Book Chapter: Teresa of Avila’s Evolving Practices of ‘Representing’ Christ in Prayer by Mary Frohlich

Appearing in Meditation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Cultural Histories, a volume of essays edited by Halvor Eifring (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), Mary Frohlich’s essay describes the various forms of prayer found in Teresa’s writings and how Teresa eventually developed “a far more holistic and integrated understanding of the life of prayer.” Here’s an excerpt from the essay’s first section:

. . . Teresa limits [the term meditation] to active, linear, intellectual reflection on the teachings and ‘mysteries’ of her religious faith. Although she recommends it as a necessary practice for beginners and even at times for the more advanced, she strongly emphasizes that it is superficial in relation to the forms of prayer that she is most interested in teaching.

Teresa’s term for the entire range of spiritual practices is ‘prayer’ (oración). Prayer may be vocal, mental or contemplative, discursive, imagistic or with all faculties ‘suspended’; petitionary, laudatory, devotional or mystical, to name only a few of the elements that she distinguishes. Prayer for Teresa is also a state of being, for she frequently uses the phrase ‘in prayer’ (en oración) to refer to a state within which various experiences occur. The remainder of this chapter will examine in detail what she teaches about the state and practice of prayer.

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