Sunday, August 7, 2011

Contacting Him who we know loves us

 „…que no es otra cosa oración mental, a mi parecer, sino tratar de amistad, estando muchas veces tratando a solas con quien sabemos nos ama…” (Vida 8.5)

This is Saint Teresa of Avila’s famous definition of the internal prayer. As we are working on its new Hungarian translation, we have noticed that the hitherto latest version, made in the 1920s by the Carmelite father Ernő Szeghy, translates it like this::

Because in my view the interior prayer is but an intimate friendship with God, inasmuch we often stay alone with Him, knowing that He loves us.” (Life 79.)

The phrase is nice and it includes the most important element of Teresa’s message, that the interior prayer is nothing else but an intimate relationship with God, who loves us. However, Teresa says more than what is mediated by the translation of Father Ernő. The definition of Teresa clearly includes the assertion that God is available and accessible already in this life, that one can experience Him and be in a real relationship with Him. The original sentence puts a very strong emphasis on human activity in this relationship. Teresa uses twice the verb tratar, which in various ways – from commerce to sexual relationship – refers to an intense contanct. Teresa does not simply say that the internal prayer is a relationship (although she could use an expression meaning exactly this), but she emphasizes that it is the maintenance of a relationship, tratar de amistad. And also the second half of the sentence does not simply affirm that during the prayer we are in the presence of God while we know that He loves us: but that we are in contact with Him, and in a very intense way at that: tratando.

…because interior prayer, in my opinion, is but the maintenance of an intense relationship, taking time frequently to contact with Him who we know loves us…” (Life 8.5)

The difference affects the essence of our prayer and our relationship to God: whether we only think of Him or we also open ourselves to Him and collaborate with Him so He could transform our life as He wants. If we do not experience a transformation of our lives, then we are probably satisfied with the knowledge that God loves us, but we do not maintain a really intimate relationship with Him and we do not contact Him intensely enough.

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