Dec 22 2023

Teresa of Avila (attributed) – You are Christ’s Hands

Published by at 11:04 am under Ivan's Story,Poetry

You are Christ’s Hands
by Teresa of Avila

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
      no hands but yours,
      no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
      Christ’s compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
      doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

— from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger

/ Image by Jackson David /

It is the Solstice and Christmas is just a few days away. It will be a modest one for myself and my wife this year, but one with a lot of gratitude. We recently moved, still within our hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Because previously we had been renting a furnished place and our new home is not pre-furnished, we had to scramble to buy the basics so we weren’t living in an empty house. Also, amidst the grief over the loss of our beloved family dog of many years, Apollo, we adopted a new dog, Bowie, through a local rescue organization. So, rather than exchange a lot of gifts this year, my wife and I decided to make a list of all the gifts we have received or given to ourselves and our household over the past couple of months — everything from dishes and silverware to a bed. Even without wrapped packages, it feels like an abundant Christmas.

As some of you may recall, soon after we moved back to Eugene a little over a year ago, I was taken aback by the homeless population here. Frankly, homelessness had not seemed like such a prominent issue where we previously lived in Colorado. But not only here in Eugene, we are discovering that America’s homeless population is rapidly growing in many cities.

My wife and I have been trying to find ways to help or, at a minimum, not turn our hearts away. Of course we offer a few dollars during street encounters, when we have the cash, and when the situation feels safe. And we contribute to some local groups that work with the homeless and the hungry in the area. I know I can do more, though remaining in balance, both with health and other life commitments, is always a challenge.

I feel a tug-of-war that plays out in me. There is the Aries part of my personality that is a natural activist, that part of me that wants to go out and fix things, that wants to make the world a better place, to help the world recognize what a beautiful place it can be and should be. It’s that part of me that wants to do (and sometimes wants to force). And then there is an inner part of me that whispers, “Don’t do. Flow. In that way the small actions born naturally from your heart, actions that hardly feel like actions, will resonate in the world.”

Is there such a thing as being an actionless activist?

I am still figuring that one out.


While this poem is popularly attributed to St. Teresa of Avila, it is not among her officially recognized works. Scholars tell us that it was probably actually written in the late 19th century by Guy Pearse, a Methodist minister, and Sarah Eliza Rowntree, an English Quaker.

Regardless of the actual composer, this is one of my favorite prayer-poems. It is a prayer of supreme spiritual maturity. It is not someone imploring Christ to come and fix everything in the external way imagined by so many fundamentalist sects; rather, it recognizes the presence of the Divine within each of us and our sacred responsibility to embody that compassion and service within the world. Each one of us is the vehicle through which Christ (or Ishwara or the Buddha) enacts blessings in the world. Our job is to let that sacred current flow through us unhindered.

Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now…

May we each find ways to uncoil ourselves and allow the divine flow of compassion to run unhindered through our hearts and our hands.

Recommended Books: Teresa of Avila

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time
More Books >>

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 said to sometimes levitate off the ground, with 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 re-break 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 many 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

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Teresa of Avila (attributed) – You are Christ’s Hands”

  1. Carolon 23 Dec 2023 at 5:14 am

    Dear Ivan,

    Thank You for this prayer/poem attributed to Teresa of Avila – it is beautiful. I have
    heard much about her, but have not yet read ‘The Interior Castle’, and plan to take
    CAC’s online course on ‘Interior Castle’ with James Finley and Mirabai Starr.

    Your poem selections so often fit right into my thoughts and are such inspiration.

    This close to Christmas, my thoughts have quieted a bit, and its true meaning for
    our lives has come close.

    Take care and Blessings to you, Carol

  2. Ela zehnon 02 Jan 2024 at 6:03 pm

    When we’re
    soul conscious and
    silent from inside out

    We can forget our
    bodies and this world

    Our intellect can get
    Connected with the

    At this moment
    We get the godly
    supply of energy and

    Are transformed
    Into angels and can make
    Others feel the same.

    Angels of light can
    Fly to any place and give
    Light to anyone.

    Angels can solve any

    Happy New Year to everyone.

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