Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ecstasy of St. Teresa, Bernini

"I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying."
-St. Teresa of Avila

Bernini sought to capture St. Teresa's ecstasy as described in her personal account of her encounter with an angel. It is a blend of both physical and spiritual pleasure. While some may pass by and claim that it appears like a moment of physical climax, it must be remembered that this is a moment that no other human but St. Teresa can describe or experience. And even when placed in her hands it is clearly an event beyond the realms of our physical world so the understanding of it is skewed and unclear. The title I think is fitting--ecstasy meaning an overwhelming feeling of great happiness or joyful excitement or 
aemotional or religious frenzy or trancelike state, originally one involving an experience of mystic self-transcendence. That seems to fit the bill though we could not possibly understand it ourselves. I think it is beautiful, from the angel's face to St. Teresa's, to the account of what actually happened and the attempt to capture it in art. 

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