So, Christian souls, whom the Lord has brought to this point on your journey, I beseech you, for His sake, not to be negligent, but to withdraw from occasions of sin–for even in this state the soul is not strong enough to be able to run into them safely, as it is after the betrothal has been made–that is to say, in the Mansion we shall describe after this one. For this communication has been no more than (as we might say) one single short meeting, and the devil will take great pains about combating it and will try to hinder the betrothal. Afterwards, when he sees that the soul is completely surrendered to the Spouse, he dare not do this, for he is afraid of such a soul as that, and he knows by experience that if he attempts anything of the kind he will come out very much the loser and the soul will achieve a corresponding gain. (Teresa of Avila: Fifth Mansions: Chapter Four)
If aggression meets empty space it tends to defeat itself. (Josh Waitzkin: The Art of Learning)
In my last post I talked about Marriage as a Spiritual Metaphor. Teresa’s metaphor is based on traditional marriage practices in Spain 500 years ago. This included three stages:
- A brief meeting.
- A betrothal period.
- The marriage itself.
In the Fifth Mansions we’re in the “brief meeting” stage. We’ve met Christ through mystical prayer and gained insights we could’ve never gained through our faculties. We now desire to be in relationship with Him, align our will with His will, and bring Him joy. Despite the power of the “brief meeting”, we’re still more vulnerable to the attacks of the devil here than we will be in the sixth Mansions.
Teresa warns us to “withdraw from occasions of sin — for even in this state the soul is not strong enough to run into them safely, as it is after the betrothal has been made” So the devil takes “great pains about combating it (the soul) and will try to hinder the betrothal.” But once “he sees that the soul is completely surrendered to the Spouse, he dare not do this, for he is afraid of such a soul as that, and he knows by experience that if he attempts anything of the kind he will come out very much the loser and the soul will achieve a corresponding gain.”
The devil easily exploits uncommitted Christians and unaddressed sin. When we withdraw from sin and surrender to Christ, the devil becomes afraid. He knows if he attacks us he loses and our soul achieves a corresponding gain. Like a spiritual warfare version of Tai Chi our opponent’s own power and “aggression” is used to defeat him and give us great strength.