Visions of the Sacred Humanity, and of the Glorified Bodies. Imaginary Visions. Great Fruits Thereof When They Come from God.
1. I now resume our subject. I spent some days, not many, with that vision continually before me. It did me so much good, that I never ceased to pray. Even when I did cease, I contrived that it should be in such a way as that I should not displease Him whom I saw so clearly present, an eye-witness of my acts. And though I was occasionally afraid, because so much was said to me about delusions, that fear lasted not long, because our Lord reassured me.
2. It pleased our Lord, one day that I was in prayer, to show me His Hands, and His Hands only. The beauty of them was so great, that no language can describe it. This put me in great fear; for everything that is strange, in the beginning of any new grace from God, makes me very much afraid. A few days later, I saw His divine Face, and I was utterly entranced. I could not understand why our Lord showed Himself in this way, seeing that, afterwards, He granted me the grace of seeing His whole Person. Later on, I understood that His Majesty was dealing with me according to the weakness of my nature. May He be blessed for ever! A glory so great was more than one so base and wicked could bear; and our merciful Lord, knowing this, ordered it in this way.
3. You will think, my father, that it required no great courage to look upon Hands and Face so beautiful. But so beautiful are glorified bodies, that the glory which surrounds them renders those who see that which is so supernatural and beautiful beside themselves. It was so with me: I was in such great
1. Ch. xxvii. § 3.
fear, trouble, and perplexity at the sight. Afterwards there ensued a sense of safety and certainty, together with other results, so that all fear passed immediately away.
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
2. Philipp. a SS. Trinitate, Theolog. Mystic. par. 2, tr. 3, disc. iv., art. 8: "Quamvis in principio visiones a dæmone fictæ aliquam habeant pacem ac dulcedinem, in fine tamen confusionum et amaritudinem in anima relinquunt; cujus contrarium est in divinis visionibus, quæ sæpe turbant in principio, sed semper in fine pacem animæ relinquunt." St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, st. 14, p. 84: "In the spiritual passage from the sleep of natural ignorance to the wakefulness of the supernatural understanding, which is the beginning of trance or ecstasy, the spiritual vision then revealed makes the soul fear and tremble."
3. See ch. xxix. § 4.
4. "The holy Mother, Teresa of Jesus, had these imaginary visions for many years, seeing our Lord continually present before her in great beauty, risen from the dead, with His wounds and the crown of thorns. She had a picture made of Him, which she gave to me, and which I gave to Don Fernando de Toledo, Duke of Alva" (Jerome Gratian, Union del Alma, cap. 5. Madrid, 1616).
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. For if I were to spend many years in devising how to picture to myself anything so beautiful, I should never be able, nor even know how, to do it for it is beyond the reach of any possible imagination here below: the whiteness and brilliancy alone are inconceivable. It is not a brilliancy which dazzles,
5. Anton. a Sp. Sancto, Direct. Mystic. tr. iii. disp. 5, § I, n. 315: "Visio corporea est infima, visio imaginaria est media, visio intellectualis est suprema." N. 322: "Apparitio visibilis, cum sit omnium infima, est magis exposita illusioni diaboli, nisi forte huic visioni corporali visio intellectualis adjungatur, ut in apparitione S. Gabrielis archangeli facta Beatæ Virgini."
6. See ch. xxx. § 18.
but a delicate whiteness and a brilliancy infused, furnishing the most excessive delight to the eyes, never wearied thereby, nor by the visible brightness which enables us to see a beauty so divine. It is a light so different from any light here below, that the very brightness of the sun we see, in comparison with the brightness and light before our eyes, seems to be something so obscure, that no one would ever wish to open his eyes again.
8. It is like most pellucid water running in a bed of crystal, reflecting the rays of the sun, compared with most muddy water on a cloudy day, flowing on the surface of the earth. Not that there is anything like the sun present here, nor is the light like that of the sun: this light seems to be natural; and, in comparison with it, every other light is something artificial. It is a light which knows no night; but rather, as it is always light, nothing ever disturbs it. In short, it is such that no man, however gifted he may be, can ever, in the whole course of his life, arrive at any imagination of what it is. God puts it before us so instantaneously, that we could not open our eyes in time to see it, if it were necessary for us to open them at all. But whether our eyes be open or shut, it makes no difference whatever; for when our Lord wills, we must see it, whether we will or not. No distraction can shut it out, no power can resist it, nor can we attain to it by any diligence or efforts of our own. I know this by experience well, as I shall show you.
