Solemnity of our Holy Mother
Wis 7, 7-14
Jn 7, 14-18.37-39
The man and the woman of our post modern society dissatisfied with the potentialities and possibilities of the reason, the technique, the progress and the social changes, are under the risk of losing all their experiences and are closed themselves in their mean horizons and individualisms, searching the pleasures in their actual moments, nothing more. The postmodernity accepts the world in which one lives without any expectations and hopes to improve it. There is the intense longing above all the experiences, over the ideas and concepts, but man seeks the liberation and the personal realisation. For this reason, today more than ever, man turns back and looks the directions of the mystics and the witnesses of the truth that can help man to encounter better himself and the humanity, opened to the great utopia of the kingdom of God. The biblical readings of the solemnity of st.Teresa of Jesus, the Doctor of the Church, orient us in this double slope which characterised her spiritual path through which the man and the woman of today can also do the synthesis, between the experiences of the daily values and the ultimate ideas and strong points, between the nobility of man and the plenitude of God: The gift of wisdom and the action of the spirit of God.
The first reading (Wis 7: 7-14) presents wisdom as the fruit of the prayer (Wis 7:7 I prayed and understanding was given me, I called upon God, the spirit of wisdom came to me) as the way of happiness and the communion with God (Wis 7:11 All the good things came to me along with her, Wis 7: 14 those who get it obtain friendship with God) and as the richness directed to be distributed without measure (Wis 7:13 I learned without guile and impart without grudging; I do not hide her wealth, for it is an unfailing treasure for men). This text speaks fictitiously, Solomon, who is endowed with wisdom as the summit and model of the wise man. It refers to the known episode of Gibeon, where he implored the Lord the wisdom to govern. The wisdom, in the biblical sense, is not a heap of knowledge. It doesn't have as the object to know the things or concepts but knowing to live and to lead himself according to the real values and principles of being human. It is experience, it is life. It is the capacity to orient the existence according to the will of God in everything and always. Therefore, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov.1:7).
Teresa of Jesus received as a gift the wisdom of the experience of God, a wisdom that is abundant and splendid. She herself affirms with reason; “I believe there are a few who have arrived at the experience of so many things” (Life 40,8). An experience that is gratuities and surprising that places one beyond the field of the personal merits, at such moment she can affirm that “within only twenty seven years in which I have practised prayer His majesty has given me the experience along with my walking amid so many stumbling blocks and so poorly on this path that for others took forty-seven years or twenty seven years, they journeyed in penance and always in virtue” (Life 10,9). The Teresian experience goes beyond the indifferent conceptualisations and doesn't identify it with the sensation and psychological tastes. It is a “knowledge” that enters in the depth of the being, transforming and modelling all the existence of the man, because a thing is to have "information" about God and another thing very much distinct, is to experience it in His love. For this reason Teresa, mistress of the wisdom, affirms; “As often we think of Christ we should recall the love with which He bestowed on us so many favours and what great love God showed us in giving us a pledge like this of His love, for love begets love... if at same time the Lord should favour us by impressing this love as our hearts, all will because easy for us, and one shall easy out our tasks quickly and without much effort” (Life 22,14). It is the true wisdom: a knowledge that gives flavour to the life and that places the roots in the personal experience of the love of God. A wisdom that gives support to the all existence, helping us to face the obscure moments of the life and pushing us to walk with theological spirit.
The second reading (Rom.8,14-17,26-27) puts before us some verses of the chapter 8 of the letter to the Romans, where Paul makes explicit reference to the action of the Spirit in the prayer. For Paul, the Spirit is the paschal gift parexcelence that makes possible the new life of the Risen Lord in the life of the believers. In the past the pillar of fire and cloud was guiding Israel in the desert; now it is the Spirit of God who is the guide of the Christian in his ways of the history, until the plenitude of the heritage shared with Christ. Meanwhile, the Spirit permits in us the attitude and the proper prayer of Jesus, who was calling God “Abba”, which means “Father” (cf. Mc.14,36a; Gal.4,6).The word Abba belongs to the familiar expression of the child, as our term "papa". The Christian faith has interpreted the invocation Abba of Jesus as the expression of his intimate communion with God and of His outstanding awareness of the Sonship. One can stand before the Father accepting the word of Jesus, and he can enter and live this new relation and call God with the term “Abba”, just as Jesus expresses with the initial invocation of the Our Father teaching how to pray his disciples.
The last verses speak of “the indescribable groaning of the spirit” (vv 26-27). The anxiety of the birth of new creation and of the new man is united to the passionate and eager desire of the Spirit in our hearts. The Spirit of God is presented as an efficacious and peaceful mediator. The man, as a little child who not yet knows to speak properly, is not able to form his more profound desire with the relation to the radical renovation to this world. The Spirit recommends to do it, converting itself not only in principle and dynamism of the action of the believers, but of his proper prayer; the Spirit does the perfect petition in our hearts, the real prayer that does not recognise the weakness of our human condition that “for we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom.8, 26). The spirit comes back thus and intercedes the prayer of the believers. Of the real prayer, that which is sustained by the prayer of God and that leads “God who searches the heart of man, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom.8, 27). How many prayers are useless and inefficacious because they are not the fruit of the Spirit, neither they are in accordance with the saving plan of God! The Pauline text is a real invitation to live and pray “in the Spirit”, that is, with the interior harmony with the Spirit of God, “who helps us in our weakness” (Rom.8,26) and “who searches everything, even the depths of God” (1Cor.2, 10).
