Shaking the hourglass

This is what I want us to strive for, my sisters; let us desire and be occupied in prayer, not for the sake of our enjoyment but so as to have this strength to serve. ~ St Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila, whose feast Carmelites celebrate today, is - among other things - rightly famous for her mystical experiences and her deep, contemplative union with God. But her prayer wasn't all about ecstasies and visions; there were also many hours, along the way, spent in boredom and inner restlessness. And there is the account - which I love - of Teresa shaking her hourglass, in a vain attempt at making her time of prayer go faster!

Yes, she shook her hourglass, and no doubt sighed and fidgeted - interiorly if not physically. But the important thing is that she remained at prayer until after the very last grain of sand had landed. Teresa remained: she desired and was occupied in prayer, not for the sake of her own enjoyment, but because this time with God - even when dry and distracted - was the centre of her life and the source of her much-needed strength.

And at those times when I sit in prayer metaphorically shaking my hourglass, it can sometimes help to remember and be heartened by the example, from Teresa and countless others, of perseverance and fidelity to a commitment made. At other times I smilingly recall some advice from St Madeleine Sophie to one of her sisters: Love God, and if you cannot meditate you can always say: "My God, I love you". It is a reminder of that simple truth, that prayer is nothing more than spending time with the One we love; the One who loves and has loved us first, and is delighted to have us spend this time with him... even when we're busily shaking our hourglass...