If you’ve joined me for this journey thus far, we find ourselves today (on the Feast Day of St. Teresa!) now in the doorway of the Second Mansion. At times, I’ve viewed the Second Mansion as Teresa’s gracious “recovery room” after navigating the “addiction treatment center” of the First Mansion.
If you recall, the First Mansion was a place of spiritual and emotional battle, where your attachments where exposed, your addictions revealed. It is where we’re humbled. It is where we realize that there is much more to both our brokenness and our self-sabotage than we realized. It is also where God initially draws us to something more.
In the Second Mansion, Teresa invites us to see how God is drawing us. I love her kindness and grace in this room. It’s as if she realizes that this inward journey is jolting and startling, because we’ve likely discovered the depths of our inner obstacles to union. She says, “Don’t be overly saddenned if you cannot respond instantaneously to the call of the Beloved.” I’d like to say, “Thank you Teresa, because truth be told I’m always struggling with how half-heartedly I respond!”
Instead of berating us for not making more progress, she tells us (as any good spiritual director might) to be on the look-out for resources to support and quicken our journey. She says,
His voice reaches us by the words spoken by good people, through listening to spiritual talks and reading sacred literature. God calls to us in countless little ways all the time. Through illness and suffering and sorrow he calls to us.
It seems that God is always calling, always looking, always pursuing. We’re just not attuned to how. And so, Teresa says, “Listen up. And listen well.”
What gets in the way of listening for you? What robs you of attention? What dulls your spiritual senses?
We might begin to pay attention to what distracts us, and then open our senses – all of them – in curiosity and wonder to how God is speaking. Can you take some time to listen today? On this “feast day” of Teresa, might you give yourself the gift of a few moments of silence in which you can see God’s presence in the laugh of a little child, in the rising sun, through a friend’s encouragement or challenge, in the surrender experienced through a moment of suffering, in a favorite Psalm, or a random encounter with an old friend?
Can you relinquish your firm grip on control? Your compulsive need be needed by another? Your exhausting need to achieve?
Teresa says, “God so deeply longs for our love that he keeps calling us to come closer.” And she reminds us, “if you fall sometimes, do not lose heart. Keep striving to walk your path with integrity. God will draw out the good even from your fall.”
Can you receive God’s grace through her?
Take some time in this room to taste and see how God is attending to you. Even if your circumstances are difficult, pay attention to small and surprising ways that God shows up. Dwell in this room as long as you need to. Return to it often for the resources you need, the discernment it provides, the grace your soul longs for.
Blog Post 1 – Introduction – (Re)Union
Blog Post 2 – Out of Illusions, Into the Depths
Blog Post 3 – Entering the Journey | St. Teresa’s First Mansion
Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila translated by Mirabai Starr (I love Starr’s translation of Teresa, John, Lady Julian, etc. She is a fresh new translator of these classic works. Her introduction alone is worth the price of the book.)
Entering the Castle, Caroline Myss (this book is the cheapest investment in your own therapy you’ll ever experience, though the emotional and spiritual investment may be costly!)
Into the Silent Land, Martin Laird (this is best accessible introduction to the purpose and practice of contemplative prayer I know. Laird is an Augustinian priest teaching early Christian studies at Villanova U.)