Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Seventh Mansions: Chapter Two
But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (I Corinthians 6.17)
Teresa continues her discussion of becoming “one spirit” with Jesus Christ and explains the distinction between “spiritual betrothal” and “spiritual marriage”. (Teresa’s perspective was the traditional marriage in 16th century Spain.)
In spiritual betrothal there can still be a separation between parties. Teresa says, “And the union [spiritual betrothal] is also different [from spiritual marriage] because, even though it is the joining of two things into one, in the end the two can be separated and each remains by itself. We observe this ordinarily, for the favor of union with the Lord passes quickly, and afterward the soul remains without that company; I mean, without awareness of it.” In spiritual betrothal we can potentially separate from Jesus and the awareness of his presence. In spiritual marriage his presence and the awareness of his presence are continuous and permanent. “The soul always remains with its God in that center.”
Teresa explains the difference between spiritual betrothal and spiritual marriage through metaphor. “Let us say that the union [spiritual betrothal] is like the joining of two wax candles to such an extent that the flame and the wax are all one. But afterward one candle can be easily separated from the other and there are two candles; the same holds for the wick. In the spiritual marriage the union is like what we have when rain falls from the sky into a river or fount; all is water, for the rain that fell from heaven cannot be divided or separated from the water of the river. Or it is like what we have when a little stream enters the sea; there is no means of separating the two. Or, like the bright light entering a room through two different windows; although the streams of light are separate when entering the room, they become one.”
Teresa references the Apostle Paul, “Perhaps this is what St. Paul means in saying ‘he that is joined or united to the Lord becomes one spirit’ with him, and is referring to this sovereign marriage, presupposing that His Majesty has brought the soul to it through union. And he also says: ‘For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.'”
Spiritual marriage is the union of our spirit with Christ resulting in “the greatest joy because its life is now Christ.”
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.