Feb 15 2013

Teresa of Avila – On Those Words “I am for My Beloved”

Published by at 9:45 am under Poetry

On Those Words “I am for My Beloved”
by Teresa of Avila

English version by Megan Don

Already I gave myself completely,
and have changed in such a way
That my Beloved is for me
and I am for my Beloved.

When the gentle hunter shot me
and left me in all my weakness,
in the arms of love
my soul fell
and being charged with new life
I have changed in such a way
That My Beloved is for me
and I am for my Beloved.

He pierced me with an arrow
laced with the herbs of love
and my soul became one
with her Creator;
I no longer want another love,
since I have given myself to my God,
That My Beloved is for me
and I am for my Beloved.

/ Photo by stevekc /

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and we are also in the season of Lent. I thought this meditation on love and the soul’s yielding to the Beloved was just right.

I was sent this poem directly by the translator, Megan Don. She is the author of Falling Into the Arms of God: Meditations with Teresa of Avila — a truly beautiful collection of contemplations inspired by the writings of Teresa of Avila.

According to Megan Don, this poem by Teresa of Avila was written about her well-known mystical experience of feeling her heart being pierced with a rapturous love by an angel. This mystical experience also inspired the great Bernini to sculpt the controversial mystically erotic sculpture of Teresa.

A few of my own thoughts:

Saints and mystics the world over speak of the heart being touched, pierced, opened. They speak of being surprised by love. The problem is, we hear the world “love” and “heart” and we think of the simple sweetness of Valentine’s Day cards. We aren’t encouraged to develop a real concept of what these great souls are attempting to describe.

When the mind settles and the soul waits in courageously vulnerable readiness, the most amazing thing happens: the heart blooms. The heart opens and expands. Effortlessly, the heart reaches out, with a wider span than you ever imagined possible, embracing all of creation. We become flooded with something beyond feeling or emotion; there is a sense of finally recognizing one’s very nature within the heart. That this is home. That this is the seat of your being.

When focused inward, you are enraptured, filled with bliss. When focused outward, you are an embodiment of love, love that permeates everything. We begin to feel so much more, all the world’s suffering and searching and occasional surges of life, and it is all beautiful and somehow a part of us.

Think about these things. Consider what it means to have your heart truly “pierced” by the Divine. How do we prepare ourselves? How can we, in full honesty, say, “I gave myself completely,” and “I am for my Beloved”? What is the weakness or vulnerability that the “gentle hunter” leaves us in? What does it mean to be “changed with new life”? The big question: What is the real experience that allows you to say, “my soul became one / with her Creator”?

Have a beautiful Valentine’s Day afterglow, fully at rest, fully alive in the heart.

Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Avila poetry, Christian poetry Teresa of Avila

Spain (1515 – 1582) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

Teresa de Jesus, more popularly known as Teresa of Avila, lived in a time of turmoil and religious reform. She was a nun in Catholic Spain during the immediate aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, when Spain saw itself as the most secure bastion of traditional Catholic faith and practice.

She was a strong and inspired leader, in a time and place when women were relegated to more passive roles. And she was a deep mystic, who was sometimes seen to levitate slightly off the ground, and her face illuminated.

Teresa entered the Carmelite order of nuns against the wishes of her father. She formed and headed the “discalced” movement within the Carmelite order, a movement that advocated simplicity, humility, and the spiritual life over the increasingly worldly and sometimes corrupt practices that dominated many other communities of monks and nuns. Through the Discalced Carmelite movement, she founded several monasteries. These activities led her into a world of politics, legal battles, letter campaigns, and long periods of exhausting travel.

Like Francis of Assisi, Teresa also suffered from a series of debilitating illnesses and injuries, often made even worse by the treatments of the time. Later in life, for example, she fell down a flight of stairs and broke her arm. It was poorly set and limited her movement. Someone had to rebreak her arm in order to reset it, but an even worse job was done, leaving her essentially crippled and needing aid for such simple things as dressing herself.

Obedience was one of the virtues Teresa particularly extolled. Politically, this was significant at a time when the Catholic world was being challenged by the Protestant reformation, and when many mystical movements within the Catholic church narrowly escaped the label of heresy. Yet obedience, for her and for monastics throughout the centuries, has the spiritual value of freeing the individual from self-will and the trap of ego. In other words, when practiced with intelligent caution, obedience can be understood as a technique that opens the heart and the awareness.

Despite her physical sufferings and the challenges of her foundational work within the Catholic church, she remained supremely dedicated to the mystical life. She shared a close spiritual connection with John of the Cross, her younger contemporary, and was in some ways a mentor to that great poet and mystic.

