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How To Know I Love God (st Teresa Of Avila)


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#1 BarbaraTherese

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 05:28 AM

 

 

Interior Castle

Chapter 3

http://www.sacred-te...r/tic/tic15.htm

 

8. I think the most certain sign that we keep these two commandments is that we have a genuine love for others. We cannot know whether we love God although there may be strong reasons for thinking so, but there can be no doubt about whether we love our neighbour or no.

            Be sure that in proportion as you advance in fraternal charity, you are increasing in your love of God, for His Majesty bears so tender an affection for us that I cannot doubt He will repay our love for others by augmenting, in a thousand different ways, that which we bear for Him. We should watch most carefully over ourselves in this matter, for if we are faultless on this point we have done all. I believe human nature is so evil that we could not feel  a perfect charity for our neighbour unless it were rooted in the love of God.

 

9. In this most important matter, sisters, we should be most vigilant in little things, taking no notice of the great works we plan during prayer which we imagine that we would perform for other people, even perhaps for the sake of saving a single soul. If our actions afterwards belie these grand schemes, there is no reason to imagine that we should do anything of the sort. I say the same of humility and the other virtues. The devil's wiles are many; he would turn hell upside down a thousand times to make us think ourselves better than we are. He has good reason for it, for such fancies are most injurious; sham virtues springing from this root are always accompanied by a vainglory never found in those of divine origin, which are free from pride.

 

10. It is amusing to see souls who, while they are at prayer, fancy they are willing to be despised and publicly insulted for the love of God, yet afterwards do all they can to hide their small defects; if any one unjustly accuses them of a fault, God deliver us from their outcries! Let those who cannot bear such things take no notice of the splendid plans they made when alone, which could have been no genuine determination of the will but only some trick of the imagination, or the results would have been very different. The devil assaults and deceives people in this way, often doing great harm to women and others too ignorant to understand the difference between the powers of the soul and the imagination, and a thousand other matters of the sort. O sisters! how easy it is to know which of you have attained to a sincere love of your neighbour, and which of you are far from it. If you knew the importance of this virtue, your only care would be to gain it.

 

11. When I see people very anxious to know what sort of prayer they practise, covering their faces and afraid to move or think lest they should lose any slight tenderness and devotion they feel, I know how little they understand how to attain union with God since they think it consists in such things as these. No, sisters, no; our Lord expects works from us.

               If you see a sick sister whom you can relieve, never fear losing your devotion; compassionate her; if she is in pain, feel for it as if it were your own and, when there is need, fast so that she may eat, not so much for her sake as because you know your Lord asks it of you. This is the true union of our will with the will of God. If some one else is well spoken of, be more pleased than if it were yourself; this is easy enough, for if you were really humble it would vex you to be praised. It is a great good to rejoice at your sister's virtues being known and to feel as sorry for the fault you see in her as if it were yours, hiding it from the sight of others.

12. I have often spoken on this subject elsewhere, because, my sisters, if we fail in this I know that all is lost: please God this may never be our case. If you possess fraternal charity, I assure you that you will certainly obtain the union I have described.

 

If you are conscious that you are wanting in this charity, although you may feel devotion and sweetness and a short absorption in the prayer of quiet (which makes you think you have attained to union with God), believe me you have not yet reached it. Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbour, and leave the rest to Him. He will give you more than you know how to desire if you constrain yourselves and strive with all your power to gain it, forcing your will as far as possible to comply in all things with your sisters' wishes although you may sometimes forfeit your own rights by so doing. Forget your self-interests for theirs, how ever much nature may rebel; when opportunity occurs take some burden upon yourself to ease your neighbour of it. Do not fancy it will cost you nothing and that you will find it all done for you: think what the love He bore for us cost our Spouse, Who to free us from death, Himself suffered the most painful death of all--the death of the Cross.



#2 nunsense

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 08:09 AM

Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to start a debate here, I'm just giving some of my thoughts.

 

While I don't disagree with what St Teresa wrote, since loving one another is definitely can be an indication that we love God, I don't believe that this criteria necessarily shows that we DO love God or that we can't know that we love God in other ways as well. The reason I say that is there are many people in the world who love and serve others, but they don't necessarily equate this with loving God. My closest friend since childhood and her doctor husband  have always been agnostic, but they both do a lot of volunteer work for the homeless and the elderly - neither of them equate this with loving God - they simply love people and care about them. They are expressing God but they don't consciously love Him.

 

And looking at it from another perspective, loving people doesn't always have to mean doing things for them in an active way. The desert fathers and mothers actually tried to get away from people (but were sought out for their wisdom and holiness) - this was not because they didn't love people or God, but because they knew they loved God first, and were answering a call from Him.

 

This kind of comes back to the old Martha and Mary thing - active vs contemplative. But here we are getting it from a saint who was a contemplative - loving God first, and then active (loving to the sisters in her community and others with whom she came in contact) - she is telling people that they can't know they love God unless they love others - but she and her nuns have already given up everything to love Him first.

