of Avila (1515- 1582)
Catholic belief, prayers and spiritual teaching
of Avila (1515- 1582)
By St Teresa of Avila
In which there are four Chapters.
Treats of great favours which God bestows on the souls that have attained entrance to the Seventh Mansions. Describes how in the author's opinion there is some difference between the soul and the spirit although both are one. There are notable things in this chapter.
You will think, sisters, that so much has been said about this spiritual road that there cannot possibly be any more to say. It would be a great mistake to think that; just as the greatness of God is without limit, even so are His works. Who will ever come to an end of recounting His mercies and wonders?
It is impossible that any should do so; do not be surprised, therefore, at what has been said and at what will be said now, for it is only a fraction of the things that still remain to be related about God. Great is the mercy that He shows us in communicating these things in such a way that we may come to learn of them; for the more we know of His communion with creatures, the more we shall praise His greatness, and we shall strive not to despise a soul in which the Lord takes such delight.
Each of us possesses a soul, but we do not prize
our souls as creatures made in God's image deserve
and so we do not understand the great secrets which
they contain. If it be His Majesty's will, may it
please Him to guide my pen, and give me to understand
how I may tell you some of the many things which
there are to be said and which God reveals to every
soul that He brings into this Mansion. Earnestly have
I besought His Majesty, since He knows my intention
is that His mercies be not hidden, to the greater
praise and glory of His name.
It is very important, sisters, that we should not think of the soul as of something dark. It must seem dark to most of us, as we cannot see it, for we forget that there is not only a light which we can see, but also an interior light, and so we think that within our soul there is some kind of darkness. Of the soul that is not in grace, I grant you, that is true -- not, however, from any defect in the Sun of Justice, Who is within it and is giving it being, but because, as I think I said in describing the first Mansion, this soul is not capable of receiving the light.
A certain person came to see that these unhappy
souls are, as it were, in a dark prison, with their
feet and hands bound so that they can do no good
thing which will help them to win merit; they
are both blind and dumb. We do well to take pity on
them, realizing that there was a time when we were
ourselves like them and that the Lord may have mercy
on them also.
Would it not be extremely cruel to stand looking
at such a man and not give him this food to eat? And
supposing you could loose his chains by means of your
prayers? You see now what I mean. For the love of
God, I beg you always to remember such souls when you
Now, when His Majesty is pleased to grant the
soul the aforementioned favour of this Divine
Marriage, He first of all brings it into His own
Mansion. And His Majesty is pleased that it should
not be as on other occasions, when He has granted it
raptures, in which I certainly think it is united
with Him, as it is in the above-mentioned Prayer of
Union, although the soul does not feel called to
enter into its own centre, as here in this Mansion,
but is affected only in its higher part. Actually it
matters little what happens: whatever it does, the
Lord unites it with Himself, but He makes it blind
and dumb, as He made Saint Paul at his
conversion, and so prevents it from having any
sense of how or in what way that favour comes which
it is enjoying; the great delight of which the soul
is then conscious is the realization of its nearness
to God. But when He unites it with Him, it
understands nothing; the faculties are all lost.
It is brought into this Mansion by means of an intellectual vision, in which, by a representation of the truth in a particular way, the Most Holy Trinity reveals Itself, in all three Persons. First of all the spirit becomes enkindled and is illumined, as it were, by a cloud of the greatest brightness. It sees these three Persons, individually, and yet, by a wonderful kind of knowledge which is given to it, the soul realizes that most certainly and truly all these three Persons are one Substance and one Power and one Knowledge and one God alone; so that what we hold by faith the soul may be said here to grasp by sight, although nothing is seen by the eyes, either of the body or of the soul, for it is no imaginary vision.
Here all three Persons communicate Themselves to
the soul and speak to the soul and explain to it
those words which the Gospel attributes to the Lord
-- namely, that He and the Father and the Holy Spirit
will come to dwell with the soul which loves Him and
keeps His commandments.
We might compare the soul to a
person who is with others in a very bright room; and
then suppose that the shutters are closed so that the
people are all in darkness. The light by which they
can be seen has been taken away, and, until it comes
back, we shall be unable to see them, yet we are none
the less aware that they are there. It may be asked
if, when the light returns, and this person looks for
them again, she will be able to see them. To do this
is not in her power; it depends on when Our Lord is
pleased that the shutters of the understanding shall
be opened. Great is the mercy which He grants the
soul in never going away from her and in willing that
she shall understand this so clearly.