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Teresa of Avila - You are Christ's Hands

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. Grange
Poetry Chaikhana | Teresa of Avila - You are Christ's Hands

This beautiful and inspiring poem has been on the Poetry Chaikhana home page for nearly a month.  I've been waiting impatiently for it to go away and be replaced by a poem more to my liking.  Since i look at the site nearly every day, i have scanned this poem dozens of times and read it carefully several time.  Now the poem is being replaced by an equally beautiful one by Rilke, and i've decided that i really need to post it and keep it.

The poem has been spoiled a little for me by various Proteestantized versions, all inferior, to my mind, in quality and message.  But i fear that my real reluctance to  make the poem my own is its reference to "Christ."  To my mind, Jesus was an admirable teacher, one of the best, while "Christ" is an invention of the churches, which, in their attempt to glorify Jesus, distort his message and debase his memory (imppo)

But i have no problem with poems that call on Shiva or Krshna or The Void or Tao, or Allah.  I am a stranger to the faiths which hold these images sacred.  I know that each of these "names" points to something unavailable to  the human intellect, to mystery, within mystery within mystery, inpenetrable.  When i see or hear "Shiva" i know that she (it/not it) is beyond my comprehension and i can still my inquiring mind and just worship.  But my people are always telling me what i should think of Christ and i cannot identify with them.

The other faiths i know mostly through their finest writings and noblest teachings and beliefs.
My "mother faith" i know from real human beings who are struggling, usually unseccessfully, to live those teachings and beliefs out in their daily lives.  When i see violent Buddhists and opinionated Taoists. i know that i am looking at people who, like myself, have much to learn (or unlearn).  I have to learn to cut the Christians some slack.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 14th, 2016 01:14 am (UTC)
I like your self-knowledge and your generosity with it. :)

I also like that Teresa of Avila prayer a lot. :D Though my christology doesn't classify well as high or low, exactly. I think we're all called to incarnate the divine, and for me, that's what the prayer asks.
Jan. 14th, 2016 03:05 am (UTC)
"we are all called to incarnate the divine."
Yes, that is a good way to put it.

Theresa of Jesus was a descendant of Spanish Jews and her career spanned the early years of the Reformation. She thought Protestantism to be a great tragedy and she never, so far as i know, mentions Judaism. My notion of "saintliness" is defined by Sufis and Buddhists who seem so tolerant of different perspectives; yet as i read more about Sufism and Buddhism, i find examples of intolerance the equal that of the inquisitors. Still, i think the Eastern faiths find it easier to be open. Maybe it is polytheism and/or agnosticism; maybe its the absence of a bureaucratic structure. I mean, who is going to say that a particular individual's reading of the Dammapadda or the Tao Te Ching is wrong?
Jan. 14th, 2016 05:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you for mentioning this site; another great place for me to visit and read wonderful poetry! I've been trying to wade through Teresa's Interior Castle but find it slow going compared to say, Julian of Norwich (whose quote of "All things will be well..." always comforted me). I was raised in the Southern Baptist Protestant faith but by the time I hit my 40's I had studied the history of The Bible and Christianity and explored other faiths and their histories and knew that I could no longer claim to be a Christian. My son held to the Buddhist philosophy (some people argue whether Buddhism is even a religion as it has no Supreme Being in place really, but anything that is of a spiritual nature constitutes a sort of 'religion' in my book!), and while I always found much of the teachings of Buddhism to be very practical and rational and lovely, I guess from being raised on Jesus I had a hard time finding any 'soul' in Buddhism and shied away from its insistence on finding your own path; Christianity of course teaches that the ONLY path is Jesus. So for years I admired Buddhism rather than really feeling any affinity for that practice. But since my son died last September, I have discovered that Buddhism (rather than Christianity and The Bible) has helped me the most to stay grounded and to explore my own pain and to just sit with where and how I am now, in each moment. For the first time the realization of 'impermanence' so prominent in Buddhism has of course a new immediacy and reality for me with the passing of my son, and while, as you stated, Buddhists are human like anyone else and not perfect and in some 'political' instances in the world right now have even become violent and war-like, yet the core teachings of the original Siddartha remain valid. So we are all just beings making mistakes and trying through various avenues of thought, religion, and practice to find our own way through life. I love Rumi, Hafiz, seemingly most of the Sufi poets speak to something in my own soul, ha; I think my son on some level knew me better than I knew myself and in one of his Buddhist books I had never even read he had written an inscription to me on the inside cover that left me crying when I did crack that book and begin reading it after his death. It was like his voice and his love reaching out to me beyond death and gifting me with the chance to experience the same peace and maitri spirit that Buddhism gave to him.
Jan. 14th, 2016 05:23 pm (UTC)
Oops, don't know why I posted anonymous; the comment above was me, from lj!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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