 

I know that for me, in order to love others, I need to love God first, because it is He who gives me the love with which to love them  - a sort of vice versa sort of thing. So how do I know that I love God? The same way that anyone knows they love someone. They meet them and then develop a relationship and get to know them, and over time, they become aware that this person is more important to them than anything else in life, including their own life and from this understanding, one realizes that they are in love.

 

And before I get dealt the card that goes  'it isn't about feelings', it's about [insert phrase here] - I have to say that 'feelings' means different things to different people. In the book I am reading at the moment titled 'Springs of Carmel', the author explores the dominant images, metaphors and symbols that are used in Carmelite spirituality and he says that when we reflect on these...

 

'The images lead us more profoundly into our experience, and enable us to enter into the meaning of our lives. Our experience produces feelings [emphasis mine]; they reveal images; they lead to understanding and deeper appreciation of our spiritual life.'

 

I guess what I'm saying is that there is more than one way for a person to know that they love God. Simply because God made more than one of us.  :)

 


Edited by nunsense, 09 September 2013 - 08:10 AM.


#3 BarbaraTherese

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 04:39 PM

I think what St Teresa might be saying is that the fruit of Love of God is Love of neighbour.  If I Love God, then it will flow out as Love of neighbour.  This struck me very much as you state here "I know that for me, in order to love others, I need to love God first, because it is He who gives me the love with which to love them".  The intriguing thing for me was where St Teresa states "we could not feel  a perfect charity for our neighbour unless it were rooted in the love of God."  How can one know when one's love of neighbour is perfect.  I think it all probably boils down to not being overly concerned where one is in the scale of things.  This doesn't mean not striving and trying, but not worrying oneself over where exactly one might be spiritually.   This, for me, is where a sound spiritual director is a great blessings - it's his or her domain to know where I am and where I might need to grow and change.

 

 "If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother; he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not?" 1 John Ch4:20

 

I think it is probably very true that if I claim to love God and have no love for others, then something is probably amiss in my spirituality somewhere.



#4 nunsense

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 06:56 PM

I think what St Teresa might be saying is that the fruit of Love of God is Love of neighbour.  If I Love God, then it will flow out as Love of neighbour.  This struck me very much as you state here "I know that for me, in order to love others, I need to love God first, because it is He who gives me the love with which to love them".  The intriguing thing for me was where St Teresa states "we could not feel  a perfect charity for our neighbour unless it were rooted in the love of God."  How can one know when one's love of neighbour is perfect.  I think it all probably boils down to not being overly concerned where one is in the scale of things.  This doesn't mean not striving and trying, but not worrying oneself over where exactly one might be spiritually.   This, for me, is where a sound spiritual director is a great blessings - it's his or her domain to know where I am and where I might need to grow and change.

 

 "If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother; he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not?" 1 John Ch4:20

 

I think it is probably very true that if I claim to love God and have no love for others, then something is probably amiss in my spirituality somewhere.

 

I agree that is what St Teresa is saying, but you missed my point, which is that there are people who do show charity to their neighbor (whether it is 'perfect' or not is another thing) and who do not profess to believe in God let alone love Him - and some who even deny that He exists. While it is God who gives them the love with which to do their acts of charity, they do not acknowledge this source.

 

So simply doing acts of charity (love) for my neighbor - if also done by atheists and agnostics - is not how I know that I love God even though it may show that God's love is in me.

 

The title of your thread is not 'what shows that we love God' but 'how to know that I love God'.

 

Perhaps I have just misunderstood what the point of the thread is - I was reading it as 'How do I know that I love God?' as in how do I, personally, know myself, that I love God. I wasn't meaning to debate anything St Teresa said.

 

As for John the Apostle, I almost included his quote in my first reply because it is beautiful and sort of says what I mean - one can't say that they love God if they are full of hate- so when we love another, it shows that God has loved us first - given us the love with which to love them. All love comes from God. So loving others is an indication of God within us - but once again, it is not how I know that I love God, it is how I know that God loves me - He gives me love with which to love others.

 

It might seem like nitpicking but for me there is a subtle difference. Sometimes people seem to become proud of the fact that they 'love everyone' when really, it is God doing the loving, and who has given one the gift to be able to love others. God is first. Jesus mentions loving God as the first commandment, and then loving each other as the second. The reason for that is because one cannot love others unless God is doing the loving. Atheists can love and serve others without showing that they love God - actually it shows more that God is loving them, and others through them.

 

So loving others can show that we love God, but it also shows that God loves us first. Knowing  that I love God and showing that I love God are very closely intertwined, but not exactly the same thing to me. But I didn't mean to make it a debate, just a response to a question about how I know I love God. So I don't know if I misunderstood the point of the thread. If it is just about St Teresa's writing, and commenting on that, then I have taken this off track - sorry.



#5 BarbaraTherese

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 12:08 AM

I thought that your comments were quite valid and appropriate, nunsense.  






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