Should We Ever Harm Another Human Being?

Death of the Butterfly: Part IV: Joy in Persecution

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Jesus)

“These souls also have a deep interior joy when they are persecuted, with much more peace than that mentioned, and without any hostile feelings toward those who do, or desire to do, them evil. On the contrary, such a soul gains a particular love for its persecutors, in such a way that if it sees these latter in some trial it feels compassion and would take on any burden to free them from their trial, and eagerly recommends them to God and would rejoice to lose the favors His Majesty grants it if he would bestow these same gifts on those others so that they wouldn’t offend our Lord.” (Teresa of Avila)

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” (Abraham Lincoln)

In The Republic of Plato we find a question posed by Socrates: “Is it, then . . .  the part of a just man to harm any human being whatsoever?”  Alan Bloom inserts the following comment in his Interpretive Essay of the Republic: “As Lessing approvingly put it, ‘for the ancient Greeks moral greatness consisted in a love of friends that is as constant as the hatred of one’s enemies is unchanging.” Socrates dismantles this argument and concludes: “For it has become apparent to us that it is never just to harm anyone.” However, Bloom adds, “Socrates does not suggest that the just man would want to benefit all men, only that he would want to benefit his friends and remain indifferent to others.” 

  • “Ancient” Perspective: Love your friends and harm your enemies. Strike first and strike hard because your enemies may become strong and harm your family and friends.
  • Socrates/Plato: Harming your enemies defies logic and exacerbates the problem. Instead, love your friends and be indifferent to your enemies.
  • Jesus: Actively love your enemies and seek their blessing — even those who persecute you.

Teresa says, in spiritual marriage or oneness with Christ, persecution produces joy and peace “without any hostile feelings toward those who do, or desire to do, them evil.” Teresa then takes this a step further. Instead of hostile feelings or wanting to inflict injury on the persecutor we feel compassion for any suffering they experience. We would rather take on the trial of our persecutor and see the persecutor set free. And we would rather sacrifice the favors we receive from God and have those gifts given to the persecutor.

But why? We can seek the good of our “enemies” because of our confidence in our oneness with Christ and his care for us. We also want to see God praised. When our persecutor receives goodness from God (through us) this praise is more likely to happen. But when we choose an “evil for evil response”, we “dehumanize” the other person and give evil a greater stronghold in the world and in our lives.

For this post I used a translation of The Interior Castle by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D., ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies: Washington D.C. Kindle Edition.

Translation of The Plato’s Republic and the Interpretive Essay: The Republic of Plato. Alan Bloom. Second Edition. Basic Books: A division of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 1968.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in 7th Mansions - Chapter 3

A Desire to Suffer

Death of the Butterfly: Part III: A Desire to Suffer

I mentioned in a previous post Teresa occasionally begins to enumerate her ideas – and then doesn’t continue her pattern clearly. She gets there, but it’s not always easy to follow. This leaves some work for the modern reader to sort out. But we’ll take a short cut: Kavenaugh and Rodriguez in their translation of The Interior Castle complete the enumeration. The effects of The Death of the Butterfly include:

  1. Forgetfulness of self
  2. Desire to suffer
  3. Deep interior joy in persecution
  4. Desire to serve
  5. Great detachment
  6. No fear of the devil’s deceits

In this post we’ll discuss the “desire to suffer”. Teresa writes: “The second effect is that the soul has a great desire to suffer, but not the kind of desire that disturbs it as previously. For the desire left in these souls that the will of God be done in them reaches such an extreme that they think everything His Majesty does is good. If he desires the soul to suffer, well and good; if not, it doesn’t kill itself as it used to.”

In Romans 5 the Apostle Paul writes: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Paul says we can “boast in our sufferings”. Previously in the book of Romans, Paul used “boasting” as a negative — an arrogant attitude about our human ability to be right with God and keep his “law” through our own willpower. Now Paul says we can boast, but the boasting is not about human ability. The boasting (or celebration) is about our justification through God’s grace. This justification happens to us, but apart from our own effort. And through this justification we find the future “hope of sharing the glory of God”. We’ve also presently entered a new creation where “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Suffering fixes our attention on our future glory through justification. Through suffering God also brings us to a present experience of God’s love through the Holy Spirit. We participate in God’s new creation with his glory breaking into our daily life.

