Interior Castle: Sixth Mansions: Chapter Ten
One God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4)
God Lives in Us. We Live in God
In Chapter Ten of the Sixth Mansion, Teresa reverses the metaphor: God is the palace (or castle) in which we dwell. In fact, all creation is “within Him”.
The Intellectual Vision and Sin
Teresa says, through an Intellectual Vision “it is revealed how all things are seen in God and how he has them all in himself.” God also reveals our sin through this interior enlightenment. When I talk about sin I’m not talking about a violation of someone’s religious code. I’m talking about our lack of love driven by selfishness and greed. When selfishness takes over our lives, we act in self-destructive ways that dehumanizes other people and destroys relationships.
Seeing our selfishness begins to move us to new life. Teresa says, “Even though this vision passes quickly it is a great favor from our Lord if one desires to benefit from it by keeping it habitually present.” When God reveals our sin to us, it doesn’t lead to shame and self-rejection. Instead, we see how much God loves us and we better understand the forgiveness and freedom we can have from the behaviors that damage others and us.
God’s Presence and Our Sin
Our sin is not simply violating the commands of a distant lawgiver and judge. Our sin occurs in his presence. But it’s even more than that. If we live in the “Palace”, as all creation does, our sin/selfishness also takes place “within God himself”. And because all creation is “within God” our sin always affects others – whether they know about our sin or not. Sin is the most contagious disease and it doesn’t always have consistent symptoms or predictable patterns of how it spreads. The sin of one family member may express itself very differently in other family members. Sin may lie dormant in some family members, but show up years later in a spouse or child. The sin of one person may be carried into institutions outside of the family. It may even find its way into other families or institutions through a carrier not showing any symptoms.
“In this [intellectual] vision it is revealed how all things are seen in God and how he has them all in himself. This favor is most beneficial. Even though it passes in a moment, it remains deeply engraved in the soul and causes the greatest confusion. The evil of offending God is seen more clearly because while being in God himself (I mean being within him) we commit great evils.”
“Let’s suppose that God is like an immense and beautiful dwelling or palace and that this palace, as I say, is God himself. Could the sinner, perhaps, so as to engage in his evil deeds, leave this palace? No, certainly not; rather, within the palace itself — that is, within God himself — the abominations, indecent actions, and evil deeds committed by us sinners take place. Oh, frightful thought, worthy of deep reflection, and very beneficial for those of us who know little. We don’t completely understand these truths, for otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to be so foolishly audacious!”
The remedy to our sin is not simply to stop sinning. The remedy is forgiveness. We confess our selfishness and sin and by faith embrace the forgiveness provided by Jesus Christ through his death on the cross. Then we are empowered through his resurrection to live in love and God will extract good out of evil. It’s also though faith and forgiveness we reverse the spread of sin and its consequences.
A Life of Forgiveness
If we sin “within his very self” and receive forgiveness, we then move to the next logical step: We must forgive others for their sins against us.
“Let us consider, Sisters, the great mercy and compassion of God in not immediately destroying us there, and be extremely thankful to him, and let us be ashamed to feel resentment about anything that is said or done against us. The greatest evil of the world is that God, our Creator, suffers so many evil things from his creatures within his very self and that we sometimes resent a word said in our absence and perhaps with no evil intention. Oh, human misery! When, daughters, will we imitate this great God? Oh, let us not think we are doing anything by suffering injuries, but we should very eagerly endure everything, and let us love the one who offends us since this great God has not ceased to love us even though we have offended him very much. Thus the Lord is right in wanting all to pardon the wrongs done to them.”
When we pardon others, this does not mean naively returning to a relationship in which people injure or exploit us. Practicing love and forgiveness means we also set healthy boundaries on unhealthy people. But we must forgive. Without forgiveness we always fight a losing battle against the consequences of our sin and the sin of others.
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.