My present procedure in prayer is as follows: I am seldom able while in prayer to use my intellect in a discursive way, for my soul immediately begins to grow recollected; and it remains in quiet or rapture to the extent that I cannot make any use of the senses. This recollection reaches such a point that if it were not for hearing—and this hearing does not include understanding—none of the senses would be of any avail.
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Testimony 1. In the most vigorous passages, Teresa simply asserts her certainty that her inspiration is divine, here, for example, insisting that she would not waver even before the kind of torture that was associated with the Inquisition. If when I'm in prayer or on the days in which I am quiet and my thoughts are on God, all the learned men and saints in the world were to join together and torture me with all the torments imaginable, and I wanted to believe them, I wouldn't be able to make myself believe that these things come from the devil; for I cannot.
While she persuades with sheer strength of conviction, she does not, as she will in the Life , employ the genre of Christian autobiography to make her conclusion inevitable for readers. His repetition of her claims in nearly the same words can be counted an unstated acknowledgment of the plainness of the testimony his paragraph 4 echoes Testimony 1.
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In this testimony Teresa expresses a desire to write a more complete report of her experience: "When I meet any person who. Exactly why she eventually received such a command and what had happened in the interim to permit her to take the stance of a converted narrator are not entirely known. Teresa gives conflicting versions of the source of the commands that provided her that opportunity. In a spiritual testimony written for the Inquisition in Sevilla during the investigation of her convent there, she attributes the suggestion to an Inquisitor, Francisco de Soto.
It was about thirteen years ago, a little more or less, that the Bishop of Salamanca [Soto] went there [to Avila], for he was the Inquisitor, I believe, in Toledo and had been here [in Seville]. For the sake of greater assurance she [Teresa] arranged to speak with him and gave him an account of everything. He told her this whole matter was something that didn't belong to his office because all that she saw and understood strengthened her ever [sic] more in the Catholic faith Since he saw she was so concerned, he told her that she should write to Master Avila—who was alive—a long account of everything, for he was a man who understood much about prayers and that with what he would write her, she could be at peace.
Testimony It seems unlikely that an Inquisitor, particularly when visiting the convent to investigate it, as Soto was, would have asked her to write outside the judicial context, and it seems improbable as well that he suggested that she send the Life to Juan de Avila, whose works the Inquisition had placed on the Index. While all these explanations may have some basis in fact, they come closest to the truth when taken as. For the purpose of explaining her life, Teresa takes the stance of a converted narrator, a narrator separated from the protagonist by an experience of conversion.
Religious conversion, in the definition of Arthur Darby Nock, is "the reorientation of the soul of an individual, a turning which implies a consciousness that a great change is involved, that the old was wrong, and the new is right. Chapter 9 contains narratives of two events, both placed by biographers in , that have often been interpreted as Teresa's conversion, the first relating Teresa's emotional reaction to an image of Christ in passion, the second what might now be called her reader's response to book 8 of Augustine's Confessions.
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Critics generally designate these narratives either as a two-part conversion or as a primary conversion, which has variously been taken to be either of the two, consolidated by a secondary experience. The contribution of narrative form to the phenomenology of conversion or maturation becomes apparent when we contrast St. Teresa's observation of her conflicting moments of sin and sanctity with the strict linearity of Augustine's crisis There is probably no escape from these conflicts in real life, but in literature there does seem to be a way to transform discontinuous moments into linear trajectory.
Measured against Augustine's conversion, Teresa's does lack narrative condensation, but not because the Life is less literary than the Confessions. The Life does have linear trajectory, albeit partly submerged, but it traces a conversion that differs experientially from the Augustinian. Caroline Walker Bynum explains that because of lack of control over their own lives, medieval women wrote spiritual autobiographies that avoid the sharp turns and definitive conversions characteristic of men's accounts. Men were inclined to tell stories with turning points, to use symbols of reversal and inversion Women more often used their ordinary experiences of powerlessness, of service and nurturing, of disease, etc.
Teresa's conversion in the Life , which embraces both the narratives in chapter 9 but is not resolved in either of them, evinces the intensification of prior experience that Bynum designates as feminine and articulates a resistance to the widely held belief that Augustine's religious experience was paradigmatic for all Christians.