Teresa of Avila wrote poetry, many letters, histories of her work in establishing monastic foundations, but it is her book on the path of prayer, The Way of Perfection, and her spiritual autobiography, The Interior Castle, that are most widely read and considered her masterpieces.

More poetry by Teresa of Avila

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Teresa of Avila – On Those Words “I am for My Beloved””

  1. jimon 15 Feb 2013 at 2:41 pm

    i liked your write up. Of course, i feel, the english language is poor to express such deep feelings ..

  2. ebrahimon 16 Feb 2013 at 1:14 am

    What a sweet and delicate sorrowful song. The final sigh of relieve. Now the enlightened abode of peace.

    Shankara’s beautiful words brought with it a sense of peace and a treasure of enrichment. This quite evidently borne out by the responses in appreciation. Though it does seem that the Chaikhana’s carriage has reached a peak, among many peaks. And though these words and all the truths like it, so expertly presented to us by our captain has brought us to loves heart, the currents brewing in the heart tell another story. Whose story only unfolds to the one who is present with the day’s currents. Look with another eye what the unfolding clouds are revealing, that one may alight unto this caravan departing.

  3. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 16 Feb 2013 at 8:10 am

    Thank you, Ivan, for Teresa’s poem and your commentary. The writings made me stop short with the awareness of the long way to go for me to say I have given my all
    to my Beloved. This is a call to stop short!
    I have the longing and the desire but am
    very weak in the practice!! But there is
    a lifetime to prepare.

  4. Pegon 16 Feb 2013 at 8:28 am

    He pierced me with an arrow
    laced with the herbs of love
    and my soul became one
    with her Creator;

    Teresa’s reference here to the feminine is not related to her gender. Teresa is acknowledging the divine feminine, which she must allow to guide her within the darkened well to her union with God. In order to reach God, one must dwell in the stillness and darkness without fear, meaning all earthly desires of survival, procreation, and materialism must be resolved. It is at this point, Teresa is in wait, the pause before the breath, the moment right after the match is struck and before the eyes see the flame. Action and stillness reside in the same house. Both masculine and feminine, action and stillness, need to be resolved to their divine counterparts. This then, true stillness, allows for the heart and brain to be lit by the union with God.

    Happy belated Valentine’s Day, Peg

    PS My mother, who is not in a physical body any longer, loves Teresa of Avila. Not only did I receive the swirling pink and white light of Teresa, but also, the energy of the love my mother had for Teresa. Thank you so much Ivan for this gift.

  5. Pegon 16 Feb 2013 at 8:32 am

    Is there a way to receive emails of everyone’s comments? I would love this but I do not want you to increase your expenses.

    Thank you for all you do.


  6. Ivan M. Grangeron 19 Feb 2013 at 10:37 am

    Peg- Good question about finding a way to follow everyone’s comments. The short answer is, I don’t know. I don’t have something like that currently set up. I have seen some blogs that have a built-in capability to follow comments as well as the main posts, but I don’t have that for the Poetry Chaikhana’s blog at the moment. I’ll keep that feature in mind if I do an upgrade in the future. Thanks for the idea. ~Ivan

  7. marrobon 16 Feb 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Thank you Ivan, for the poem & commentary. I enjoy & continue to glean insights from other readers’ commentaries as well, notably ‘action & stillness reside in the same house’. ( Thank you, Peg)

    Paradoxically, my interest has been whetted to know more about Teresa of Avila
    in an historical context, as a strong woman of action balancing her ecstatic
    mysticism at a turbulent time in Spanish history. I’m curious about the parallels to today’s world &
    how a mystic lives in & shapes his/her environment , at many levels.

    You just never know what chords your words will strike, do you?

    Thanks ( from a sun-drenched beach in Salalah, Oman)

  8. ebrahimon 17 Feb 2013 at 3:11 am

    from a different angle –

    In Bernini’s amazing sculpture the manifestation of the heavenly far outshines that of the earthly. The angel’s sweet charming delight to the mystic’s enraptured but agonized ecstasy. The gently held but fiery tipped piercing arrow about to be plunged is perhaps to raise the mystic above her state of enrapture to that of the angels bliss: which was what was sought by the mystic after all. It is as if she were to lift the cloud of covering to bring the earthly to the angelic by and through the fire of a new found love. Love, not arising from the earthly but descending from the heavens.

    Is this not every mystics noble fantasy?

  9. Sobhanaon 20 Feb 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Hi Ivan,

    How are you?

    Thank you for the beautiful poem; I liked the sculpture
    Also your commentary was enjoyable By the I liked the pictures that you posted
    Thank you very much once again

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