Touches of Love

Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Seventh Mansions: Book Three

Certainly, if there were no other gain in this way of prayer except to understand the particular care God has in communicating with us and beseeching us to remain with him . . . it seems to me that all the trials endured for the sake of enjoying these touches of his love, so gentle and penetrating, would be well worthwhile. (Teresa of Avila)

Negligence in any relationship, including our relationship with God, will cause us to drift away. Negligence comes in two forms: An absence of attention and an absence of response. To further our spiritual development we must cultivate attentiveness and take decisive action.


God is passionate about us. He loves us and likes us. He asks us to “remain” with him even through trials. When we do, he communicates to us with gentle “touches of love” marked by care, kindness, and penetration into our spirit. Teresa says, “When this impulse comes to you [these touches of love and the concurrent personal revelation], remember that it comes from this interior dwelling place where God is in our soul . . . . For certainly that note or letter is his, written with intense love and in such a way that he wants you alone to understand it and what he asks of you in it.”

We note three things about personal revelation:

  1. The Location of the Revelation: God’s revelation “comes from this interior dwelling place where God is in our soul”. The indwelling Trinity communicates directly to us and within us.
  2. God’s Passion for Us: This “note or letter” from God is “written with intense love”. This reflects the value he places on our relationship with him and his communication to us.
  3. Comprehension and Response: It’s for us “alone to understand” what he is asking us to do. Learning and advice from others have their place, but ultimately God’s guidance is not “out there” (advice) it’s “in here” (our hearts).

Decisive Action

In some cases, this personal revelation happens “publicly”. Teresa references the Apostle Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road. Sometimes this revelation comes in through trials in a public context: A job loss, a family crisis, illness, or betrayal.  And, almost always, this revelation comes when we have too much to do to attend to the revelation. Yet this revelation still calls for immediate and decisive action. (Luke 9.57-62)

The ultimate response to revelation is articulated in the words of the Apostle Paul: “Lord, what will you have me do?” From there, “he will teach you there what will be pleasing to him and the acceptable time.” The acceptable time does not suggest procrastination. But the acceptable time is strategic. Once we discern the direction and timing is set, we strip away the “unessentials” from our life and drive forward with “resolute will” powered by the “intense love’ that produced the revelation.


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.

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Great Detachment

Great Detachment
Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Seventh Mansions: Chapter Three

In the Seventh Mansions, we are at the center of the Interior Castle (our souls). This is where the King resides. This is where the most intimate exchanges take place between God and the soul. In the other Mansions we desired “consolations or spiritual delights” or moments of ecstasy because it provided revelation from God and/or an experience of closeness to God.

In the Seventh Mansions, the soul no longer seeks these consolations “since the Lord himself is present with these souls and it is His Majesty who now lives” within them. The absence of temporary consolations is replaced with a fortitude and “great detachment from everything”. This “great detachment” actualizes itself in two different ways.

  1. It desires to be alone to enjoy the presence of God and to praise him.
  2. Or, it desires to do something “that will benefit some soul.”

This can sound like a barren or unfulfilled life, but here “there are no interior trials or feelings of dryness”. Instead, “the soul lives with a remembrance and tender love of our Lord” which fills us with peace and confidence.

We still may become distracted at times, but “the Lord himself awakens” the soul to return to this interior peace. “In this dwelling place, these impulses are experienced most gently, but they do not proceed from the mind or the memory, nor do they come from anything that would make one think the soul did something on its own.” This call from distraction “is an ordinary and frequent one” and “this interior movement proceeds from the center of the soul [where Christ dwells] and awakens the faculties.”

In the Seventh Mansion, the starting point is not our faculties (reason, faith, memory, will, and understanding). The starting point is the ongoing, direct impulses of the Trinity at the interior of our soul. How we use our faculties distinguishes ascetic prayer from mystical prayer. In ascetic prayer, we use our faculties (by grace) to draw closer to Christ. In mystical prayer, the use of our faculties flows from the inner promptings of the Spirit and explodes into life.


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.