9. That which I wish now to speak of is the manner in which our Lord manifests Himself in these visions. I do not mean that I am going to explain how it is that a light so strong can enter the interior sense, or so distinct an image the understanding, so as to seem to be really there; for this must be work for learned men. Our Lord has not been pleased to let me understand how it is. I am so ignorant myself, and so dull of understanding, that, although people have very much
wished to explain it to me, I have never been able to understand how it can be.
10. This is the truth: though you, my father, may think that I have a quick understanding, it is not so; for I have found out, in many ways, that my understanding can take in only, as they say, what is given to it to eat. Sometimes my confessor used to be amazed at my ignorance: and he never explained to me--nor, indeed, did I desire to understand--how God did this, nor how it could be. Nor did I ever ask; though, as I have said, I had converse for many years with men of great learning. But I did ask them if this or that were a sin or not: as for everything else, the thought that God did it all was enough for me. I saw there was no reason to be afraid, but great reason to praise Him. On the other hand, difficulties increase my devotion; and the greater the difficulty the greater the increase.
11. I will therefore relate what my experience has shown me; but how our Lord brought it about, you, my father, will explain better than I can, and make clear all that is obscure, and beyond my skill to explain. Now and then it seemed to me that what I saw was an image; but most frequently it was not so. I thought it was Christ Himself, judging by the brightness in which He was pleased to show Himself. Sometimes the vision was so indistinct, that I thought it was an image; but still not like a picture, however well painted--and I have seen many good pictures. It would be absurd to suppose that the one bears any resemblance whatever to the other, for they differ as a living person differs from his portrait, which, however well drawn, cannot be lifelike, for it is plain that it is a dead thing. But let this pass, though to the purpose, and literally true.
12. I do not say this by way of comparison, for comparisons are never exact, but because it is the
7. Ch. xxv. § 18.
truth itself, as there is the same difference here that there is between a living subject and the portrait thereof, neither more nor less: for if what I saw was an image, it was a living image,--not a dead man, but the living Christ: and He makes me see that He is God and man,--not as He was in the sepulchre, but as He was when He had gone forth from it, risen from the dead. He comes at times in majesty so great, that no one can have any doubt that it is our Lord Himself, especially after Communion: we know that He is then present, for faith says so. He shows Himself so clearly to be the Lord of that little dwelling-place, that the soul seems to be dissolved and lost in Christ. O my Jesus, who can describe the majesty wherein Thou showest Thyself! How utterly Thou art the Lord of the whole world, and of heaven, and of a thousand other and innumerable worlds and heavens, the creation of which is possible to Thee! The soul understands by that majesty wherein Thou showest Thyself that it is nothing for Thee to be Lord of all this.
13. Here it is plain, O my Jesus, how slight is the power of all the devils in comparison with Thine, and how he who is pleasing unto Thee is able to tread all hell under his feet. Here we see why the devils trembled when Thou didst go down to Limbus, and why they might have longed for a thousand hells still lower, that they might escape from Thy terrible Majesty. I see that it is Thy will the soul should feel the greatness of Thy Majesty, and the power of Thy most Sacred Humanity, united with Thy Divinity. Here, too, we see what the day of judgment will be, when we shall behold the King in His Majesty, and in the rigour of His justice against the wicked. Here we learn true humility, imprinted in the soul by the sight of its own wretchedness, of which now it cannot be ignorant. Here, also, is confusion of face, and true repentance for sins; for though the soul sees that our
Lord shows how He loves it, yet it knows not where to go, and so is utterly dissolved.
14. My meaning is, that so exceedingly great is the power of this vision, when our Lord shows the soul much of His grandeur and majesty, that it is impossible, in my opinion, for any soul to endure it, if our Lord did not succour it in a most supernatural way, by throwing it into a trance or ecstasy, whereby the vision of the divine presence is lost in the fruition thereof. It is true that afterwards the vision is forgotten; but there remains so deep an impression of the majesty and beauty of God, that it is impossible to forget it, except when our Lord is pleased that the soul should suffer from aridity and desolation, of which I shall speak hereafter; for then it seems to forget God Himself. The soul is itself no longer, it is always inebriated; it seems as if a living love of God, of the highest kind, made a new beginning within it; for though the former vision, which I said represented God without any likeness of Him, is of a higher kind, yet because of our weakness, in order that the remembrance of the vision may last, and that our thoughts may be well occupied, it is a great matter that a presence so divine should remain and abide in our imagination. These two kinds of visions come almost always together, and they do so come; for we behold the excellency and beauty and glory of the most Holy Humanity with the eyes of the soul. And in the other way I have spoken of,--that of intellectual vision,--we learn how He is God, is mighty, can do all things, commands all things, governs all things, and fills all things with His love.
