It is a delight to be the spouse of a hard working, joy-filled, dedicated man.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Teresa of Avila and the Interior Castle

Our dear friend Kathy left a comment on my last post inquiring about my meditations on St Teresa of Avila's book, Interior Castle, that I had intended to share with you, dear reader and this is my answer to her and to you also if you were wondering what had happened to my invitation to join me in a read and meditation on her writing.

Well, I can't find my book. I went to gathering at Rick and Pat's that Friday night and for some reason took it in with me. I don't know why I brought it in with me from the car, I didn't have anything to share out of it, I had picked it up from my collection just to reacquaint myself with it on the ride in. I know full well that I took it in to Rick and Pat's, but the next morning I could not find it anywhere. I found my Bible and Celebration of Discipline, both I had also taken in to Pat's, together on the dining room table but no Interior Castle.

I have looked everywhere, all over in the car, my bedroom, even though I don't remember taking it to my bedroom that night, called Pat, called Rebecca, in case she picked it up. I have no idea what could have happened to it. But I also can't find my glasses, not that I lost them the same night, more like a week later, but it goes to the fact that I loose stuff easily. Oh and my best pair of sunglasses, luckily I still buy sunglasses at Wal-mart for about five bucks or so.
But at far as St. Teresa and her book goes, I remember enough of my previous reads of it to think, meditate, about the salient points.

St Teresa's Interior Castle is her description of the soul of a believer. She imagines the soul as a castle or a gem stone with many chambers, like the mansion described in Scripture that we will inhabit in Heaven. But different in that the chambers of the soul are different layers. We access or live spiritually in successively deeper layers as we grow deeper in our relationship with God.

The first layer I imagine from her description is like my screened porch, part of my house,
under the roof, but still very effected by the outside world. On my porch the honeysuckle insists on growing in the cracks and crevices it can find and even pushing the screen aside, bugs crawl on my porch, cobs make webs, the cats and kittens are on my porch, leaves and twigs end up on my porch along with the cotton from the trees.

It is far dustier on my porch and mud and hay is swept off daily because it is easily tracked there all day, quite frankly it could be swept several times a day. But it is still part of my house and warmer and safer than off of the porch.

She invites her reader to see this common occurrence as a description of the first chamber of the soul, the place where the new believer comes to reside or those who may travel deeper into the soul surface back to in times of stress and trouble. Think of my honeysuckle, mud, bugs and spiders, cat hair, dog chewed sticks, tree cotton as the wilds of the world, anxieties, worries, lustful temptations, distractions, pride, self indulgence, selfwillfulness, rebellion.

As you know dear reader, the farther away from the back door and the deeper you go into your home the less you find mud clumps, hay seeds, weed burs, car oil stains, gravel pieces. And those of you with lovely large homes would find it even more so, I can imagine though and remember from my childhood how much more often rooms close to the entry doors were swept, vacuumed and dusted than the bedrooms that were set very far from the entryways. Or at least for this child, who just wanted to go play, I could not understand why I was vacuuming or sweeping a perfectly clean floor.

I even think of the things we set down as we come inside, (like the book I lost), keys, finds from the thrift store, library or school books, these things come in, maybe as far in as a room or two inside, until they find that flat surface where they sit until we unpack, take our coats and sweaters off, grab a cup of something warm or refreshing, and then deal with the things we brought in. If you have a stair landing, you may even find some things collected there as they trickle into their rightful places. My point is to hopeful re-illustrate the way St. Teresa of Avila imagines the soul as we progress deeper into the rooms of it as we progress farther with God. As we do fewer and fewer things from the world touch where we are.

But unlike our homes perhaps, Teresa sees that as we go farther and farther into the castle not only do the things of the world have less and less effect but the rooms grow brighter and warmer, sweeter and more comforting, more and more like our True Home will be when we arrive there someday. Unlike our earthly homes that we dwell in, where we go in and out of the deeper rooms to the exterior rooms to the outside and far from our own front doors into the world, in our souls as we are called and follow the Lord deeper and deeper, the less we return to the exterior rooms.

Some believers travel so deep with our Father that they never return to those exterior rooms no matter what or how severe those external pressures are. Those are the Christians that over the ages we have come to admire and use as examples for their strength of faith, their unwaivering understanding of spiritual things, their ability to love in the face of persecution or severe disappointment.

They dwell moment to moment in the presence of our Lord, they abide with Him daily and deeply even as they walk among us, work beside us, tend to the sick and needy. Dealing with the problems of this world does not cloud or shadow or dust the deep room of their soul where they abide with their Lord. That is where I want to be.

Often those of us who dwell day to day in the exterior rooms have what we like to call spiritual moments, mountain top experiences, where we get a glimmer of what it is like in those deep interior rooms. I believe that is God calling to us, calling us to go deeper with Him, to stay longer in the interior of the castle, which is our soul in Him, and attend less to the world while we actually tend more to those lost in the world and less to ourselves.

How is it that we switch from dwelling in the outer rooms to dwelling deep in the interior of the interior castle? I believe, from her writings, the writings of others and Scripture, it is through the common spiritual disciplines, the ones Christ himself practiced and taught his disciples to practice.

More on this in future post. But only if you would like dear reader. I will continue to look diligently for my book so that I can share more, and accurately, of this woman's extraordinary understanding of spiritual growth. And I would love to share what she has to say and what others have to say about how we travel deeper with our God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


KathyB. said...

Thank-you Lanny. The porch analogy, complete with pictures is a great illustration! My back porch will forever be thus for me...since 4 dogs spend the bulk or their day there, along with all the sticks, bones, toys, and sometimes dead poultry parts !(wow, dead stuff on my porch, that's a thought for analogies)

You did not leave the book here, but I did borrow it from you a while back. I read through the book, but at the time was unable to spend much time in meditation on it.

So, yes, please share with us (me), and hope you find it.Oh, I have a lot of extra and cheap reading glasses here..need a pair ? KathyB.

Wingmaster said...

Reminds me of a really good book we studied a while back, The Safest Place On Earth", by Larry Crabb. I'll dig it out of the library and share some of the highlights.