Photo: Norway May 2017 – Dave Small

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How to Conquer the World

Teresa of Avila: The Interior Castle: Seventh Mansions: Chapter Three

What surprises me most of all now is that they have just as great a desire to serve him and that through them he be praised and that they may benefit some soul if they can. (Teresa of Avila)

We can compare the Western mind with an oak tree that stands firm and rigid against the strong wind. When the wind becomes stronger, the oak tree cracks. The Chinese mind, on the other hand, is like the bamboo that bends with the strong wind. When the wind ceases (that is, when it goes to the extreme and changes), the bamboo springs back stronger than before. (Bruce Lee – Artist of Life)

As a Christian, we center ourselves in love, humility, and ordinary life.  We actualize these principles through service. We serve God and our primary way of serving God is serving others. In our service, the Holy Spirit brings grace, mercy, and empowerment to others.

In John 13, Jesus teaches us several things about service. In this passage he washes the feet of the disciples. In his time and culture, washing the feet of another person was considered humiliating. Jesus took on this “humiliation” to foreshadow the cross (the humiliation of a criminal’s death). After completing the foot-washing, Jesus encouraged his disciples to also serve and love others in humility.

The Core Principles of Service

  1. Service Should Flow From Love: John explains Jesus’ motive behind the foot-washing and the cross: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Jesus then instructed his disciples to love: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus first washed the feet his closest companions. Service always begins at “home”. Doing great acts of charity in the world (or church), but using “power” or “force” with your family, friends, and co-workers is not the Jesus way.
  2. Service Centers Itself in Self-awareness and Strength: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God”. We can also serve in strength and self-awareness knowing all things are in his hands and the indwelling Trinity will guide us.
  3. Service Follows the Example of Jesus and Serves Others: “‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord— and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.”
  4. Service Results in Blessing: “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
  5. Service Requires Risk:  After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ But, Jesus’ ultimate answer to the possibility of betrayal is to love anyway. Those who try to exploit us should not drive us to a risk-averse life, a shrinking life, or diminish our ability to be in relationship with others.

The “Power” of Humility and Service
We live in a world of “powers”. There is, of course, spiritual forces not always seen. These powers control and manipulate human powers. Then, there are “neutral” powers like governments, businesses, media, schools, and even churches. They also use or try to use force. And when we respond with power or force (even seemingly innocent behaviors like defensiveness), the “powers” become competitive. They need to win and we will likely lose.

So what do we do? The answer is the cross (humility, service, suffering, and joy). Paul writes, that through the cross Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.” The powers were/are defeated through the cross. When we use power or force, we incite the competitive nature of the powers and their desire to win. When choose love, service, humility, and non-violence, we ultimately disarm these powers because Jesus has previously brought them in subjection. This is why the non-violence of Gandhi and Martin Luther King ultimately brought empires to their feet. The “powers” of this world have no answer to the Jesus Way.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

“For he (Jesus) was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

I encourage you to choose the way of the cross. And then you will conquer the world.


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.

All scripture references: Harper Bibles (2011-11-22). NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha. Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Bruce Lee: Artist of Life (Bruce Lee Library). Tuttle Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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Should We Ever Harm Another Human Being?

Death of the Butterfly: Part IV: Joy in Persecution

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Jesus)

“These souls also have a deep interior joy when they are persecuted, with much more peace than that mentioned, and without any hostile feelings toward those who do, or desire to do, them evil. On the contrary, such a soul gains a particular love for its persecutors, in such a way that if it sees these latter in some trial it feels compassion and would take on any burden to free them from their trial, and eagerly recommends them to God and would rejoice to lose the favors His Majesty grants it if he would bestow these same gifts on those others so that they wouldn’t offend our Lord.” (Teresa of Avila)

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” (Abraham Lincoln)

In The Republic of Plato we find a question posed by Socrates: “Is it, then . . .  the part of a just man to harm any human being whatsoever?”  Alan Bloom inserts the following comment in his Interpretive Essay of the Republic: “As Lessing approvingly put it, ‘for the ancient Greeks moral greatness consisted in a love of friends that is as constant as the hatred of one’s enemies is unchanging.” Socrates dismantles this argument and concludes: “For it has become apparent to us that it is never just to harm anyone.” However, Bloom adds, “Socrates does not suggest that the just man would want to benefit all men, only that he would want to benefit his friends and remain indifferent to others.” 

