Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Seventh Mansions: Book Three
When we reach the Seventh Mansions of the Interior Castle, God reduces or eliminates spiritual raptures and ecstasy. Teresa says, “I am amazed as well to see that when the soul arrives here all raptures are taken away. Only once in a while are they experienced and then without those transports and that flight of the spirit. They happen very rarely and almost never in public as they very often did before.”
Those who equate spiritual growth with ecstasy attempt to reproduce something from their spiritual past. But as C.S. Lewis says, “And how should the Infinite repeat Himself? All space and time are too little for Him to utter Himself in them once.” Past ecstasy and raptures only can provide revelation and reference points to be applied to a “different self” in a new context. The previous context no longer exists. Our previous “self” no longer exists. The community we once loved no longer exists. It’s gone! We must enter the “Eternal Now”.
The Now! It’s “Here an abundance of water is given to this deer that was wounded. Here one delights in God’s tabernacle. Here the dove Noah sent out to see if the storm was over finds the olive branch as a sign of firm ground discovered amid the floods and tempests of this world.” Your discipleship, your friendship with God, your intimate relationship with him can only be a present event. The “Now” is the only forward movement to the future. Trying to recapture past emotions or a previous context damages our spiritual health. Nostalgia and regret separate us from God and invite spiritual warfare. Teresa warns, “the first war could return if we were to withdraw from God” who lives in the present.
Isn’t this what the author of Hebrews hints at: “Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”
When we live in the now, we embrace humility and God’s mercy instead of self-righteousness and judgment. Teresa says, “their sins [the dehumanizing of others] become more serious to them”. And “in everything concerning themselves they trust in his mercy” instead of absorbing self-condemnation and the censorious judgment of others. In the Now, we simplify our lives: “for they fear that just as a ship too heavily laden sinks to the bottom they will go down too.” In the Now, we gain peace even though we suffer and experience setbacks: “I tell you, Sisters, that the cross is not wanting but it doesn’t disquiet or make them lose peace. For the storms, like a wave, pass quickly. And the fair weather returns, because the presence of the Lord they experience makes them soon forget everything. May he be ever blessed and praised by all his creatures, amen.”
That past is gone. The future does not exist. So what will you do — Now?
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.