Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Interior Castle: Fifth Mansions-Union with God

I woke up at 6:30 am this morning, eager to see what could exist in the fifth mansions. I've only been allowing myself to tackle one level of the mansions at a time, and I've found just that is a huge chunk for me to understand, reflect on and integrate in my own way. Groggily, I opened the book, wondering what could possibly top the fourth mansions, since that was mind-blowing. The fifth mansions actually are about union with God, so I ate that up like candy. Now I'm perplexed because I had previously thought union with God was the ultimate goal of it all. Now, I'm even more intrigued with what comes next, but I won't look yet.

Let me share with you what I was able to read this morning. Strangely (to me) St. Teresa said that the majority of her nuns were able to get inside, but that few were able to attain all things in these mansions and move forward from them. This fullfillment of the "riches, treasures and delights" of the fifth mansion, she emphasized, must come from God's granting, not of any specific work towards the goal. In fact, she states "if we endeavor to attain it, we are following our will and not the will of God." The more I read, the more I wanted to attain the sights of the treasures in this mansion. Then I wondered what I desired more, the enjoyment and fun or God. God is not a Wii or a Playstation, after all.

No, it is not all fun and games in these mansions. There is a very unique grief, the grief shared with Christ. I never thought about this before, but Jesus grieved. I suppose I think of God as having no emotions, but being beyond them. But, he desires union with us. When a soul reaches this state, she is often overwhelmed with grief for all who cannot experience it. She grieves for all the ways her actions may have made God sad and for how others actions have made God sad. She even asserts that he may have been so very sad about these things that it gave Him more grief than the Passion. What a thought!

Thinking of and feeling for and with others is a very strong facet of life in these mansions. An entire chapter is dedicated to loving one's neighbor. St. Teresa also says, "and if anyone told me after reaching this state he enjoyed continual rest and joy, I should say that he has not reached it at all, but that he had only got as far as the previous mansions."

Once again, it had never occured to me that in union with God, we might feel the emotions of Christ. I believed it was all "happy happy joy joy," to quote Ren and Stimpy. St. Teresa writes that there are still "crosses to bear," and that that in the fifth mansion, one experiences "peace to a very high degree." Trials are met with serenity and trials bring peace and contentment. However, union with God is not all happy feelings, as I've thought and been told for years by New Age teachers. Why would I choose to follow her and not them? She has no motive to mislead. It is laughable to think she was in this for money or fame.

St.Teresa says that when you are in union with God, it is with absolute certainty. This does not mean you shouldn't question it. Always question motives. But, when you experience this, there will be no way to convince yourself it isn't absolutely real. Now, I have felt absolutely certain of things and then doubted them years later. So, I wondered about this. St.Teresa wrote this book fifteen years after she entered the fourth mansions for the first time. In those fifteen years, and far beyond the writing of this book, she continued to grow and develop, as she said we always should. "Love is not idle," she says.

Within these chapters, St.Teresa writes a beautiful parable of a silkworm developing into a white butterfly. The cocoon is Christ, in which she is transformed. She notes that the worm is doing no work to transform. It spins and falls asleep. Christ is doing the work. She calls this, "a deep state of prayer, deead to the world." Throughout this chapter, she writes about what she calls a "death of delight." Of course, she never uses the word "ego," but will. I believe "will" is more descriptive. We surrender our will and let God do His work.

A common occurrence during the time St.Teresa lived was for a nun to "swoon" and then become completely immobile for several hours or a day. The nun appeared dead, completely undistractible or responsive, still, yet not asleep, with eyes either open or closed. The soul was in a state beyond the body during this time, experiencing sensations and revelations far beyond what the bodily senses can fathom. Still, are these revelations real? St.Teresa says the soul is doubtful until it gains a great deal of experience. Imagination, dreaming, God, the devil.. there are so many things it may be. Yet, this state for some was a beginning phase of entering Divine Union. The "swooning" is a symbol of the death of the will.

Where will the butterfly go after it has emerged from the cocoon? St.Teresa leaves this as a mystery for now. She says that for this period, in this castle, the butterfly does not rest but flits constantly about doing God's work. It will rest somewhere she will not yet reveal in the seventh mansions.

What a ride this book is taking me on! I can't wait to read more tomorrow.

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