The experience of Teresa of Jesus is an experience of docility to the ways and motions of the Spirit. She knows that “Lord leads us all in different roads” (Found.18, 6;cf.17, 2) and therefore advises those who have to lead others, “A prioress must not think that she can understand immediately souls, let her leave this to God, who alone can understand them, and let her try to guide each soul in the way by which His majesty is leading it” (Found.18, 9 ). It is the authentic spiritual life; to leave oneself to be led by the Spirit. And it requires sincere prayer, capacity to listen to God and to others, humility and high contemplative vision of the life. But above all Teresa is the great evangelist of prayer. As Paul invites to pray in the Spirit, Teresa also exhorts; “whoever has not begun the practice of prayer, I beg for the love of the Lord not to go without so great a good” (Life 8,5). She has defined prayer as “nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends, it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us” (Life 8,5). She is convinced that “prayer is the door to favours as great as those He granted me”. And she adds,” if the door is closed, I don't know how he will grant them forever though He may desire to enter and take delight in us” (Life 8,9). “Open the door" is the expression in which Teresa asserts the prayer in the Spirit. It means to adopt a receptive, welcoming and open attitude by which we manifest our will to receive a person who hopes and who is there. In the relative terms, it means to welcome the love and to respond to the presence with a gesture of communion. Therefore, the great gospel of the Teresian prayer can be summed up in this sentence, "I can deal as with friend, even though He is the Lord” (Life 37,5).
The gospel (Jn 7,14-18,37-39) can be divided into two parts, each of them with the proper theme; (a) (vv14-18) the mysterious origin of the teaching of Jesus. (b) (vv37-39) the promise of the Spirit as the stream of living water in the heart of the believer.
(a) The mysterious origin of the teaching of Jesus—. The words of Jesus make his hearers, Jews, astonished. Who has appointed him master in Israel? With which authority he teaches in the temple of Jews? No one should forget that the right of teaching is conferred to as disciple by the master and the school where he should have studied. Jesus, on the contrary, had not followed any rabbinical school; neither he had been trained academically in the traditional technique of the interpretation of the Scripture. To the enemies of Jesus, he was not possessing any right to exercise anything as master. The response of Jesus, however, is clear: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me; Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own” (Jn 7,17). The doctrine of Jesus, His word and He himself as Word, is the ultimate and definitive revelation of God. The authority of Jesus is based on two aspects which are closely related to one another. One is historic of the objective character: the word of Jesus reveals and makes present to the Father (v 17); the other is personal of the subjective character: Jesus does not seek his own glory but of the One who sent Him.
The Teresian doctrine is also not based on academic knowledge as the result of research and rationalisation. Teresa teaches from her life. In the beginning of the Way of Perfection she affirms it as the fundamental premise of her magisterium: “I will not say anything what I have not experienced myself or seen in others” (Pr. 3). She is very conscious while speaking the realities, which are spread by ways, and experiences that reveal and lead to the mystery of God. In the beginning of the fifth mansion she confesses: “ I think it would be better to say nothing”, even though she is docile in leaving her spirit and pen to the actions of the Holy Spirit. “Send light from heaven, my Lord, that I might be able to enlighten those your servants – for you have been pleased that some of them ordinarily enjoy those delights” (5 Man 1,1).
(b) The promise of the Spirit—. verses (37-39) are at the same time a promise and an invitation. During the festival of booths Jesus announces solemnly the gift of the Holy Spirit (V.39). “If any one is thirsty let him come to me and drink! He who believes in me, as the scripture says, out of the believers heart shall flow rivers of living water” (V.37-38). The word “womb” (Greek: koilia) is synonymous of “heart”, that is to say, the place of emotions, thoughts and decisions and the more intimate core of man. The water is the imagine of the living law which was proclaimed and might have been impressed in our hearts on the day of the alliance. Jesus presents Himself as the one who realises the promise. The water is also the symbol of the Spirit that is poured to the end of the times. Jesus infuses the Spirit after the pasqua, the spirit of truth makes abode in the believer, the Councillor who animates the interior experience, the witness of the disciples and that He leads them to the final Truth, living always the efficacious and actual word of Jesus (Jn 16, 7-10, Jn 14, 26). The believers will receive the spirit of the Son becoming themselves the sons before the Father.
The symbolism of the water, which the gospel applies to the spirit, is frequent in the works of the Saint to refer to the prayer. All the ways of prayer, she explains, are the different forms of watering the garden. The gift of the contemplation is “water of life” (WP 21,3) and the first practices of meditation are nothing more than "fetching water from the well” (Life 11,9). The praying one who is trying to “water the garden” must base his prayer in the conviction that “doing so serves and gives pleasures to the Lord of garden” and “who knows that this pleases the Lord and his intention must be not to please himself but to please the Lord” (Life 11,10). This instruction is clear, theological and decisive. The prayer of friendship helps the Christian to determine and he identifies himself with the following of Jesus.