The form a conversion takes, James explains in The Varieties of Religious Experience , "is the result of suggestion and imitation. Augustine himself enters a series of mimetic conversions with his reading of Romans 13 in the garden: he imitates the two Roman agents, who were converted by reading the Life of St. Antony , while Antony had been converted by reading the Gospel, which narrates the prototypical Christian conversion experience, Paul's confrontation with Christ on the road to Damascus Conf. In schematic outline, Augustine's conversion corresponds to Paul's: he journeys away from God; he responds to a call from God; he accepts a vocation in the Church.
As I will show in subsequent chapters, Teresa does not understand her life as following this pattern. She considers her lack of vocation not a result of her refusal to serve but rather of the Church's rejection of her efforts. Not surprisingly, then, she construes her conversion differently, taking a female object for imitation, not Augustine but Mary Magdalene.
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Teresa's narrative of her reaction to an image of Christ, which nuns identified in the canonization hearings as a painting that included the figure of Mary Magdalene rather than as the statue Teresa mentions here, represents a decisive experience, though not one with the closure of Augustine's conversion. Well, my soul now was tired; and, in spite of its desire, my wretched habits would not allow it rest. It happened to me that one day entering the oratory I saw a statue they had borrowed for a certain feast to be celebrated in the house. It represented the much wounded Christ and was very devotional so that beholding it I was utterly distressed in seeing Him that way, for it well represented what He suffered for us.
I felt so keenly aware of how poorly I thanked Him for those wounds that, it seems to me, my heart broke. Beseeching Him to strengthen me once and for all that I might not offend Him, I threw myself down before Him with the greatest outpouring of tears. I was very devoted to the glorious Magdalene and frequently thought about her conversion, especially when I received Communion. For since I knew the Lord was certainly present there within me, I, thinking that He would not despise my tears, placed myself at His feet.
And I didn't know what I was saying [He did a great deal who allowed me to shed them for Him, since I so quickly forgot that sentiment ; and I commended myself to this glorious saint that she might obtain pardon for me. But in this latter instance with this statue I am speaking of, it seems to me I profited more, for I was very distrustful of myself and placed all my trust in God.
I think I then said that I would. I believe certainly this was beneficial to me, because from that time I went on improving. Life 9. The episode relates the kind of deepening of prior experience that Bynum considers typically feminine. Through repeated use of the imperfect tense, which indicates habitual action in the past, Teresa emphasizes that she had repeatedly taken the same postures: she used to think of the Magdalene's conversion; she often knelt before Christ; she frequently commended herself to Mary Magdalene.
On previous occasions she had not been able fully to identify with Mary Magdalene, however, because the "hardness of her heart" prevented her from weeping along with the Magdalene. Contrary to Freccero's estimate that she has not transformed her experience into linear trajectory, she does give singular importance to the events of this particular day, distinguishing them with verbs in the preterite tense to indicate a single action in the past.
This time, she felt sympathy with His suffering, and taking the posture of Mary Magdalene, she threw herself at His feet. This breakthrough of emotion moves her to make an unprecedented request to Christ for help, the action to which she traces the beginning of her spiritual renewal: "from that time I went on improving. With the first episode of chapter 9 read as an initiatory gesture toward conversion, the second, her reading of Augustine's Confessions , can be seen as a premature attempt to conclude the experience of conversion.
Although Teresa expresses the desire to imitate Augustine's conversion and Paul's, her experience differs from theirs in crucial ways. At this time they gave me the Confessions of St.
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It seems the Lord ordained this, because I had not tried to procure a copy, nor had I ever seen one As I began to read the Confessions , it seemed to me I saw myself in them. I began to commend myself very much to this glorious saint. When I came to the passage where he speaks about his conversion and read how he heard that voice in the garden, it only seemed to me, according to what I felt in my heart, that it was I the Lord called.
I remained for a long time totally dissolved in tears and feeling within myself utter distress and weariness. While Paul and Augustine are portrayed as hearing sounds from external sources, Paul's words from Christ audible to his traveling companions in one account Acts and Augustine's voices of children calling " Tolle, lege " presumably also heard by others, Teresa hears interior words spoken by God to her alone, and then she asserts only that she seemed to hear them, not that she actually heard them.
