The St. Thomas More Cantata: A Carmelite Perspective
By Steve Taranovich, T.O.Carm.
My wife, Loretta and I attended the St. Thomas More Cantata on April 30, 2018 this year. Each song began with an inspiring commentary and once the singing began, I felt so drawn into the themes embodied by each musical selection, and then, as the music, soul-inspired singing and lyrics continued, they penetrated deep into my very soul as we moved from song to song.
Being a Third Order Carmelite, the musical piece entitled ‘Castle of the Soul’ based upon St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle writings, resonated deeply with my Carmelite spirituality.
As Carmelites, we read, prayed and delved deeply into St. Teresa’s Interior Castle writings and analyzed her feelings and spirituality that were embodied in her inscription so that we could imitate her journey. Teresa said, ‘As far as I can understand, the gate by which to enter this castle is prayer and meditation.’
The lyrics by Tony Alonso perfectly summarize Teresa’s thoughts and feelings in Contemplative prayer such as, ‘In the soul there are many rooms: a castle built of precious jewels. There God dwells and calls your name; trust and never be the same. See the door is open wide; God is calling you inside‘ The castle being the soul.
We know, from our Carmelite studies, that this Doctor of the Church, Teresa of Avila, understood the depths of our souls where God dwells in the interior-most center room and the fact that as we progress in our spiritual life, we are able to move from the doorstep of the ‘castle’, through the many rooms, towards the interior and hopefully encounter God deep in the castle where ‘Nothing will disturb you in God’s house’. This phrase by Theresa is carved into a small rectangular stone on my desk at home where I do my writing. Through the everyday toils and disappointments, worries and trials in this earthly life, I need to keep Theresa’s words in front of me as a constant reminder that God has a plan and he loves us.
The Saint comments on the ‘Importance of perseverance in order to enter the last mansions, and of the fierce war the devil wages against us.’
Teresa longed to be united with God in Contemplative prayer and ultimately reached the pinnacle of that prayer union in Contemplative prayer where we no longer move towards union with God by our own power, but God reaches out to our soul and draws us to close to Him (See the sculpture above). Most people never reach the center of the castle like Teresa did, but we can get closer to it as we strengthen our prayer life and follow Jesus.
Teresa did not see Christ; but He was there as if in the darkness, and He can be sensed the way a blind person recognizes another person in the room. Representing Christ for Teresa means tuning into that Real Presence. (These are comments from the late Carmelite Father Ernie Larkin who spent his retired years in Arizona)
Our faith is a journey in which we follow Jesus and we Carmelites view this as Teresa did, where we steep ourselves deeply in prayer in our lives, which helps lead us on a journey towards our ultimate goal: union with God.June 13, 2018