Friday, August 7, 2009

The Third Degree of Prayer

The third way of watering the garden is to irrigate it by the water flowing from a river or spring. Less work is involved in watering the garden in this manner. Some labor is required however to direct the flow of the water.

"This prayer is a sleep of the faculties: the faculties neither fail entirely to function nor understand how they function. The consolation, the sweetness, and the delight are incomparably greater than that experienced in the previous prayer. "

There is not a complete union of all the faculties. God is clearly at work in this prayer. "For the truth of the matter is that the faculties are almost totally united with God but not so absorbed as not to function." It is God who takes on the task of gardener and the soul is to rest.
The virtues grow even stronger than in the prayer of quiet. The soul "begins to perform great deeds by means of the fragrance the flowers give, for the Lord desires that they bloom so that it may see that it possesses virtue although it is very clearly aware that it couldn't have acquired them."
St. Teresa explains the difference between this prayer and that of the prayer of quiet discussed in the second way of watering the garden by using the story of Martha and Mary. Where in the prayer of quiet the soul did not desire to move or stir, "rejoicing in that holy idleness of Mary", in this third degree of prayer the soul is much more like Martha in that it is engaged in both the active and contemplative life together. "It tends to works of charity and to business affairs that have to do with its state of life and to reading;although it isn't master of itself completely. And it understands clearly that the best part of the soul is somewhere else".

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