking of the goal rather than growth in righteousness. Even the bible makes distinction between righteousness and holiness. Even if it may not spell it out, it is there. Without knowing it is there, we will place righteousness higher and place holiness lower. But there is a space in between them.
     
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  13. Enoch111

    Enoch111 Well-Known Member

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    Teresa was a Catholic mystic, and Mysticism is not compatible with Bible Christianity.She was a committed Catholic and also engaged in levitation. Beware of Mysticism.
     
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  14. Stan B

    Stan B Active Member

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    Roman Catholicism is not compatible with Bible Christianity either. Roman Catholicism is a pagan religion which worships the goddess, "Queen of Heaven" to whom the the pope kneels before her graven image!! This evil Queen of Heaven cult was known to prophet Jeremiah. They were so evil and beyond redemption that God instructed the prophet: "Do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you." Jeremiah 7:18
     

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  15. stunnedbygrace

    stunnedbygrace Well-Known Member

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    Lol!
     
  16. stunnedbygrace

    stunnedbygrace Well-Known Member

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    And in case you are doubtful on that, and to see the seriousness of holiness, Epi has previously given bible verses to support this. I remember one, it was uzzah and the ark of the covenant. He did what he wasn't to do with a holy thing and was knocked instantly dead. Oh yes, and the others were Ananias and Saphira, who lied.
     
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  17. Episkopos

    Episkopos Well-Known Member

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    This is foolishness. Partisan religion can't see that God is bigger than man-made dogmatics and denominations. The reformation got a few things right and many more wrong. It threw out the baby with the bathwater as regards to the doctrine of things like justification...as cooperation with grace. The protestant error is either one extreme or the other...a doctrine of cheap grace or else works. Neither of which is espoused in Catholicism. Catholicism is basically right in doctrine. In fact in many ways superior to "Protestantism." The flaw is in the practice. The ecclesiastical gymnastics....the statuary and the superstitions surrounding Mary and saints. The Protestants have exactly the opposite errors. For this scheme...EVERYBODY is holy...thus eliminating any real possibility of actual holiness.

    So then there is blindness all around. It's just that the blindness of one group isn't necessarily the blindness of another group. We humans can get very creative in our blindness. ;)
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
  18. Episkopos

    Episkopos Well-Known Member

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    Religious bigotry. And false.
     
  19. Enoch111

    Enoch111 Well-Known Member

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    St. Teresa of Avila’s demonic experience that proved the power of Holy Water
    ...In Chapter 31, she tells of a time that she was harassed by a demon:

    “Out of his body there seemed to be coming a great flame, which was intensely bright and cast no shadow. He told me in a horrible way that I had indeed escaped out of his hands but he would get hold of me still.”

    Frightened, she tried to shoo him away with the Sign of the Cross. The demon left her, but soon returned. This happened several times, until she noticed she had some holy water nearby. “So I flung some in the direction of the apparition,” she wrote, “and it never came back.”

    Another time, she wrote, “the devil was with me for five hours, torturing me with such terrible pains and both inward and outward disquiet that I do not believe I could have endured them any longer. The sisters who were with me were frightened to death and had no more idea of what to do for me than I had of how to help myself.” She only found relief after she requested holy water and threw some to the place where she saw a demon nearby..."

    St. Teresa of Avila’s demonic experience that proved the power of...

    Episkopos, do you recommend holy water like Teresa??? This is Catholic nonsense, and you should not not even be talking about Teresa of Avila.

     
  20. aspen

    aspen “"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few

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    St Teresa of Avila is a doctor of the Catholic Church - I have learned a lot from her writings
     
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