The Interior Castle – St. Teresa Avila
The saint wrote this luminous exposition of infused prayer in all its gradations and qualities, while she was suffering from a furious persecution. And yet it breathes that heavenly calmness peculiar to spirits dwelling in the loftier regions of heavenly peace. Like all of her writings she composed this one under a very stringent obedience from her confessor, at that time Canon Velasquez, afterwards Archbishop of Compostella. It is curiously allegorical in its framework; and yet the high topics are very plainly treated of, and they are made as intelligible to ordinary readers as is possible; all the more so, in fact, on account of the comparison she adopts between the stages of the soul’s advancement in prayer, and the progress of a guest in a magnificent castle passing from its outer to its interior splendors. The style is familiar, yet the tone is stately, often even majestic. The author sheds a clear light, clear though dazzling, on the vague and distant and ravishingly beautiful states of contemplative prayer
The Interior Castle.
Available at amazon.com and other venues.
An overview of The Interior Castle(from wikipedia.com)
The Interior Castle is divided into seven mansions (also called dwelling places), each level describing a step to get closer to God. In her work, Teresa already assumed entrance into the first mansions by prayer and meditation.
The first three mansions are considered to be active prayer and asceticism. The first mansions begin with a soul’s state of grace, but the souls are surrounded by sin and only starting to seek God’s grace through humility in order to achieve perfection. The second mansions are also called the Mansions of the Practice of Prayer because the soul seeks to advance through the castle by daily thoughts of God, humble recognition of God’s work in the soul and ultimately daily prayer. The third mansions are the Mansions of Exemplary Life characterized through divine grace a love for God that is so great that the soul has an aversion to both mortal and venial sin and a desire to do works of charitable service to man for the ultimate glory of God.
The fourth through seventh mansions are considered to be mystical or contemplative prayer. The fourth mansions are a departure from the soul actively acquiring what it gains as God increases his role. The fifth mansions contains incipient Union in which the soul prepares itself to receive gifts from God. If the fifth mansion can be compared to a betrothal, the sixth mansion can be compared to lovers. The soul spends increasing amounts of time torn between favors from God and from outside afflictions. The soul achieves clarity in prayer and a spiritual marriage with God in the seventh mansions.
She candidly reveals this interior journey as being inseparable from her love for Christ and that the highest mansions can only be gained by being in a state of grace through the Church sacraments, fervent devotion of the soul’s will to Him, and humbly receiving a love so great it is beyond human capability or description. Through prayer and meditation the soul is placed in a quiet state to receive God’s gifts (she calls „consolations“) of contemplation, and Teresa notes that man’s efforts cannot achieve this if it is not His divine will. In fact she humbly repeats that she is never worthy of these consolations but is always immensely grateful for them.
(The text of the last section was taken from a Wikipedia entry and is available under the the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)
Publisher’s Note: This book is printed and distributed by Createspace a DBA of On-Demand Publishing LLC and is typically not available anywhere else than in stores owned and operated by Amazon or Createspace.