At the beginning of the story “a young man” stands alone.  All of the imagery in this poem works to convey a feeling of independence and abandonment. In the second poem the mood changes to one of confidence in a Divine Presence. One is not alone. On the contrary, Teresa is conversing with an ever-present God who asks, “What desires for thee remain?” Her response, “To see thy face,” expresses union between her and all those who love God as well. Both poems are similar in their fear of losing the Beloved. While “a young man” despairs, thinking that the Beloved is lost to him forever (“Oh wretched lie believed”), Teresa turns to the Beloved, who never leaves her (“All I fear is to lose Thee.”)

Each poem deals with the struggle, somewhat impossibility, to find perfect union. Both come to the realization that all that matters is the love of God. Nothing else within this life can satisfy the desires that God has placed within the human soul. One finds perfect union and lives in heaven while on earth. The other finds that he does not stand alone. He has not found perfect union with God. However, he has found love for God Who dwells within him. He has found that he is bound to all those whom love binds him. He found a friend in Teresa who took him into her heart and let him know the patience and kindness of God that lives in all of Carmel.

Thus, in the end, both poems conclude that all that matters is love. It is through love that “a young man” sees the actions of his life transformed into art. This leaves him in awe, for it seems that in spite of himself good enters his life, and he is sure that it is not of his own doing. It is due, rather, to the grace and generosity of God that everything that has happened to him, even the experience of evil, has been transformed by God into some good and, thus, he says, “What evil can befall His child that does not turn to art?” 

The closing statement of the second poem also poses a question, “What desires...remain?” After all of the struggles, there is only one desire that remains: “To love on and to turn and to love again.” In these two statements we see a union between “a young man” and Teresa. “A young man” sees as St. Augustine did that “all things work to the good, even sin” and with St. Paul echoes, “Death where is thy sting?” Both poems treat of mercy and God’s merciful love which functions in our lives despite our fallen natures. Possessing this knowledge, what is there for man to do but “to love and to turn to love again” no matter what befalls him? 

The summation of the two poems, and of the entire work of the Cantata, is this Good News of Redemption. Our lives are transformed by the sacrifice on the Cross, making our ordinary actions redemptive. This extraordinary promise of redemptive mercy, made throughout salvation history, was fulfilled for all time on Calvary.

In the Cantata, the theme of love is expressed through the use of prayers which are universally recited within the Church each day. These prayers unite each supplicant to the Church and her common heritage, and thus, ultimately to God Himself. Through this union, individual good works increase the deposit of grace which the Church Militant draws from daily as it wages war with Satan for the souls of men. While it remains necessary for each man to choose as Teresa did, “to love on, and to turn to love again,” each is sustained in his struggle by the intercession of those in heaven to whom he is united in prayer. 

One of the major themes in the Cantata is this universal liturgical prayer which is said each day in common throughout the world and which unites the Church Militant with the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering in love. The Mass, the Our Father and the Liturgy of the Hours are familiar prayers that each Catholic recites with other Christians in a union that exists not only in the present but also in the past. Liturgical prayer reminds us that our actions are bound to a common heritage which relates everything to the events of salvation history. 

This theme of remembrance aids faith by offering a reassurance of God’s past providence, thus enabling the present mystery to be accepted. In the Canticle of Zacharia, the promise of a Redeemer is recalled. At the same time, it is proclaimed that this promise is about to be fulfilled. The Magnificat goes further and declares the promise fulfilled; the Savior has come. Simeon confirms this declaration in the Nunc Dimittus. On Calvary, the Savior gives us through St. Dismas another promise of Paradise for individual men, Christian actions, as exemplified in the life of St. Teresa, to repeat this promise to the world.

It was through traditional Church prayers and reflections that the mystical theology of Teresa took form. The Cantata Carmelita seeks to bring this to life through music, and in so doing, to aid the listener’s reflection through use of the art. Melody, harmony and composition are used to express the beauty of the images found in Teresa’s works. They present these images to the intellect, capturing the imagination and pleasing the senses. By holding the interest of the listener, music can allow the intellect the time it needs to gain insight through its beauty. 

This is the role of the artist who uses allegory to express truth, and it is also the nature of his license. The allegories will always remain a poor imitation of divine reality. The liturgical artist must yield to the actions of the sacrament upon the altar. All his virtuosity and the beauty of the music must direct the listener’s attention to the liturgy, or he ceases to function as a liturgical artist. 

The artist of religious themes, on the other hand, possesses a different license and is indebted to Pius XII for identifying it in relationship to the nature of religious music. In writing or performing religious themes, the artist has the license to pursue the attention of the listener and to hold it through beauty and virtuosity. In doing so he aids the listener in recollection and leaves impressions which will continue to edify. Nevertheless, he must conform his work to the Truth and be obedient to the directives of the Church. His subjective experience is given credence only because it is never considered to be more than imitation. In this way he is like St. Teresa of Avila who spoke of the mystical life in allegorical terms. The allegories merely provided a medium through which Teresa could help others enter into and approach the mystery of the Sacred Humanity of Christ. She was an artist like any other artist God has inspired. One is reminded here, of the writers in the Old Testament who brought life and beauty to the Psalms and the Song of Songs. In this light, Christ Himself becomes the greatest of all artists through His parables which perfectly revealed divine life. Allegories of art provide, therefore, a bridge that allows man to travel beyond himself by giving form to the mystical life of grace.

The Cantata Carmelita attempts to be just such a bridge. The work is balanced by the two poems. Through the course of the first poem, “a young man” comes to see what the saint understands. The strength he needs to overcome his dragons of fear and evil come not from himself but from union with God and the Universal Church. Left to himself, “a young man” sees himself with the eyes of his fallen nature which reveal to him only his inadequacies. When united to the Church and seeing with the eyes of faith, the saint perceives the presence of the Beloved who was always near.

 

Thus, the themes of unity and love are carried through The Cantata Carmelita, which gives form not only to the mystical theology of Teresa of Avila, but artistically expresses the Communion of Saints as well. The Cantata Carmelita contributes an art form but also insight into how art gives form to beauty and theology.