August 26th, Carmelites around the world celebrate the feast of the Transverberation of St. Teresa of Avila, Virgin, and Reformer of the Carmelite Order. The transverberation is a mystical grace wherein the Saint’s heart was pierced with a “dart of love” by an angel. St. John of the Cross, “It will happen that while the soul is inflamed with the Love of God, it will feel that a seraph is assailing it by means of an arrow or dart which is all afire with love. And the seraph pierces and in an instant cauterizes this soul, which, like a red-hot coal, or better a flame, is already enkindled. The soul is converted into an immense fire of Love. Few persons have reached these heights.”
Saint Teresa died in 1582 after proclaiming that she was “a daughter of the Church”. Her body was buried in a wooden coffin. After nine months it was exhumed and to everyone’s amazement, though her clothes were decaying, her body was incorrupt. While the Carmelite nuns reclothed her a delightful perfume spread throughout the monastery. Later, her heart was removed to be enclosed in a crystal vessel and placed in a jeweled silver reliquary. When this was being done they beheld a glorious and wonderful sight: a wound from the angel’s dart was visible! It can still be seen today at the Carmelite Monastery of Alba de Tormes in Spain. Her heart has kept it’s color and since the nineteenth century three sharp thorns are visible at the base of the heart.
In the Liturgy for the feast, the hymn for Evening Prayer is as follows:
Mild messenger of heaven’s high King,
Forth from home’s sheltering walls you set:
‘Christ to the Pagan’s land I’ll bring
Or die a martyr!’ – Ah, not yet: (as a child she set out on foot for Africa, being impatient to see God. She wanted to die a martyr at the hands of the Moors. Fortunately, her Uncle found her and brought her home.)
A sweeter pain, a death more dear
Must win for you a wider fame;
No mortal hand’s to wield the spear
That kindles your consuming flame.
Victim of God’s unbounded Love,
Let our heart’s burn with like desire;
Lead all your retinue above
That none may taste eternal fire.
Jesu, celestial choirs adore
You, Bridegroom of all virgins pure,
And wedding-songs unceasing pour
While endless ages shall endure.
Recommended reading: The Life of St Teresa by Herself, The Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, and The Collected Letters of St. Teresa of Avila. All of these can be purchased at the Institute for Carmelite Studies (for books http://www.icspublications.org/ and for audio http://www.carmelclarion.com/)
Jesus, You want your Spirit of Love to blaze like fire throughout the world; may we, like Saint Teresa, be instrumental in keeping that flame of love alight.
You sanctify Your friends and reveal to them the mysteries of Your heart; unite our hearts to yours in a friendship so close and intimate that we may experience the secrets of Your Love, proclaim it to others, and win them to you.
You blessed the pure of heart and promised that they would see You; purify our sight so that we may see you in all things, and through all things be close to You.
You oppose the proud and give wisdom to the simple; make us humble of heart, so that we may receive Your wisdom for the sake of the Church. ~ Intercessions from the Carmelite Proper of the Liturgy of the Hours