Julia Kristeva, “Teresa, My Love”

“Water is, for the writer, the soul’s link to the divine: the amorous link that puts them into contact. Springing from outside or inside, active and passive at once, or neither, and not to be confused with the gardener’s labor [in the allegory of God as gardener, soul as garden], water transcends the earth whence it emanates and on which it falls. I, earth, says Teresa, can only become a garden by the grace of contact with the life-giving medium of water, which bubbles from my entrails up to the surface, and/or showers down and soaks into me from on high. Water I am not, for I am earth; nor is God water, since He is the Creator. Water is the fiction of our encounter, that is, the sensible narrative representation of it. The representation figures the space and time of an interaction that can only be expressed in narrative, resorting to comparison and metaphors that narrative converts into metamorphoses. At the moment when fiction utters the interaction between I and He, it also accomplishes it: an erotic cleaving body to body, co-presence and co-penetration that convince me I exist, I’m alive.

The written water is a crucial moment in the event we refer to as “Teresa of Avila”; I would even say it constitutes Teresa’s own brand of ecstasy…Only fiction, first speechless, then spoken, and finally written, and able all, the fiction of water, could transform what had been undergone, but was unnameable, into experience. For the water fiction maintains the tension between God and myself; it fills me with the divine but does not subordinate it; it saves me from the madness of confusing myself with Him, while allowing me to claim an association. Water is my living protection, therefore my vital element. As a figure of the mutual contact between God and his creature, water preserves agency, the Other’s action, but it also demotes God from his supra sensible status and brings Him down, if not exactly to the role of a gardener (though didn’t Mary Magdalene take the resurrected Jesus for a gardener at the Holy Sepulcher?), then at least to that cosmic element I can taste and which feeds me, that touches me and which I can touch.”

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