The Way of Perfection

By The Rev’d Dr Ayla Lepine

In St Teresa of Avila’s The Way of Perfection, completed c.1566, she offers wisdom to Carmelite nuns on prayer, spirituality, and living in community. A Doctor of the Church, Teresa’s theological views are bold, clear, and uncompromising. She was a reformer, founding a vast number of religious houses for men and women in the sixteenth century, often under extreme pressure. Meanwhile, her inner life of prayer and her writing are consistently marked by her openness to change and her understanding of the need for constant calibration and adaptation. Her work was determined and strategic, not rigid or cynical. Flexibility was a primary component of what would become her movement’s consistency. This talk will explore Teresa’s approach to love, detachment, and change in The Way, connecting these themes with two artworks depicting Teresa’s most intensive encounters with God: Bernini’s St Teresa in Ecstasy (1647-52), and Rubens’ St Teresa of Avila’s Vision of the Holy Spirit (1612-14).

The Rev'd Dr Ayla Lepine

The Revd Dr Ayla Lepine’s research focuses on intersections across theology and the arts. Following her PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art, she was a post-doctoral fellow at Yale and the Courtauld, and Lecturer and Visiting Fellow in Art History at the University of Essex. While at theological college in Cambridge, she completed an MPhil in Anglican Studies on the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of England. Her publications include articles on monastic architecture, the Hereford Screen, and modern British art, and the book Architecture and Religious Communities: Building the Kingdom (Routledge, 2018). She is a contributor to the Visual Commentary on Scripture ( and a trustee of the charity Art and Christianity. She is Assistant Curate at Hampstead Parish Church in London.