Backpack with Teresa
Since Teresa of Avila is from the upper class of 16th century Spain, her life and spirituality the understanding of God greatly influenced its local context. In its most famous work, Inner castle, begins with what might seem like a surprising description of the exterior of the castle as “dirty, dark, and infested with frogs, hops, and other poisonous creatures.” In the context of its 16th century, living in the fenced city of Avila and no less in a cloister, being outside and exposed to the natural world could be a dangerous and undesirable endeavor. Her masterpiece then describes how the soul draws closer to God as it reaches the palaces that are successively closer to the center of the castle.
To many of us, who today so often feel trapped indoors, and who often use weekends to flee cities and rush out into the open, the idea of retreating inside to find God might seem less appealing. I wonder, then, whether we can venerate St. Teresa on her feast by extending our vision of God to the outside world and imagine the soul’s journey to a spiritual pilgrimage on a backpack trip?
I began to think of the soul as if it were a mountain range, in which there were many mountains with peaks, just as there are many beautiful places to rest in the sky. I can’t find anything to compare the great beauty of the soul with its great ability – so there is no point in getting tired of trying to understand the beauty of this mountain range, because we will no doubt succeed.
Many souls remain in the valleys below; they are not interested in hiking and have no idea what they are missing. We will not say these again; think of those souls who eventually set out to discover the mountains. Often these potential mountaineers are still very preoccupied with worldly affairs and think of the beauty of the mountains only a few times a month. Eventually they break into the foothills, but so many life technologies and distractions are still available to them that they cannot appreciate the beauty of the created world around them.
Those interested in further movement must not think of these mountains lined up in a row, one after the other, but direct your attention to the center, a peak above all other peaks that brings you closer to experiencing the vastness of God’s creation. Imagine a spiral staircase that you can go around many times before you reach the very top. Regarding these first mountain peaks I can give you some very useful information from my own experience.
I must tell you, for example, to think of them as crossing them not just a few paths, but a very large number. There are many ways in which souls enter them, always with good intentions; but as the devil’s intentions are always very bad, there are many legions of evil spirits on every trail to prevent souls from continuing their journey: ghosts like bone pain, forgetting necessary equipment, or many worries and worries of worldly lives that prevent us from devoting more of our time expedition. The devil is less successful with those who are closer to the highest peak; but at this early stage there are many who have no hope or intention of doing so to the end, who are easily defeated by the constant upward trajectory of the trajectory.
You must keep in mind that the astonishing views and glory of God’s creation, so easily experienced at the highest peak, do not appear at all at these lowest peaks; because although they are not hard and gray, urban full of everyday distractions, like when the soul is trapped indoors and in the city, they are to some extent infected with the horror of digital interference, because there are so many bad things – cell phones and smart watches and scientifically formulated energy snacks wrapped in plastic — which came with the soul and prevented it from seeing the glory of God’s creation.
I will stop at this point, to admit that I must not take metaphors too seriously, as well as that the metaphor is appropriate enough that it could take much longer than I have the space or time to write. I am grateful to translator E. Allison Peers Inner castle, from which I drew horribly excerpts from the book, changing them where appropriate to the exercise. And I am grateful to you, dear reader, for coming with me on this journey. If we all remember the day of St. Theresa of Avila, the pioneer of taking our local context and permeating its deep spirituality and serious search for God, and continue to do the same in our lives.