Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Seventh Mansions: Book Two
Teresa begins this chapter with, “Now then, let us deal with the divine and spiritual marriage”. The Interior Castle uses metaphors related to marriage and sexuality to help us understand the intimacy and ecstasy we can have with God. These metaphors, of course, have limits and are completely spiritual. Teresa says, “The spiritual joys and consolations given by the Lord are a thousand leagues removed from those experienced in marriage.” Using metaphors related to marriage and sexuality wasn’t new with Teresa of Avila. The Bible and Judeo-Christian history regularly used these metaphors and connected them to the spiritual life.
Teresa viewed this marriage metaphor through the context of a traditional marriage in 16th century Spain. The three stages of marriage included:
- Brief meetings to determine compatibility.
- A betrothal period.
- The marriage itself.
Spiritual life in the Fifth Mansions may give us a brief, but powerful, encounter with God (see Silkworms and Butterflies). The Fifth Mansions are an early stage toward becoming fully united in our relationship with Christ. The Sixth Mansions are a betrothal period in which we learn to deeply love Christ. Then, in the Seventh Mansion we become united with Him. (For more on this topic see Prayer, Poetry, and Sex.)
In the Seventh Mansions Teresa begins to share her own experience related to “spiritual marriage”. She says, “With regard to the one of whom we are speaking [herself], the Lord represented himself to her, just after she had received Communion, in the form of shining splendor, beauty, and majesty, as he was after his resurrection, and told her that now it was time that she consider as her own what belonged to him and that he would take care of what was hers, and he spoke other words destined more to be heard than to be mentioned.”
One of the first blessings received in “spiritual marriage” is joint ownership of all that is his and the commitment that he will take care of everything that is ours. This creates a new compass for our lives. We have “joint ownership” with him of all things. And every thing we have will be taken care of by Him. Contemplating these two truths will transform the way we think and the way we live. Teresa said, God told her “now it was time”. When is it time for us? Time to believe differently, think differently, and act differently.
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.
Whether 16th century Spain or today, using the metaphor of traditional marriage does put things in an easily understood perspective.
Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts Resa. It’s always great to hear from you.