October 14, 2015

God's Light and Proportion according to Saint Teresa

"The light God grants you from time to time concerning spiritual joys is a special mercy. His Majesty comforts us in proportion to our trials. Since yours are great, so are His favors."
Saint Teresa of Avila, November 1576.

Father Gracian, to whom Saint Teresa addressed the words above, was a competent and industrious leader. But Teresa wants him to focus on divine mercy, divine love implicated with us in our plight. God gives “light" when we face difficult challenges in His service. Concerned that we persevere when circumstances seem impossible to bear, she knows that the Lord gives us ground to stand on. Everything else in our lives may be completely shaken, but He remains, ever more steadfast for us. Saint Teresa observes that the Lord “comforts us in proportion to our trials.”

We can take this proportion of comfort in trial in two ways.  On one hand, there is a sense of consolation that comes from being productive for the Lord even when we are faced with opposition or difficult circumstances.  Father Gracian was probably familiar with this grace -- even as opposition to the reform grew, God continued to do great things through him. The day would come however when all his achievements for the reform would seem undone, even wasted.

We can also consider this “proportion” in terms of our awareness of God’s presence. While all things are passing God never changes. He is always coming to us in wonderful new ways by grace.  Saint Teresa would probably propose this second kind of consolation as the most important.

God never comes in the way we expect Him -- He exceeds all expectations. Never passive or aloof, He is always active and personally implicated in our concerns.  When darkness seems to prevail, with dawning brightness, He purifies and expands the soul, opening up new horizons in our hearts, and this with even greater delicacy and power the more intense and frequent our trials.

Without faith, such divine brightness remains unseen. His light exceeds our natural powers, overshadowing them in glory. When, however, we seek His presence dwelling in our hearts and choose to live by His love, He uses all kinds of trails and difficulties only to take us ever deeper into the dwelling He has prepared for us.

This mysterious “light” and this sacred “proportion” help us discover the wonder of our Almighty Father. He waits for us at the intersection of human suffering and divine love -- the mystery of the Cross. He is not limited by what is easiest and most comfortable.  He does not confine Himself to the most convenient or successful.  Within the limits of human frailties and needs, lowliness and simplicity, humility and reverence, Saint Teresa knows that His paternal tenderness in limitless glory abides.