Joy and Suffering

Interior Castle: Sixth Mansion: Chapter Eleven

Teresa embraces future death. She sees death as welcome and a delay in death as painful. (Of course, she also sees death and the delay in death as something belonging to God’s timing.) Teresa’s perspective flows from the “spiritual marriage” metaphor she uses in the Interior Castle and her yearning to be with God. To fully appreciate the marriage metaphor we need to be aware Teresa viewed it in the context of a traditional marriage in 16th century Spain. The three stages of marriage included:

  1. Brief meetings to determine compatibility.
  2. A betrothal period.
  3. The marriage itself.

This parallels Teresa’s discussion on Unitive Prayer:

  1. Brief Meetings: A brief time in which we see our future Spouse. (Fifth Mansions)
  2. Betrothal: The promise to marry and learning to love Christ. This also includes the yearning and suffering of the soul as it desires to be united with Christ. (Sixth Mansions)
  3. Marriage: Union with Christ. (Seventh Mansions)

(For additional information on spiritual marriage see Marriage as a Spiritual Metaphor and Prayer, Poetry, and Sex.)

In nearing the last stages of the Sixth Mansion this suffering and yearning for unity with Christ becomes extremely painful to the soul. At the same time this pain is welcome because in comparison to union with Christ, earthly things have lost their meaning.

Teresa says, “While this soul is going about in this manner, burning up within itself, a blow is felt from elsewhere (the soul doesn’t understand from where or how). The blow comes often through a sudden thought or word about death’s delay. Or the soul will feel pierced by a fiery arrow. I don’t say that there is an arrow, but whatever the experience, the soul realizes clearly that the feeling couldn’t come about naturally. Neither is the experience that of a blow, although I said “blow,” but it causes a sharp wound. And, in my opinion, it isn’t felt where earthly sufferings are felt, but in the very deep and intimate part of the soul, where this sudden flash of lightning reduces to dust everything it finds in this earthly nature of ours; for while this experience lasts nothing can be remembered about our being. In an instant the experience so binds the faculties that they have no freedom for anything except those things that will make this pain increase.”

Teresa goes on to say that in this experience “His Majesty helps at that time with a vivid knowledge of himself in such a way that the pain increases to a point that makes the one who experiences it begin to cry aloud. Though she is a person who has suffered and is used to suffering severe pains, she cannot then do otherwise. This feeling is not in the body, as was said, but in the interior part of the soul. As a result, this person understood how much more severe the feelings of the soul are than those of the body”.

Joy and suffering coexist. The joy of anticipation must coexist with the yearning that causes us to suffer. The joy of memory must coexist with the grief caused by absence. Shortcuts to eliminate yearning will diminish joy. Anesthetizing grief will damage the memories. When we accept yearning and grief as a way of life, we also find joy, resonant memories, and fulfillment.


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.

Jesus Follower, Blogger, Public Speaker.

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Posted in 6th Mansions - Chapter 11
2 comments on “Joy and Suffering
  1. Aquileana says:

    As always an enlightening post which I much enjoyed dear Dave…
    It is interesting to see how you highlight that the last stages of the Sixth Mansion involve an extreme suffering and yearning for unity with Christ… During the Middle Age, Pain and sacrifice were certainly requirements in order to achieve so… I guess there are many points which might be related to certain stoicism, somehow…
    Sending love and best wishes. Aquileana ⭐

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