Interior Castle: Sixth Mansions: Chapter Eleven
Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink? (Jesus)
The last chapter of the Sixth Mansions is about suffering in preparation for entering the Seventh and final Mansions of the Interior Castle. Teresa refers to Jesus’ question to James and John: “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” We’ll develop this idea through the next several posts. We began with the suffering that ultimately occurs because of spiritual favors.
The spiritual favors or spiritual ecstasy we receive through mystical prayer leave us in a challenging situation. “Even though it [the soul] may have been receiving these favors for many years, it always moans and goes about sorrowful because they leave it with greater pain.” This is counter-intuitive. Why would God’s spiritual favors/ecstasy cause suffering? Essentially spiritual ecstasy brings us into intense intimacy with God. As the spiritual ecstasy subsides, it leaves an even more intense desire to sustain this closeness to him. This unfulfilled desire causes great suffering.
Teresa gives two examples of the link between spiritual favors and suffering:
- When God draws us close through spiritual ecstasy, we also recognize our great distance from him. Our inability to close that gap causes us suffering.
- When we gain a deeper love for God through spiritual favors, it increases our understanding of how much he deserves to be loved. But our love falls short of our desire to love him. This also causes us pain.
Teresa says, when the soul “is getting to know ever more the grandeurs of its God and sees itself so distant and far from enjoying him, the desire for the Lord increases much more; also, love increases in the measure that the soul discovers how much this great God and Lord deserves to be loved. And this desire continues gradually growing in these years so that it reaches a point of suffering as great as that I shall now speak of.”
Be cautious of those who boast about their great love for God and their closeness to him. They may be giving you a false impression of the mature spiritual life. True closeness to God comes with intimacy, but also with a recognition of our great distance from God and a painful yearning to close the gap. A gap we cannot close. The soul accepts this limitation with humble faith; that despite our shortcomings, God loves us unconditionally and is not distant at all.
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.