God has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours,
No feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which she is to look out God’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which she is to go out doing good;
Yours are the hands with which she is to bless all now.
– Teresa of Avila
When I first discovered this prayer a few months ago I was newly alight with passions that would surely change the world simply because they burned brightly in my heart. Here was a piece of poetry that authentically spoke of God and expressed thoughts that I just had begun to realize were crying out from within my own being. I was left to wonder at how a sixteenth century Catholic saint could have written something that spoke directly to me and also to wrestle with what the content itself could mean: the eternal presence of the Divine; the sense of the sacred expressed in every shred of life, even my own; and the great responsibility inherent in such a realization. In studying Andrew Harvey‘s work I have come to know this imperative to be called sacred activism.
For a while, this was a simple phrase to throw around since it combined two terms with which I was reasonably familiar. I had co-opted “spiritual” for my own devices long ago and enjoyed the label. “Activism” was a bit more difficult since I associated it with people who quoted Chomsky over breakfast and would ask if your shoes were vegan; I respected much of what they struggled for, but found such devotion exhausting – and feared it was hypocrisy waiting to blossom. To combine the two, however, grounded the spiritual in a sense of purpose and rounded the most strident edges of activism. Having struggled to find a title for my journey for as long as I could remember, I was pleasantly surprised to find something so clever and simple.
Of course, it is the naming that is simple; inevitable challenges arise when you realize that what you do is more important than how you describe it.
“Still” is used consciously in the title of this post because it describes aspects of my current state and stands in stark opposition to the sense of “stillness” that remains elusive. The cultivation of stillness is essential if one intends to move beyond the confines of the seemingly intrinsic narcissism that marks the modern character and work effectively to help others and this planet- or so I have read. I remain frozen in the face of all that there is to “solve,” unable to dedicate myself to any cause in particular because my heartstrings will inevitably be tugged in a different direction momentarily.
I am still alight with the passion that fueled me when I first read Teresa’s words, but that passion is tinged with all of the realism that is possible when one declares herself to be something so fanciful as a creature prone to epiphanies. Through my writing and reaching out to the wisdom of others I hope to begin the task of cultivating stillness and begin this work of even imagining walking with the feet of God.