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Brookline Carmel Bulletin                        

August 27, 1961


Cogitatio Sancta

(Holy Meditation)


Transverberation of the Heart

Of Saint Teresa


I saw an angel beside me toward the left side, in bodily form…He was not very large, but small, very beautiful, his face so blazing with light that he seemed to be one of the very highest angels, who appear all on fire.  They must be those they call Cherubim…I saw in his hands a long dart of gold, and at the end of the iron there seemed to me to be a little fire.  This I thought he thrust through my heart several times, and that it reached my very entrails.  As he withdrew it, I thought it brought them with it, and left me all burning with a great love of God.  So great was the pain, that it made me give those moans; and so utter the sweetness that this sharpest of pains gave me, that there was no wanting it to stop, nor is there any contenting of the soul with less than God”.  (St. Teresa, Life…Chapter 19).


Among savants in the field of the Fine Arts there exists the firm and widespread belief that great masterpieces of poetry, painting, music, etc. are not from men, but from God.  They are one in the conviction that He bestows upon the authors of such masterpieces an altogether rare and extraordinary kind of soul that is delicately attuned to beauty and possessed of the happy faculty of making it palpable, i.e., of reproducing it in meter, rhythm, sound, color and matter.  In this way, God makes His divine perfections (of which all created beauty is but a faint shadow) known to mankind.


Now there exists another class of persons who are also blessed by God with a distinctive, uncommon kind of genius.  They are the Mystics.  To each of these, God gives a soul that is peculiarly sensitive to the realities of the supernatural order.  That world we ordinary souls know by Faith.  So do the Mystics, of course, but over and above, there is found in them, in the lower faculties of their soul, a kind of ‘resonance’ to the truths of the Faith.  They enjoy the singular knack of being able to perceive supernatural entities through the medium of the senses, namely, in visions, locutions, divine “touches”, etc.


Because she is both saint and “bon fide” mystic, Teresa is a boon to mankind.  To her was granted experience of many supernatural realities:  the Sacred Humanity of Jesus, an intellectual vision of the Blessed Trinity, the splendor of a soul in the state of grace, the power of holy water over demons, and many others.  The heroic virtues she displayed for the greater part of her life placed her beyond the possibility of deceiving or being deceived in these matters, and so our Faith in Divine Revelation is deepened and strengthened.


The mystical favor granted St. Teresa, which she herself, in the words we have reproduced above, describes so beautifully, accompanied the infusion by God into her soul of an extraordinary grace.  It is one He is wont to give to all His saints but not to all does He make it known in this way.  We see from the circumstances that this was the communication of an exalted degree of purifying and transforming Charity.  The messenger was a Cherub, one of those whose office it is to impart sublime knowledge and love of God to lower orders of angels.  The little fire on the end of the spear represents the intensity of the love, the spear itself, the death-dealing blow inflicted by it upon all base loves.  It seemed to draw out her vital organs, signifying that henceforth she would live for God alone.  The pain gives us to understand what a lofty knowledge of God was communicated to her, for her human nature was hard pressed to bear the weight of it (Who can see God and live?).  The exquisite delight engendered by that knowledge gives us an inkling of the surpassing joy that comes of possessing Him who is ineffable goodness and loveliness.  Who, reading of this, is not convinced of the reality of God’s gifts to man?  Who does not reverence and esteem them all the more?


Now, it would be the height of foolishness for us to wait around for the Lord to bestow upon us a similar favor.  At any rate, it isn’t wise to hold our breath till it happens.  God has provided an ordinary way of pouring into our souls the grace of transforming love.  We are reminded of it in the Carmelite Feast of the Transverberation of the Heart of St. Teresa, in the Chapter (short instruction) of Vespers and Lauds: “God’s Word to us is something alive, full of energy; it can penetrate deeper than any two-edged sword, reaching the very division between soul and spirit, between joints and marrow, quick to distinguish every thought and design in our hearts”.  (Heb. 4,12 – Knox Transl.)  The Word of God is the ordinary way.  It can accomplish in us, gradually, over a long period of time, what the angel effected in Teresa in an instant.  Or better, just to keep the records straight, what the angel brought about in her was merely the culmination, the grace which terminated and crowned the work that the Word of God had been doing in her soul little by little, day by day, year after year.


The Word of God is, then, in its own right, a dart.  And it is wielded by other of God’s angels, the Priests and Bishops of the Church.  With it, they, too, aim to pierce the very substance of our souls, to bring death to ignoble love of self, to illuminate our minds with divine truth, and enkindle in our hearts an unadulterated love for God and man.  It reaches down into the division of soul and spirit, distinguishing clearly the animal man from the spiritual man (who is created according to God in the justice and holiness of truth).  It penetrates to the division between joints and marrow, that is, it instructs us concerning the relationships binding us to our fellow men in the body politic.  It is the discoverer of our real self, laying bare the secret chambers of our minds and hearts.


It is God’s Will that we take the dart which is God’s Word (St. Paul calls it the Sword of the Spirit) and plunge it frequently into the depths of our souls.  We do this when we practice mental prayer daily.  If we are faithful, we shall soon discover that it can and does transform us completely.  It purges away all sinful affection, opens the eyes of our spirit to the ravishing beauty of the divine nature, and wins us the grace to live for God alone.


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