In continuation of our journey through the Interior Castle with Teresa of Avila we may find ourselves approaching the third dwelling place.
Through an initial curiosity and muddling in prayer we have heard God calling us. Rather than waiting at the door we have entered to discover the One who knows us better than we know ourselves. And in coming to know God, we begin to see ourselves both as we are as well as who we are intended to be. Desiring to know how we can ever repay the love and mercy shown to us in the course of our lives, and while failing or falling short immeasurably at times we feel beckoned to trust.
Upon entering the third dwelling, we are reminded that while we are perhaps living lives free of mortal sin and practicing acts of prayer and penance, that humility and praise remain essential. In this state, we are in need of humility to guard against both satisfaction and self-criticism, and to free ourselves from attachments to material gains of this earth. While the focus still seems to be on us rather than on God, this time of reflection is needed to shed that which does not bring us true happiness.
What is it that holds me back from true freedom…from following God’s will in my life?
Can I recognize the spiritual gifts that God has given to aid me in persevering?
Souls here will find it helpful to consult a mentor or spiritual director that has passed through this room previously. Teresa had several advisors and confessors, like Diego de Cetina and Francis Borgia, that provided reassurance and guidance to keep focused on the humanity of Christ and his passion. This provides a greater awareness of God’s consolations, and leads us to praise that still more is being asked of us in working towards His loving desires of peace and justice.
In seeking God’s will, we are then guided to the fourth dwelling place where we discover how to rely less on the intellect in prayer, to achieve the spiritual delights that Christ has for us. Up to this point, we have perhaps enjoyed consolations which begin with our determined prayerful meditation and end in God’s love. Yet, in spiritual delights we begin with a desire “not to think much but to love much…. to please God in everything, and in striving, insofar as possible, not to offend him”. Thus, the source of spiritual delights begins and ends in God’s love, as an abundant stream “deep within us” that “swells and expands our whole interior being producing ineffable blessings”. While aware and attentive now to this experience of being in the wake of God’s love, we cannot choose when or how it occurs. We therefore, should not seek these delights but rather humbly surrender our intellect to God’s voice within, to accept these gifts as God sees fit to bestow them.
Am I open today to being surprised by God’s love and consolations?