So Paul’s argument is something like this:

  • We are justified by grace through faith. (We’re declared by God to be in a right relationship with him. Our dependence on divine grace eliminates boasting based on human effort — and consequently, our judgmental attitude about others.)
  • We are at peace with God through Jesus Christ. (There’s nothing broken in our relationship with him.)
  • We can “boast in our hope of sharing in the glory of God”. (We can have confidence in our future participation in God’s glory.)
  • We can also boast in our present sufferings. (Our suffering is developmental in life, not an obstacle to life.)
  • Our sufferings produce endurance. (We become strong – “in shape”, so to speak, for the challenges of life.)
  • The endurance we develop from suffering produces character. (Through endurance character becomes a habit.)
  • Refined character produces the “hope of sharing the glory of God.” (Our character allows us to see more clearly our future glory with God.)
  • We have present participation in the new creation because God’s love through the Holy Spirit has already “been poured out into hearts”. (The indwelling Trinity resides within us [i.e. The Interior Castle] and saturates our being with his love.)

Back to Teresa: When we enter into spiritual marriage with Christ, we are one spirit with him. This intimate relationship produces a “great desire” to suffer because we know this suffering produces deeper intimacy and abundant blessing. In the past, suffering came with a great disturbance in our soul. In spiritual marriage, we recognize that everything God does is good and infused with love for us. Therefore, we are at peace.

For this post I used a translation of The Interior Castle by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D., ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies: Washington D.C. Kindle Edition.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in 7th Mansions - Chapter 3

The Death of the Butterfly: Part II

Teresa continues her discussion of “spiritual marriage” and being “one spirit” with Christ. Spiritual marriage brings mutuality between Christ and us. She says, the soul would “look after what is his and that he would look after what is hers. Thus, the soul doesn’t worry about all that can happen.” 

Being one spirit with Christ in spiritual marriage includes:

  1. We “look after” what is his (and not worry about ourselves).
  2. He will “look after” us and what is ours.
  3. Therefore, we can eliminate worry.

This is reminiscent of Matthew 6. “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The question is: All what things? The answer: All the things we spend our time worrying about. This is not permission to neglect responsibility and self-care. It’s permission to take action and trust God to “look after” us and everything that is ours.

 

For this post I used a translation of The Interior Castle by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D., ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies: Washington D.C. Kindle Edition.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in 7th Mansions - Chapter 3

Death of the Butterfly: Part I

Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Seventh Mansions: Chapter Three

Earlier in the Interior Castle we saw the Death of the Silkworm and its transformation into a butterfly (moth): “You must have already heard about his marvels manifested in the way silk originates, for only he could have invented something like that. The silkworms come from seeds about the size of little grains of pepper. . . . When warm weather comes and the leaves begin to appear on the mulberry tree, the seeds start to live, for they are dead until then. The worms nourish themselves on mulberry leaves until, having grown to full size, they settle on some twigs. There, with their little mouths, they themselves go about spinning the silk and making some very thick little cocoons in which they enclose themselves. The silkworm, which is fat and ugly, then dies, and a little white butterfly, which is very pretty, comes forth from the cocoon. Now if this were not seen but recounted to us as having happened in other times, who would believe it?” 

The silkworm “died” and became a butterfly. Now, the butterfly dies and becomes one with Christ. Teresa says, “Now, then, we are saying that this little butterfly has already died, with supreme happiness for having found repose and because Christ lives in it. Jesus used the death/new life metaphor to describe his own life/death/new life and then applies it to his disciples: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” 

So the Christian spiritual journey can look something like this:

  1. By God’s grace and intervention we seek Christ.
  2. We grow spiritually by entering the Interior Castle and practicing “ascetic prayer” and other spiritual disciplines.
  3. We (the silkworm) spin a cocoon, “die”, and are transformed into a butterfly (new life).
  4. God initiates further transformation in our lives through mystical prayer.
  5. The butterfly dies and lives as one spirit with Christ (spiritual marriage).

