The penances done by these persons are as carefully ordered as their lives. They have a great desire for penance, so that by means of it they may serve Our Lord — and there is nothing wrong in that — and for this reason they observe great discretion in their penances, lest they should injure their health. You need never fear that they will kill themselves: they are eminently reasonable folk! Their love is not yet ardent enough to overwhelm their reason. How I wish ours would make us dissatisfied with this habit of always serving God at a snail’s pace! As long as we do that we shall never get to the end of the road. And as we seem to be walking along and getting fatigued all the time — for, believe me, it is an exhausting road — we shall be very lucky if we escape getting lost. Do you think, daughters, if we could get from one country to another in a week, it would be advisable, with all the winds and snow and floods and bad roads, to take a year over it? Would it not better to get the journey over and done with? For there are all these obstacles for us to meet and there is also the danger of serpents. (The Interior Castle: Third Mansions: Chapter Two)
Teresa talks of “this habit of always serving God at a snail’s pace!” We can be “eminently reasonable folk” about our spirituality (and other areas of life), but nothing serious happens because we trudge through life. Mastery of two formational principles changes this:
- Depth over Breadth.
- Velocity over Deliberation.
Depth over Breadth: Studying a “classic book” changes us more than casual reading. And gaining wisdom is better than becoming a dilettante. You see many uneducated wise people and many educated fools. Fools have a remarkable ability to only learn information. The wise, however, learn with understanding. They gain depth and ultimately breadth because of their ability to apply knowledge to the unfamiliar and unknown. Depth positions us for velocity.
Velocity over Deliberation: Once we know our direction, deliberation is costly. Teresa notes the road we are on is filled with many dangers and we should make the journey as quickly as possible. Why would we plod to a better life? But we must choose velocity over speed. Velocity incorporates direction along with measuring the amount of displacement from the original position. Speed only measures how fast we go — you can drive around the block 40 times and end up with zero displacement from your original position. The goal is to get somewhere.
As a kid I remember the launching of the Saturn V (Apollo) rockets. Shortly after takeoff the first two stages of the rocket fell away. This was because they were primarily for fuel and the majority of the fuel was used in the few minutes of the flight to cover a relatively short distance (40+ miles verses the additional 240,000 to the moon). This immense amount of fuel was needed to escape the earth’s gravitational pull. I think they called this “escape velocity”.
“Escape velocity” is important to our spiritual lives. We apply powerful energy in a specific direction in order to break free from the gravitational pull of those things that hinder us.
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