Sunday, 1 January 2012


Christ has no body on earth now but yours;
no hands but yours;
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes
through which the compassion of Christ
must look out on 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 his people.
(St. Teresa of Avila)


  1. That quote always comes as a challenge. Thank you for posting it on the first day of this year. Happy New Year to you.

  2. St Teresa of Avila is a real star. I’ve read Allison Peers’ translation of Interior Castle and Life several times and found it very useful when I lived the contemplative life. Many of my own ideas about the dangers of the narcissism of self that is a fundamental stumbling block in any Christian (or spiritual) development stem from reading St Teresa and St John of the Cross. Of course their teaching is not unique and can be found in other Christian writings and those of other religions. The idea that it is necessary to be distrustful of the self and its keen desire for gratification - particularly when it comes to ‘spiritual rewards’ - is a major theme of many religious traditions – especially Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Islam. And it is more than probable that the latter had the most influence on the Spanish Mystics. Both Teresa and John of the Cross press home the need for self-abandonment and to surrender all to God. Certainly, having read some Islamic ascetical and mystical texts, it is evident they share a good deal of the same ground.

    What I find particularly interesting about the lives of Teresa and John of the Cross is the fact that their greatest opponents in the reform of the Carmelite Order they undertook, came from within. St John of the Cross was held prisoner and tortured by his fellow brethren and although he eventually escaped it is likely the privations and ill treatment he endured during his captivity contributed to his early death. St Teresa bears the honour of being the first woman in the Roman Catholic Church to be granted the title ‘Doctor of the Church’; although it is possible to discern her care in religious exposition, that was obviously rooted in fear of the Inquisition, there is a freshness to her writing – which is particularly evident in the Allison Peers’ translation because he tries to convey the meaning of Teresa’s use of colloquial expressions.

    The idea that it is in ourselves that the Body of Christ lives and that our actions in the World are the vehicle by which the Love of God is manifest is rather sobering. It is with some relief that one finds, here and there, real expressions of this in Christian communities. Alas, there is also a good deal of arrogance, pride and discord that is proclaimed as ‘Christianity’ but falls far short of the Christian ideal. Anyone who has sat on a PCC or just in a church pew, knows it is often within ‘The Body of Christ’ that one’s powers of forgiveness and forbearance are most put to the test!

    If you have not already done so, if ever you have a long weekend or the like in Madrid do try and get to Avila – it is only a few hours by train and a lovely place to visit. We went in February when there was snow on the ground – tho’ it was a bright and clear day. It is a fortified hill town, with massive walls and a picture postcard perfect medieval centre.

    Happy New Year!


  3. Thank you, Peter. I do wish I knew a bit more about other religions and the different lines of thought such as you describe above. We visited a Buddhist centre in the Lakes a year or two ago and I was quite interested in some of the ideas I read there about how to lose the sense of self leads to perfect happiness (a lot of truth in that.) I nearly posted the Methodist Covenant prayer this New Year - I expect you know it? I always think those words are very beautiful but rather challenging. I might have had to add a note to the effect of how far off that ideal I am!

  4. Very thought provoking, and as everyones' commented quite a challenge.
    (perhaps you won't mind Suem, if I say a quick hello to 'P'),
    I've missed your blog, however I've appreciated your comment's here, hope the new year is a good one in lots of important ways for you, look forward to hearing about what you'll do next.

  5. Hi Jo,
    Of course you can chat to P on my blog. I like to see as much chat as possible. I've also missed Peter's blog. I expect he may revive it sometime and then I will definitely be linking to it from here!

  6. I miss Peter's blog too. At least we still have Peter Ould to provide us with a good belly laugh.