October 15 is the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila.
For a day and a half a grave was left open in my convent, waiting for my body, and the rites for the dead were performed at a friary of our Order a short distance away. But it pleased the Lord that I should come round. I immediately asked to confess, and took Communion with many tears. But I do not think my tears came only from pain and sorrow at having offended God, which might have been enough to excuse me, if I had not the additional excuse of having been misled by those priests who had told me that certain things were not mortal sins which certainly were, as I have since seen.-The Life of St. Teresa of Avila Chapter 5 Translated by J.M Cohen.
Teresa says that our soul is created in the image of God. She says God is in the centre of our soul. She compares the soul to a castle with God there in the centre of the castle. The way to reach this centre, she says, is prayer and meditation.
This Castle has many mansions and the soul moves from one mansion to another .The soul has been made, programmed, to do the will of God and to reach Perfection, to reach the centre. This is built in like a teleogical missile or rocket i.e. a rocket which knows before it reaches the target, what is the target and how it will get there. God has built the soul to come back to Him if we just do His Will and not ours.
The soul is like pure light and with great beauty. God built it this way. But when we commit a mortal sin the soul becomes dark. The soul separates itself from God. Since the devil is darkness the soul becomes like the devil. Instead of evolving towards the Sun in the centre of the Soul the soul devolves or remains in the outer mansion only.
All these signs of the fear of God came to me through prayer, and the greatest of these was that I went about enveloped in love, for the thought of punishment no longer occurred to me. All the time that I was so ill, my conscience remained very much awake against mortal sin-The Life of St. Teresa of Avila .Chapter 6
A soul in grace is like a pure fresh stream that helps trees to grow and gives life. A soul in mortal sin is a like a foul smelling dirty stream that pollutes everything. The soul in this state creates misery for itself.
Teresa had the gift to see souls and so she could describe them.
She says we must ask God for two graces 1) A great fear of not offending Him and 2) humility. This is important for the interior journey to God.
In the First Mansion there are millions of souls. They are motivated by good intentions. The soul has to give up its love for its self, advantage and honor to enter the Second Mansion.
In the Second Stanza the devil places obstacles like love for things of the world, ones friends and relatives, guarding ones health during penance and millions of other obstacles.
As we move from the outer mansions closer to God we need to persevere and trust in God, since He knows what is best for us to come to Him. He wants us to come to Him.
The Way is Suffering. The Cross .The more suffering you receive the more freedom and liberty you have. Always choose the Cross she says.
If we do not leave prayer God will show us the way into the Third Mansion.
What is the grace that takes you into the Third Mansion? She can only describe it with the words-Blessed is the man who fears the Lord. It is here that God gives you the gift of a confident conscience.
TheFourth Mansion is a blessed Mansion as one gets closer to the King in the Castle. Here thoughts and evil have less power to distract and trouble us. There are spiritual consolations and sweetness in meditation. To make progress here she says the important thing is not to think much but to love much.
The heavenly grace, the pure fresh water begins to flow from the Source and spreads with goodness, happiness, joy, consolations and mystical states. This happens effortlessly and is a grace here. The will is more closely united to the will of God.
There is the experience of the Prayer of Recollection.
Very few people enter theFifth Mansion. The soul is conscious of being in union with God. Or that there is such a thing as being in union with God. There is the Prayer of Union here which she describes. The love of ones neighbor takes a new dimension here. It’s importance is realized. One has to proceed carefully here since the Devil is still watching and waiting to send the soul back to the First Mansion.
She cautions that we must withdraw from all possibilities and occasions of sin. We need to be very careful.
In the Fifth Mansion we need to continuously ask God to guard us. Since if he leaves us the soul will fall. The soul may be doing the will of God but the devil distracts the soul with good things, things which are not sins but which will over time gradually take the soul away from the will of God and distract it. It could be like meeting a friend or spending time with a relative.
In theSixth Mansion God awakens a soul. There are locutions and teachings. Apparitions. There is great tranquility. The soul becomes devout and is easily recollected. Here are raptures and ecstasy. However holy a person is she says he must always keep before him the Humanity of Jesus. She is referring to mental prayer and meditation. This is an anchor in Jesus and prevents the Devil misleading you. The devil is still there waiting for you to fall. Since he knows that in this state a soul can save many others, like did the Catholic saints.
When one enters the Seventh Mansion the Holy Trinity grants knowledge of the Godhead. The soul is helped to go towards perfection says St. Teresa of Avila in the Interior Castle. The soul is aware of being in union with God in a spiritual way. The soul desires to suffer and do the will of God perfectly. There is no more dryness or suffering here as the soul experienced in earlier mansions. There is tranquility. The soul does not want to commit the slightest imperfection.Humility is still the key.
Here she concludes The Interior Castle (Read it online at Catholic First)
Solitude is their delight and they dislike the mere thought of seeing anyone, even a close relative, unless the meeting will help kindle their love of the Bridegroom... (Speaking of her convent of sisters)Their sole conversation is of God, and they understand no one who speaks of anything else, nor do those others understand them. We observe the Rule of Our Lady of Carmel…
…to enjoy the company of their Bridegroom, Christ, in solitude. For this must always be the sole aim of our nuns: to be alone with Him...’-Life of St. Teresa of Avila Chapt.37