Fr Dubay notes that Teresa was not a systematic writer. We need to read her entire work in order to comprehend her teaching. She also comes across as an extraordinary soul, full of warmth and humor. She reminds us that life and prayer go together. In order to pray well, learn to suffer well. In order to please God, choose that which is more perfect. She was a woman on fire with love for God.
What is said of Teresa is true of John. When I first attempted to read him, I found him cold and excessively detached. In fact, he turns out to have been a tremendously loving soul, a man who loved the natural world: he is a great poet, after all. He wrote in a systematic manner and his quest was the same as that of Teresa: to pursue the way of love.
Reading Dubay reminds us that contemplation is not some state we may enter into at whim by a recitation of some mantra. It is a gift of God and is a loving communion with the Trinity. We may do everything possible to enter into this state, but God alone gives it. Dubay also reminds us that the contemplative life cannot be separated from the rest of our life.
For John, contemplation has nothing to do with quietism. God grants us contemplation so that we grow in the virtues. Contemplation is loving attention whereby God gradually occupies the will, the imagination and the intellect.
The ever practical Teresa teaches that we need encouragement along the way. We learn to pray in different ways at different stages. We need to discern what is genuine from what is not. Vocal prayer is mental prayer when it is said with recollection.
There are so many vital themes that recur throughout the text. Not only need we get rid of sin in our lives but any form of attachment also needs removing. We need to meditate on the Gospels. We need to do the will of God and take up our cross. We need to practice charity especially when we encounter dryness at prayer. Dubay gives excellent descriptions of the different stages of prayer: recollection, prayer of quiet, spiritual betrothal and transforming union. All of prayer is summed up in union with the Divine Indwelling.
There is always room for greater love of neighbour, greater detachment and greater humility. We need to seek solitude. In our imitation of Christ, we learn to suffer with him. The cross and worldly pleasures do not mix. Detachment teaches us the vanity of all things.
Fr Dubay has written a modern day masterpiece on the interior life.