Teresa uses the marriage customs of her day to explain Unitive Prayer (i.e. becoming one with Him). This includes:
- Brief Meetings: A brief time in which we see our future Spouse. (Fifth Mansion)
- Betrothal Period: The promise to marry and learning to love Christ. (Sixth Mansion)
- Marriage: Union with Christ. (Seventh Mansion)
We are in the Sixth Mansions of the Interior Castle. The “Betrothal Period” produces great intimacy with Christ. This may also include what Teresa calls “Raptures of the Soul”. The Raptures of the Soul are not simply ecstatic experiences. They’re rich in substance and meant to be understood. In fact. we should be concerned if ecstatic experiences lack content or we cannot understand them. Teresa says, “My own belief is that, if the soul to whom God has given these secrets in its raptures never understands any of them, they proceed, not from raptures at all, but from some natural weakness.”
Teresa says, “In a rapture, believe me, God carries off for himself the entire soul, and, as to someone who is his own and his spouse, he begins showing it some little part of the kingdom that it has gained by being espoused to Him. However small that part of his kingdom may be, everything that there is in this great God is magnificent.” *
In these raptures of the soul God clears away all obstacles to our union with Him: “He at once commands that all the doors of these Mansions shall be shut, and only the door of the Mansion in which He dwells remains open so that we may enter.” Raptures from God produce transformation and virtue. We also gain insight and understanding. Ego-driven and empty ecstatic experiences are not consistent with the betrothal period or with being in the presence of God.
* Interior Castle translation by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D., ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies: Washington D.C.