My long-time blogger bestie Claudia Mair Burney has just published her first non-fiction work for Paraclete Press. Titled God Alone is Enough, a Spirited Journey with St. Teresa of Avila - it is such a joy to hold the work of my dear friend in my hands. We have read each others words for more years than I can count and watching her journey has been a true joy.
I am the ninth step on a blog tour through the book and was asked to blog on Chapter nine - Ecstasy is Not a Drug - an appropriate chapter for a "redemption junkie" :)
Before talking about Chapter 9, I want to explain the book to those who aren't following the tour.
Claudia makes Theresa's writings so accessible. It is a beautiful primer for the saint(s) - and a beautiful introduction to centering prayer. It is fun, funny and filled with the reality of both the author's and the saint's struggles and joys. The only criticism I might make is that the cover shows a prim and proper woman in prayer - it belies the very nature of this book. If this book was my neighbor I wouldn't have to clean my kitchen, or even get out of my pj's before I invited her over for tea. It is as real as it is lively - just like my friend Mair.
I think a more "Rosie the Riveter" kind of sister on the cover would have been a more accurate visual representation of the sense of the book. Don't get me wrong - it is a beautiful cover - I just am such a visual person that I do unfortunately, at times, judge by said cover. Okay, on to chapter 9...
If anyone is at all familiar with St. Theresa and her Interior Castle you will know of her ecstasy.Theresa opines that there are four stages of prayer that the learner passes through. She uses the metaphor of watering a garden to explain:
"Now let's see how we need to water the garden, so we'll understand what we have to do, how much the labor will cost us, if the time and work we put into it is worth it, and how long it will last. Our garden can be watered in four ways: We can draw water from a well, which is a lot of work. Or you can get the water by turning the crank of a waterwheel and drawing it through an aqueducts. I've tried this myself and know it's not as much trouble to do as the first way. And you get more water.
Or you can channel the water from the flow of a river or stream. The garden is watered much better this way because the ground is saturated and you don't have to water it as frequently. This is a lot less work for the gardener.
Or the water may come from an abundant rain pouring on the soul; the Lord waters the garden himself, without any work on our part. This is by far the best method of all." (pg. 43, 44)
Chapter 9 is focusing on that fourth level of centering prayer - when God sends the rain - Theresa calls it "that sacred kiss" - this is the intimacy of the ecstasy with God that very few, myself included have ever experienced. Theresa explains, "The soul detaches itself from everything, daughter, so it can abide more fully in me. It is no longer the soul that lives but I. Since it is not capable of comprehending what it understands, there is an understanding by not understanding."
The holy longing for that level of intimacy with God - where our soul is joined with God has been lost to most of the church these days. We spend our time hauling water and building aqueducts instead of praying for rain. Centering prayer is a lost art form to the evangelical church and we are poorer for its lack.
This is a book I will be passing on to my daughter and one I'd use regularly with teen girls to teach on centering prayer. Thank you Mair, both for the book and for venturing into non-fiction. I adore your story and look forward to one day holding THAT book in my hands.