09 Prayer of St Teresa of Avila: “Give me water” - Fr Paul D’Souza OCD

posted Oct 10, 2018, 11:06 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Oct 10, 2018, 11:06 AM ]
Teresa is said to have had, in her home in Avila, a large wall-picture depicting Jesus waiting by the well of Jacob, and the Samaritan woman approaching with a pail to draw water. At the bottom of the picture was the inscription: Da mihiaquam. (Give me the water). Teresa made that prayer her own.

Apparently in answer to her prayer, she received the vocation to Carmel, an order especially dedicated to prayer. Even before Teresa joined the Carmelites, there had been in the Order those who had been attracted to Psalm 62 and written commentaries on it: "O God, You are my God, for You I long; for You, my soul is thirsting." They emphasised the contemplative nature of the Carmelite charism.

Soon after her religious profession, the Lord gave Teresa the taste of mystical prayer. Tears of joy welled up in her eyes in gratitude for her vocation. Not much later, she experienced the gifts of initial contemplation. Somehow, as she tells us in her autobiography, she became entangled in human attachments that became an obstacle to growth in divine friendship.

A close analysis of her psychology, as revealed especially in her own writings, may reveal the depth of her affectivity. While being introspective, she was also an extrovert, attracted by beautiful pictures, impressed by handsome forms, drawn towards elegant shapes and figures. It is not impossible that (had she not met Jesus) she might have gone the way of the Samaritan woman pictured on that wall. Her very temperament seems to have contained similar genes.

The Lord heard her prayer for water. So He drew her to a contemplative way of life, and granted her some taste of that water soon after her profession. In spite of that, Teresa became attached to certain persons whose companionship began to absorb her attention and affection.

"…I thus began to go from pastime to pastime, from vanity to vanity, from one occasion to another... I was then ashamed to return to the search of God in a friendship as special as is that of prayer." Ashamed to pray! Teresa felt ashamed to pray! Today, she is a doctor of the Church! Yes, there are people who feel ashamed to pray. Simon Peter, when he saw the miracle of the multiplication of the fish, threw himself at the feet of Jesus, exclaiming: "Depart from me, O Lord; I am a sinful man."

Teresa's father's spiritual director counselled her not to give up prayer. Rather, give up the attachments that make her ashamed to pray. The turning point came one day in Lent, when entering the oratory, her eyes fell on a representation of Jesus bound at the column. There and then, she fell prostrate, repenting with many tears, and did not rise again till her mind was made up to snap every attachment displeasing to God, Who had been waiting for her total surrender, in order to rain down His favours upon her.

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