You’re probably startled by the title that suggests that a nun, the representation of sanctity and purity, changed the way spirituality is conceived through an orgasmic experience. Well, actually this story is not recent. It happened a couple hundreds of years ago, in the sixteenth century. The story of the nun who described her spiritual connection with God, in terms that simulate an orgasm, has inspired many artists and shows how spirituality is not only a matter of righteousness and moral virtues, but a passion that can be felt in an earthly way. It can even be pleasurable experience for those who devote their lives to it.
Born in Spain in 1515, Teresa of Avila voluntarily decided to take the vows when she was 21 and joined the Convent of the Incarnation of Avila. However, she soon realized that many of the convents didn’t exactly follow the precepts of Christianity, particularly this one. She saw the corruption and double standards of the Church. She refused to follow these conducts where the least important thing was the nun’s devotion to God. Soon she experienced what she described as her first truthful connection with God. While she was walking through the corridors of the convent, she faced a statue of Christ, and she felt an emotion going through her body up to her heart that made her feel fulfilled and peaceful.
Since then, she started experiencing mystical episodes that led her to a life of devotion and a quest for a spiritual growth. She became an avid preacher. She built, renewed, and reformed several monasteries (14 actually), devoting herself to writing her experiences and religious ideas. Among her writings, there’s the famous episode of her "spiritual ecstasy" –as it is best known– or orgasm. She describes it as follows:
“In his hands, I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one's soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it—even a considerable share.”
Another important lesson she left –and that goes against what many understand as a religious life– was that spirituality wasn’t a process of penance, but the pleasant experiences we have with God. It’s not about a carnal desire, but a passionate connection with our faith.
Her groundbreaking ideas were not well received by the religious spheres of her time and her country. It wasn't long before there was a persecution against her and her followers. Let’s remember that we’re at the peak of the Inquisition, where anything they saw as threatening was demonized and hunted. Of course, a woman stating that she had a deep, passionate connection with the Lord, was seen as outrageous. Moreover, she exposed the corruption and dishonesty of the Church, which gained her a formal Inquisitorial process. However, after pleading to King Philip II, she was granted security, which allowed her to continue her innovative conception of religiousness.
There was something about her that intrigued both secular and religious spheres, so forty years after her death, in 1622, she was canonized for her devotion to spirituality and the way she preached throughout her country. There are many stories and legends about this woman, who went over the parameters of what a nun should do. The truth is that Teresa of Avila never left her condition as a woman stop her from doing what she thought was right.
There's always a thin line between religiousness and fantasy that sometimes is hard to see. Check these Facts The Church Will Never Accept Were False.