How should a person behave when he enters the fourth mansions? How should he act throughout the day? How should he pray?
First, let’s look at our behavior during prayer. As I have said (some might say ad nausuem) contemplative prayer is a gift from God. It does not come from the soul’s willing it or applying any technique.
Spiritual growth through the seven (groups of) mansions is gradual. Contemplative prayer begins subtly. It usually grows slowly deeper. Infused recollection blends into the prayer of quiet, which blends into the union of the fifth mansions.
A soul in the fourth mansions will probably not experience contemplation every time she prays–at least not at first. What should she do? She should not try to produce contemplation, since that’s impossible. Instead, she should go back to meditating on Sacred Scripture, affective prayer, or acquired recollection.
On the other hand, if God gives the soul contemplation, she should not try to force herself to meditate. She will find it impossible anyway.
In Way of Perfection, Teresa tells us how to behave during contemplative prayer:
The most we should do is occasionally, and quite simply, to utter a single word, like a person giving a little puff to a candle, when he sees it has almost gone out, so as to make it burn again.” (Ch. 31)
Remember, she is not saying that the repeated word produces the prayer. This is her recommendation for someone already given this prayer by God.
Growth in virtue
How does the soul advance in the fourth mansions? Teresa cites the following effects of this prayer:
- no more fear of Hell or of the ill effects of penances
- desire for suffering and patience in it
- withdrawing from all worldly delights
- growth in all the virtues
As Fr. Thomas Dubay notes in Fire Within, these effects, like the prayer itself, are infused (see p. 89). For example, in the third mansions you might meditate on the need for humility, make resolutions, and strive throughout the day to practice it, making some progress. In the fourth mansions, you may find you have taken a huge leap forward in humility even though you haven’t been thinking about it for some time.
If you do not experience a mysterious growth in virtue and detachment, that is a sign your prayer is probably not infused. Whatever other signs you think you have to convince you that you are in the fourth mansions, if you don’t desire God more and find it suddenly easier and more satisfying to do his will in even little things, you are probably not as advanced as you think you are.
Of course, like the prayer itself, this infused virtue comes gradually. If you experience contemplative prayer once or twice, you will probably notice a difference in your attitude and in your ability to do God’s will. But you must respond to any grace God gives you. You must work even harder to love God and your neighbor so that you can continue to grow.
If you are not sure whether your prayer is infused, try to consult a good spiritual director or knowledgeable priest.
Don’t expect raptures yet
Since one reader asked me last time if the prayer of quiet was the same as ecstasy or rapture, I’ll briefly address this too.
Teresa says that some people who are psychologically impressionable and who may be physically weakened by penance, will swoon when they experience the prayer of quiet. They think they are experiencing rapture, which belongs to the late fifth and sixth mansions. What is really happening is that they are giving way to their own weakness. The remedy she says, is less time spent in prayer and less penance. They should try to serve God in an active life instead.
In the fourth mansions, the will experiences contemplation. The intellect gradually begins to take part in it. But the imagination and memory, as well as the body, are still in command of themselves (as much as they ever were). They will begin to feel the effects of contemplation as the soul experiences the prayer of union.