Teresa of Avila

The lectionary reminds us yearly of those who have “Fought the good fight” and made a Christian difference in the world as social reformers, missionaries, writers, thinkers, and prayers. Sometimes even politicians.

They range from the earliest apostles to at least the 20th century, and of course it is so often only with hindsight we realise the contributions that they have made. There are also many, many millions who never get ongoing recognition for their Christian work. (It has been good to see so many unseen heroes of the pandemic honoured in the Queen’s lists -but of course there are so many more. You may know some in Olney).

Who, I wonder, who draws up any new people to the lectionary? Are any ever left out as time goes on?

Today we are remembering Teresa of Avila, a 16th century Carmelite Nun who reformed the order, came into conflict with papal authorities, and had Godly visions. If it were just that, we would wonder why she was relevant today, but she wrote a great deal and left us with some helpful words. Here are two of her sayings:

“Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.” The peace and reassurance these words give I find very helpful. She lived in very turbulent times. All of us have times in our lives when we need that peace that Jesus alone can give us. He said, “My peace I give to you.” Patience does help too. Especially at times like these. Does it grow as we get older? I’m not sure. It can do, I think, as we constantly remind ourselves of Gods unchanging love for us.

She also wrote
“Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world.”

Its staggering that God delegates to each one of us, being, and doing the body of Christ in today’s world. Each of us has to find the way we work that out in our lives. With the help of the Holy spirit We can do it.

I didn’t know much about Teresa of Avila until I looked her up. She was a Spanish noblewoman of the 16th Century who felt called to convent life in the Catholic Church. A Carmelite nun, prominent Spanish mystic, religious reformer, author, theologian of the contemplative life and of mental prayer. A talented woman.

But I did know I have been using these sayings/prayers of hers for a long time. I am sure many of you know them. They have lasted because they can be applied at any age and in any century.

[Janet Lawrence]