Tending the Soul: The words and images of St Teresa of Avila
We have heard that we have souls, and our faith compels us to believe it is true. But we rarely consider the soul’s excellent qualities or who it is that dwells within her, or how precious she really is. And so we don’t bother to tend her beauty. All our attention is focused on the rough matrix of the diamond, the outer walls of the castle, which are none other than these bodies of ours.
The Interior Castle, Saint Teresa of Avila
The words and images of Saint Teresa of Avila have much to teach us today. While she was a mystic and visionary, she was highly pragmatic in her approach to daily life and its inevitable challenges.
Great mystical writing has a way of returning us to what is truly important; it doesn’t offer us total transcendence or a void of unrelatedness to the world, but offers instead rich imagery, vision and words which our intellect can begin to make sense of in our everyday lives. When the intellect is detached from the sacred, hubris emerges instead – something which our world suffers from today. Through the richness of St Teresa’s words and through the images of her in art we are reminded of the importance of cultivating qualities of humility and attentiveness. She helps us to tend our souls as well as our bodies.
Speaker Mary Attwood is an art historian, author and mentor with a lifelong interest in the ways in which our perceptions of art can awaken us to a deeper, embodied dimension of being which we have lost in our post-modern age. She holds a BA (hons) in the History of Art from London University, where she studied Italian late medieval and renaissance art and architecture, and an MA with distinction in Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred.
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