Each of these stages produces effects or outcomes. The Death of the Butterfly is no exception. In Chapter Three of the Seventh Mansions, Teresa says, “Let us see what life it lives, or how this life differs from the life it was living. For from the effects, we shall see if what was said is true. By what I can understand, these effects are the following.”

Teresa occasionally begins enumerating things and doesn’t always continue her pattern clearly. She gets there, but it’s not always easy to follow.  Keirnan Kavenaugh and Otilio Rodriguez in their translation of the Interior Castle suggest the effects of the butterfly dying are as follows:

  1. Forgetfulness of self
  2. Desire to suffer
  3. Deep interior joy in persecution
  4. Desire to serve
  5. Great detachment
  6. No fear of the devil’s deceits

This may not seem like an encouraging list of what it means to be one with Christ. Who wants to suffer, endure persecution, and serve others? We want to actualize self and conquer the world. But the point is, as we become one with Christ we cease to be a prisoner of self and others. While we may suffer, endure persecution, and be subjected to humiliation — these things no longer victimize us. On the contrary, we become more “powerful”. We also cease to be deceived by the devil into living an inferior life. Everything we do — everything we experience brings great fruit because we are one spirit with Christ.

For an additional post on this topic see: The Most Christian Person I’ve Ever Met.

 

For this post I used a translation of The Interior Castle by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D., ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies: Washington D.C. Kindle Edition.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in 7th Mansions - Chapter 3

The Most Christian Person I’ve Ever Met

Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Seventh Mansions: Chapter Three

[She] has now died, full of joy at having found rest, and within her lives Christ. Let us see what her new life is like, and how different it is from her earlier one. (Teresa of Avila)

He worked the soul like he worked the land
He spoke in ways that anyone could understand 
Simple words of simple faith 
And when it came to love 
He would go out of his way
A helping hand 
A soothing chat 
And he practiced what he preached imagine that  (Michael W. Smith)

The metaphor of death and new life is common in spiritual literature. In order to have new life, we must die to our previous existence. Sometimes this death is nearly imperceptible, other times it’s significant events like a book, an illness, or a person that catalyzes our transformation.

About twenty years ago, I went to a two-day conference on hiring employees. The speaker, Vic, was illustrating character and generosity. He shared a story about growing up in the 50s in a tiny town — 110 people as I write this — called Cannon City, Minnesota. When Vic was in eighth grade, he desperately wanted to play the trumpet. But his family was too poor to afford the instrument.

There was a senior in high school that would often be on the tractor as Vic walked by. Vic would occasionally stop and talk with this older boy.  One day, Vic mentioned his desire to play the trumpet. The older boy said, “I’m leaving for the military soon — you can have my trumpet.”

This story caught my attention because my wife attended church in Cannon City when we were dating. I met some of the people she went to church with, including the school teacher who preached on Sundays.

At the break in our conference, I stopped and talked to Vic. I said, “It’s possible we could have a mutual acquaintance. Did you by any chance know a Bix Nauman when you grew up in Cannon City?” Vic said, “That’s the boy who gave me the trumpet!” He asked me how I knew Bix. And then Vic said, “Bix Nauman was the most Christian person I ever met.”

I saw Bix a few years later. We talked for a short time. As I walked away, he stopped me. He pulled a folded piece a paper from his pocket and handed it to me: Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. (John 12.24-26) 

Bix understood the Christian life was about dying. Dying to self and selfishness — and dying to our previous existence and following Christ into new life.

Is Bix the most Christian person I ever met? Probably. Some may suggest his pastoral talents weren’t fully used by preaching to less than a 100 people on Sunday and teaching science during the week. I disagree. From what I’ve seen — from what I’ve heard — the seed fell into the ground and died and bore much fruit.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in 7th Mansions - Chapter 3