  • “Ancient” Perspective: Love your friends and harm your enemies. Strike first and strike hard because your enemies may become strong and harm your family and friends.
  • Socrates/Plato: Harming your enemies defies logic and exacerbates the problem. Instead, love your friends and be indifferent to your enemies.
  • Jesus: Actively love your enemies and seek their blessing — even those who persecute you.

Teresa says, in spiritual marriage or oneness with Christ, persecution produces joy and peace “without any hostile feelings toward those who do, or desire to do, them evil.” Teresa then takes this a step further. Instead of hostile feelings or wanting to inflict injury on the persecutor we feel compassion for any suffering they experience. We would rather take on the trial of our persecutor and see the persecutor set free. And we would rather sacrifice the favors we receive from God and have those gifts given to the persecutor.

But why? We can seek the good of our “enemies” because of our confidence in our oneness with Christ and his care for us. We also want to see God praised. When our persecutor receives goodness from God (through us) this praise is more likely to happen. But when we choose an “evil for evil response”, we “dehumanize” the other person and give evil a greater stronghold in the world and in our lives.

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.

Translation of The Plato’s Republic and the Interpretive Essay: The Republic of Plato. Alan Bloom. Second Edition. Basic Books: A division of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 1968.

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A Desire to Suffer

Death of the Butterfly: Part III: A Desire to Suffer

I mentioned in a previous post Teresa occasionally begins to enumerate her ideas – and then doesn’t continue her pattern clearly. She gets there, but it’s not always easy to follow. This leaves some work for the modern reader to sort out. But we’ll take a short cut: Kavenaugh and Rodriguez in their translation of The Interior Castle complete the enumeration. The effects of The Death of the Butterfly include:

  1. Forgetfulness of self
  2. Desire to suffer
  3. Deep interior joy in persecution
  4. Desire to serve
  5. Great detachment
  6. No fear of the devil’s deceits

In this post we’ll discuss the “desire to suffer”. Teresa writes: “The second effect is that the soul has a great desire to suffer, but not the kind of desire that disturbs it as previously. For the desire left in these souls that the will of God be done in them reaches such an extreme that they think everything His Majesty does is good. If he desires the soul to suffer, well and good; if not, it doesn’t kill itself as it used to.”

In Romans 5 the Apostle Paul writes: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Paul says we can “boast in our sufferings”. Previously in the book of Romans, Paul used “boasting” as a negative — an arrogant attitude about our human ability to be right with God and keep his “law” through our own willpower. Now Paul says we can boast, but the boasting is not about human ability. The boasting (or celebration) is about our justification through God’s grace. This justification happens to us, but apart from our own effort. And through this justification we find the future “hope of sharing the glory of God”. We’ve also presently entered a new creation where “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Suffering fixes our attention on our future glory through justification. Through suffering God also brings us to a present experience of God’s love through the Holy Spirit. We participate in God’s new creation with his glory breaking into our daily life.

So Paul’s argument is something like this:

  • We are justified by grace through faith. (We’re declared by God to be in a right relationship with him. Our dependence on divine grace eliminates boasting based on human effort — and consequently, our judgmental attitude about others.)
  • We are at peace with God through Jesus Christ. (There’s nothing broken in our relationship with him.)
  • We can “boast in our hope of sharing in the glory of God”. (We can have confidence in our future participation in God’s glory.)
  • We can also boast in our present sufferings. (Our suffering is developmental in life, not an obstacle to life.)
  • Our sufferings produce endurance. (We become strong – “in shape”, so to speak, for the challenges of life.)
  • The endurance we develop from suffering produces character. (Through endurance character becomes a habit.)
  • Refined character produces the “hope of sharing the glory of God.” (Our character allows us to see more clearly our future glory with God.)
  • We have present participation in the new creation because God’s love through the Holy Spirit has already “been poured out into hearts”. (The indwelling Trinity resides within us [i.e. The Interior Castle] and saturates our being with his love.)

Back to Teresa: When we enter into spiritual marriage with Christ, we are one spirit with him. This intimate relationship produces a “great desire” to suffer because we know this suffering produces deeper intimacy and abundant blessing. In the past, suffering came with a great disturbance in our soul. In spiritual marriage, we recognize that everything God does is good and infused with love for us. Therefore, we are at peace.

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.

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