Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Seven Mansions and the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit a Meditation Series on the Interior Castle

As I have mentioned before, the Order of Carmel is preparing to celebrate the 5th centenary of St. Teresa's birth in 2015. Therefore, all Carmelites in this year of 2013 are reading and studying the Interior Castle, her classic work on the spiritual life.  Soon, our community will be hearing about the Third Mansion.  If you would like to follow along in our study, I'll post these articles I wrote a few years ago.  Please click on the "Interior Castle" label at the end of the post to read Mansions 1 and 2.  In the Interior Castle, St. Teresa does not reflect on a gift of the Holy Spirit for each mansion, this is my own personal reflection on her writings.

Photo: R. Massaro (C)Spirit Singing-Sorrowful Mother Shrine-Bellevue, Ohio

The Third Dwelling Place

We are considering in this meditation series what St. John of the Cross teaches; that we must possess all the gifts of the Spirit before we enter the last of the "Wine Cellars" (Seventh Mansion according to St. Teresa). In the third mansion we are learning how the gift of the Fear of the Lord helps the soul to make progress into the higher mansions.

In the inner wine cellar
I drank of my Beloved, and, when I went abroad through
all this valley
I no longer knew anything,
and lost the herd which I was following
St. John of the Cross-Spiritual Canticle-Stanza 26

St. Teresa tells us that we must be on constant guard so that we do not fall back into sin, since we are still so close to the first mansion, we may very easily return there. We must be humble and fearful of our human weakness and rely on God's help for perseverance in the spiritual life.

The characteristics of the soul in this mansion:
*Desire not to offend "His Majesty"
*Are well-ordered souls who like to be in control
*They like to meditate
*They spend their time well
*They perform works of charity
*They may complain about dryness and lack of consolations
*Their penitential life is well-balanced
*They judge their spiritual progress according to spiritual consolations

In this mansion we reflect on the Spirit's gift of:

Fear of the Lord
This gift fills the soul with a sovereign respect for God,and makes it dread, above all things, to offend Him.

We recall when discussing the Sacrament of Penance that there are two types of contrition: perfect and imperfect.  The person who possesses imperfect contrition is afraid of the pains of hell, more so than offending God.  The person who possesses perfect contrition is sorrowful that he has offended God.  We could also apply this type of thinking to "Fear of the Lord."

There are souls who suffer from a type of spiritual neurosis called scrupulosity. This is a self-centered fear in which the soul concentrates on self and the fear that they are not truly forgiven by God. The truly humble soul who possesses true Fear of the Lord, a gift of the Holy Spirit, is one who knows that they can do nothing without God's help.  They know they are sinners and readily accept his mercy and forgiveness. They have a great love for God that is translated into a great, yet holy and pure fear of not wanting to offend him.

In this third mansion, St. Teresa stresses the need for great humility. Let us pray that we not fall into a sense of false-pride when we experience consolations, and thereby come to expect them.  We can test ourselves by our reaction when the Lord denies them to us. Do we become angry, irritable, sulky--not wanting to approach prayer? We must ask the Holy Spirit for the courage to pray. Let us seek the Lord for himself and not his gifts.  Remember, we have entered Carmel, a penitential order.  As St. Teresa tells us, a little dryness in prayer is nothing to complain about.  It is necessary for our purification and spiritual growth.  Let us truly accept the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and discover the joy in accepting all that he sends us.

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, ocds

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