In the Hands of God

by Teresa of Avila

English version by Kieran Kavanaugh OCD and Otilio Rodriguez OCD
Original Language Spanish

I am Yours and born of You,
What do You want of me?

Majestic Sovereign,
Unending wisdom,
Kindness pleasing to my soul;
God sublime, one Being Good,
Behold this one so vile.
Singing of her love to you:
What do You want of me?

Yours, you made me,
Yours, you saved me,
Yours, you endured me,
Yours, you called me,
Yours, you awaited me,
Yours, I did not stray.
What do You want of me?

Good Lord, what do you want of me,
What is this wretch to do?
What work is this,
This sinful slave, to do?
Look at me, Sweet Love,
Sweet Love, look at me,
What do You want of me?

In Your hand
I place my heart,
Body, life and soul,
Deep feelings and affections mine,
Spouse -- Redeemer sweet,
Myself offered now to you,
What do You want of me?

Give me death, give me life,
Health or sickness,
Honor or shame,
War or swelling peace,
Weakness or full strength,
Yes, to these I say,
What do You want of me?

Give me wealth or want,
Delight or distress,
Happiness or gloominess,
Heaven or hell,
Sweet life, sun unveiled,
To you I give all.
What do You want of me?

Give me, if You will, prayer;
Or let me know dryness,
And abundance of devotion,
Or if not, then barrenness.
In you alone, Sovereign Majesty,
I find my peace,
What do You want of me?

Give me then wisdom.
Or for love, ignorance,
Years of abundance,
Or hunger and famine.
Darkness or sunlight,
Move me here or there:
What do You want of me?

If You want me to rest,
I desire it for love;
If to labor,
I will die working:
Sweet Love say
Where, how and when.
What do You want of me?

Calvary or Tabor give me,
Desert or fruitful land;
As Job in suffering
Or John at Your breast;
Barren or fruited vine,
Whatever be Your will:
What do You want of me?

Be I Joseph chained
Or as Egypt's governor,
David pained
Or exalted high,
Jonas drowned,
Or Jonas freed:
What do You want of me?

Silent or speaking,
Fruitbearing or barren,
My wounds shown by the Law,
Rejoicing in the tender Gospel;
Sorrowing or exulting,
You alone live in me:
What do You want of me?

Yours I am, for You I was born:
What do You want of me?

-- from The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila: Volume Three, Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD / Translated by Otilio Rodriguez, OCD

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I imagine my mother, a confirmed ex-Catholic, wincing at the self-denigrating language near the beginning of this poem -- "this one so vile," "this wretch," "this sinful slave." (I'm sure she would object to such a display of 'Catholic guilt.') But it is important to understand this as a technique, a spiritual practice. One should never fundamentally debase oneself, for we are all of us beautiful children of the Divine. But the ego endlessly incites us to a self-importance that divides us from our own divine nature. Every spiritual tradition has ways to deflate that self-importance in order to restore us to the divine embrace... but it must always be balanced with the understanding of our fundamental goodness.

This poem is a prayer, a supremely courageous prayer of yielding to the Divine. It is the fearless prayer of every true mystic: Teresa of Avila is saying, I exist only for You, and in You. I have no existence apart from You. Give me ease or give me suffering -- I don't care, so long as You give me Yourself! What do You want of me, what do You want to experience through me? -- I don't care, so long as You give me Yourself!

This is the wild, fearless attitude that leads to the Goal. This is the approach that allows the Zen practitioner to stop the restless mind and finally be present. This is the state of mind that allows the Kali devotee to see beauty in that which terrifies. This is the total surrender that allows the Sufi to disappear into the embrace of the Beloved. This is the prayerfulness that allows the devout Christian to discover the smiling Bridegroom even in suffering upon the cross.

You alone live in me:
What do You want of me?



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In the Hands of God