15. This vision is to be esteemed very highly; nor is there, in my opinion, any risk in it, because the fruits of it show that the devil has no power here. I think he tried three or four times to represent our Lord to me, in this way, by a false image of Him. He
8. Ch. xxx. §§ 9, 10. See St. John of the Cross, Obscure Night, bk. ii. ch. 7.
9. Ch. xxvii. § 3.
takes the appearance of flesh, but he cannot counterfeit the glory which it has when the vision is from God. Satan makes his representations in order to undo the true vision which the soul has had: but the soul resists instinctively; is troubled, disgusted, and restless; it loses that devotion and joy it previously had, and cannot pray at all. In the beginning, it so happened to me three or four times. These satanic visions are very different things; and even he who shall have attained to the prayer of quiet only will, I believe, detect them by those results of them which I described when I was speaking of locutions. They are most easily recognised; and if a soul consents not to its own delusion, I do not think that Satan will be able to deceive it, provided it walks in humility and singleness of heart. He who shall have had the true vision, coming from God, detects the false visions at once; for, though they begin with a certain sweetness and joy, the soul rejects them of itself; and the joy which Satan ministers must be, I think, very different--it shows no traces of pure and holy love: Satan very quickly betrays himself.
16. Thus, then, as I believe, Satan can do no harm to anyone who has had experience of these things; for it is the most impossible of all impossible things that all this may be the work of the imagination. There is no ground whatever for the supposition; for the very beauty and whiteness of one of our Lord's Hands are beyond our imagination altogether. How is it that we see present before us, in a moment, what we do not remember, what we have never thought of, and, moreover, what, in a long space of time, the imagination could not compass, because, as I have just said, it far transcends anything we can comprehend in this life? This, then, is not possible. Whether we have any power in the matter or not will appear by what I am now going to say.
10. Ch. xxv. § 8.
11. See § 2.
12. § 7, supra.
17. If the vision were the work of a man's own understanding,--setting aside that such a vision would not accomplish the great results of the true one, nor, indeed, any at all,--it would be as the act of one who tries to go to sleep, and yet continues awake, because sleep has not come. He longs for it, because of some necessity or weakness in his head: and so he lulls himself to sleep, and makes efforts to procure it, and now and then thinks he has succeeded; but, if the sleep be not real, it will not support him, nor supply strength to his head: on the contrary, his head will very often be the worse for it. So will it be here, in a measure; the soul will be dissipated, neither sustained nor strengthened; on the contrary, it will be wearied and disgusted. But, in the true vision, the riches which abide in the soul cannot be described; even the body receives health and comfort.
18. I urged this argument, among others, when they told me that my visions came from the evil one, and that I imagined them myself,--and it was very often,--and made use of certain illustrations, as well as I could, and as our Lord suggested to me. But all was to little purpose; for as there were most holy persons in the place,--in comparison with whom I was a mass of perdition,--whom God did not lead by this way, they were at once filled with fear; they thought it all came through my sins. And so my state was talked about, and came to the knowledge of many; though I had spoken of it to no one, except my confessor, or to those to whom he commanded me to speak of it.
19. I said to them once, If they who thus speak of my state were to tell me that a person with whom I had just conversed, and whom I knew well, was not that person, but that I was deluding myself, and that they knew it, I should certainly trust them rather than my own eyes. But if that person left with me certain jewels,--and if, possessing none previously, I held the
13. See ch. xxiii. § 14.
jewels in my hand as pledges of a great love,--and if I were now rich, instead of poor as before,--I should not be able to believe this that they said, though I might wish it. These jewels I could now show them, for all who knew me saw clearly that my soul was changed,--and so my confessor said; for the difference was very great in every way--not a pretence, but such as all might most clearly observe. As I was formerly so wicked, I said, I could not believe that Satan, if he wished to deceive me and take me down to hell, would have recourse to means so adverse to his purpose as this, of rooting out my faults, implanting virtues and spiritual strength; for I saw clearly that I had become at once another person through the instrumentality of these visions.