Teresa's account of reading Augustine does adumbrate the experience that eventually culminates the prior experience.
In straining to hear interior words from God, Teresa indicates that her conversion awaits a reply to her request. Teresa relates that the first words God spoke to her in rapture, "No longer do I want you to converse with men but with angels" Life To explain the significance Teresa gives to Mary Magdalene and the other New Testament women she uses as prototypical figures for herself, in chapter 2 I define the hermeneutic Teresa applied to Scripture and describe some of the interpretations she derived.
When Teresa explains at the end of the Book of Her Life that she has given order to her disorderly life Life The figural reading of a life rests on scriptural typology, an essentially allegorical hermeneutic that, as Auerbach defines it in "Figura," "establishes a connection between two events or persons, the first of which signifies not only itself but also the second, while the second encompasses or fulfills the first.
The Old Testament, according to this mode of interpretation, not only refers to the history of the Jewish people but also forecasts the history of the Christian people narrated in the New Testament; similarly, the New Testament anticipates the eternal salvation to be afforded by God's grace at the Last Judgment; and in that all events narrated promise deliverance from sin for every Christian, they signify individual history.
Scholastic theologians labeled these layers of salvation history according to the mode of reading that produces knowledge of them: the literal, which narrates historical events; the allegorical, which refers to the Christian Church or defines its doctrine; the tropological, which promises individual salvation; the anagogical, which prophesies the events of the Last Judgment and the fate of souls after death.
In these standard hermeneutic terms, Teresa's figural ordering of her life required making an analogy between salvation history as a whole, which the allegorical and anagogical senses provide, and her individual history, which the tropological sense of Scripture designates. The impasse Teresa encountered in making this analogy with the Scholastics' tools of Scriptural typology, that is, the disjuncture between the allegorical sense as interpreted by her Church and the tropological sense as she understood it, caused her to revise that hermeneutic.
Teresa's readings of the Song of Songs and the New Testament imply a hermeneutic that may be considered feminine and feminist. She deployed this hermeneutic to buttress her argument that the Church's confinement of a woman's history in this life to spiritual experience alone denies her the possibility of fulfilling her moral obligation to perfect human society in preparation for the Last Judgment.
The restoration of wholeness to her artificially truncated life, she maintains, depends on divine intervention, or mystical experience. Augustine's Confessions demonstrates that Christian conversion, hence the writing of Christian spiritual autobiography, depends on typological interpretation of Scripture, specifically, on tropological reading.
As a young man, Augustine could not read Scripture at all. Measured against the classical criterion of beauty, Scripture seemed rustic, even barbaric, to Augustine: "To me [the Scriptures] seemed quite unworthy of comparison with the stately prose of Cicero" Conf. Augustine does more than express an aesthetic preference here: he rejects the Incarnation, the event that produced the incongruity of testaments that requires different readings for each, the letter of the Old Testament and the spirit of the New Testament.
I was glad that at last I had been shown how to interpret the ancient Scriptures of the law and the prophets in a different light from that which had previously made them seem absurd, when I used to criticize your saints for holding beliefs which they had never really held at all.
I was pleased to hear that in his sermons. And when he lifted the veil of mystery and disclosed the spiritual meaning of texts which, taken literally, appeared to contain the most unlikely doctrines, I was not aggrieved by what he said. Augustine finally comprehends that typology is the appropriate hermeneutic for Scripture, but still he does not read it typologically himself.
When he admits soon afterward, "I did not yet know whether it was true" Conf. Augustine takes the first step toward knowing "what to believe" when he accepts on faith even the parts of Roman Catholic doctrine he finds improbable Conf.
Augustine reads tropologically for the first time when he picks up Paul's epistles in the garden. The impact this reading makes on Augustine illustrates the difference between the simple moral sense, which is closely related to the literal, and the tropological sense. Augustine's reading of the verses that end with the injunction, "spend no more thought on nature and nature's appetites," provides more than an understanding of the value of continence, which he might have gleaned from a literal reading of Romans. Rather, in this verse that addresses his most immediate concern, the struggle for chastity, Augustine for the first time recognizes that his life is inscribed in Scripture.