Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus
 

The Interior Castle
A Presentation on the Book Written by St. Theresa of Avila

 
 

Article written by James Raj Samynathan
            The second book presentation at the STS on 16 October 2013, began by invoking God's blessings with a short prayer and a hymn.  Bro. Hurtado Manuel sdb, the master of ceremonies, introduced the speaker of the day, Deacon Sachitula Pedro sdb.  
            Deacon Pedro explained that Life is a gift from God. The lives of others teach us abundant things in our own lives.  Therefore, the life of St. Teresa of Avila was unfolded to us students of Theology by Sachitula.  It is important to understand what is essential in life, especially the Spiritual Life.'
            This presentation was based on the deacon’s reading of the book entitled The Interior Castle, by Teresa of Ávila.  The presentation captured everyone's attention by providing ways to appreciate the life of St. Teresa and our potential to imitate her steadfast faith in God.  His presentation evidenced the great esteem he has for this saint.  The gathering was provided with essential suggestions for enlightening our own spiritual journey.  Indeed, the book presentation of Dn. Pedro was directed at waking up the best energies placed by God in the heart of every participant.  
            In his presentation, Deacon Pedro pointed out that the Interior Castle is referred to as the subject of prayer.  It is explained by using the analogy of 7 mansions.  These mansions explain the intense spiritual experience of St. Teresa as she advanced in the intensity of her own prayer life.  She wrote the Mansions under the direction of her spiritual director Fr. Jeronimo Gracian, Doctor Velazquez and the Lord Jesus, whom she considered her “living book”.  She wrote the Interior Castle as a spiritual guide to union with God.  She interpreted the vision she was given as an allegory for the soul's relationship with God.  She presented her work based on seven mansions.  Each mansion representing one place on a path towards the "spiritual marriage” with God that happens in the seventh mansion.
            In the first three Mansions there are rooms where the beginners learn to bring their life into conformity with God.  This preparation is the prelude to the mystical journey. The last four stages of prayer, or mansions, represent the various degrees of mystical prayer.
The First Mansion:
 The first Mansion is concerned about human souls. Our soul is to be like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of very clear crystal in which there are many rooms. The "rooms" in the interior of the castle are ways of living in relation to the God who made us and seeks us. The soul has the desire for perfection but it is immersed in the preoccupation of this world.  It must flee from the world and search for solitude.
The Second mansion:  
In this mansion, the soul faces incessant trials. The trial is conceived as a sign of War between the soul and the venomous creatures.  Practice of prayer helps to attain the power of resistance along with certain modifications. These are the approaches to win the war.  They are, to listen to God, to develop spiritual habits, to rely on your faculties, to consult spiritual guides and to maintain a fixed determination.
The Third mansion:
We come into the third mansion with a lack of vision and an inability to experience the force of love.  Therefore we encounter an emphasis on the need for humility and obedience to practice the virtues and to fear God.  
The Fourth mansion:
The significance of the virtue of quietness is experienced through Divine Consolation in the fourth mansion.  The encounter with God is achieved by detaching oneself from the world and entirely depending on God.
The Fifth mansion:
 In the fifth mansion we experience the prayer of union, wherein God is portrayed as the cocoon.  Within his protective care he forms the caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.
The Sixth mansion:
We gain a deep mystical experience in the sixth mansion where the bride and Groom meet one another.
The Seventh mansion:
Here, in the seventh mansion, we experience the peak of the mansions.  God is the Mansion of the King.  In this mansion the human soul is blended with God and it can never be separated.
The journey of the soul is an interior one.  It can go through numerous difficulties and temptations in the form of snakes, venomous reptiles and the worries of the world. The saint comes out with various grades of prayer, and the power of this prayer enlightens the soul to have a very deep relationship with God.

                Deacon Pedro strongly emphasized our own need for prayer as the paramount feature in religious life.  In addition, he recommended for everyone to read this book at least once.  Student participants had their reflective questions clarified and the active participation in the discussion contributed to their insights as well.


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