20. My confessor, who was, as I said before, one of the fathers of the Society of Jesus, and a really holy man, answered them in the same way,--so I learnt afterwards. He was a most discreet man, and of great humility; but this great humility of his brought me into serious trouble: for, though he was a man much given to prayer, and learned, he never trusted his own judgment, because our Lord was not leading him by this way. He had, therefore, much to suffer on my account, in many ways. I knew they used to say to him that he must be on his guard against me, lest Satan should delude him through a belief in anything I might say to him. They gave instances of others who were deluded. All this distressed me. I began to be afraid I should find no one to hear my confession, and that all would avoid me. I did nothing but weep.
21. It was a providence of God that he was willing to stand by me and hear my confession. But he was so great a servant of God, that he would have exposed
14. Ch. xxiv. § 5.
15. There were in Spain, and elsewhere, many women who were hypocrites, or deluded. Among others was the prioress of Lisbon, afterwards notorious, who deceived Luis of Granada (De la Fuente).
16. Inner Fortress, vi. 1, § 4.
himself to anything for His sake. So he told me that if I did not offend God, nor swerve from the instructions he gave me, there was no fear I should be deserted by him. He encouraged me always, and quieted me. He bade me never to conceal anything from him; and I never did. He used to say that, so long as I did this, the devil, if it were the devil, could not hurt me; on the contrary, out of that evil which Satan wished to do me, our Lord would bring forth good. He laboured with all his might to make me perfect. As I was very much afraid myself, I obeyed him in everything, though imperfectly. He had much to suffer on my account during three years of trouble and more, because he heard my confession all that time; for in the great persecutions that fell upon me, and the many harsh judgments of me which our Lord permitted,--many of which I did not deserve,--everything was carried to him, and he was found fault with because of me,--he being all the while utterly blameless.
22. If he had not been so holy a man, and if our Lord had not been with him, it would have, been impossible for him to bear so much; for he had to answer those who regarded me as one going to destruction; and they would not believe what he said to them. On the other hand, he had to quiet me, and relieve me of my fears; when my fears increased, he had again to reassure me; for, after every vision which was strange to me, our Lord permitted me to remain in great fear. All this was the result of my being then, and of having been, a sinner. He used to console me out of his great compassion; and, if he had trusted to his own convictions, I should not have had so much to suffer; for God revealed the whole truth to him. I believe that he received this light from the Blessed Sacrament.
23. Those servants of God who were not satisfied had many conversations with me. As I spoke to
17. Ch. xxvi. § 5; Inner Fortress, vi. 9, § 7.
18. See ch. xxv. § 18.
them carelessly, so they misunderstood my meaning in many things. I had a great regard for one of them; for my soul owed him more than I can tell. He was a most holy man, and I felt it most acutely when I saw that he did not understand me. He had a great desire for my improvement, and hoped our Lord would enlighten me. So, then, because I spoke, as I was saying, without careful consideration, they looked upon me as deficient in humility; and when they detected any of my faults--they might have detected many--they condemned me at once. They used to put certain questions to me, which I answered simply and carelessly. Then they concluded forthwith that I wished to teach them, and that I considered myself to be a learned woman. All this was carried to my confessor,--for certainly they desired my amendment--and so he would reprimand me. This lasted some time, and I was distressed on many sides; but, with the graces which our Lord gave me, I bore it all.
24. I relate this in order that people may see what a great trial it is not to find any one who knows this way of the spirit by experience. If our Lord had not dealt so favourably with me, I know not what would have become of me. There were some things that were enough to take away my reason; and now and then I was reduced to such straits that I could do nothing but lift up my eyes to our Lord. The contradiction of good people, which a wretched woman, weak, wicked, and timid as I am, must bear with, seems to be nothing when thus described; but I, who in the course of my life passed through very great trials, found this one of the heaviest.
25. May our Lord grant that I may have pleased His Majesty a little herein; for I am sure that they pleased Him who condemned and rebuked me, and that it was all for my great good.
19. 2 Paralip. xx. 12: "Sed cum ignoremus quid agere debeamus, hoc solum habemus residui, ut oculos nostros dirigamus ad Te."
20. See ch. xxx. § 6.
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Life of St. Teresa of Jesus. Chapter 28. / Revised 1 January 2004 / © Copyright 2003-2004, Elizabeth T. Knuth / URL: http://www.users.csbsju.edu/~eknuth/teresa/life/chap28.html