Are you ready to begin the season of Lent? What does Lent have to do with St. Teresa of Avila’s teaching about the third mansions in the interior castle?
Teresa offers us many images to aid our understanding of the interior life. First, she asks us to imagine the soul as a castle, with God the Divine King dwelling in the central room. Then she speaks of the first mansions as filled with reptiles. The second mansions are a battlefield. What of the third?
The person in the third mansions, she says, is like the rich young man of the Gospel. He has great desires. He wants to inherit eternal life. He even goes so far as to keep the commandments.
But, as we know, that wasn’t the end of the story.
Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’
When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.” (Mt 19:21-22)
This serves as a warning to all of us.
We need more than great desires
Great desires, Teresa says, are necessary for advancing in the spiritual life.
And in my opinion, there is no reason why entrance even into the final dwelling place should be denied these souls [in the third mansions], nor will the Lord deny them this entrance if they desire it; for such a desire is an excellent way to prepare oneself so that every favor may be granted.” (Third Mansions, Ch. 1)
But great desires are not enough. If we really love Jesus–that is, if we really desire union with him–we will put our love into action. And so Teresa clarifies what she has said above with these words:
There is no doubt that if a person perseveres in this nakedness and detachment from all worldly things he will reach his goal.”
Did you catch that? Nakedness and detachment. The perfect reflection for Lent!
The nuns entering Carmel took off their worldly garments, symbolizing leaving their old life behind. They gave up everything. This “nakedness” can’t be relegated to the past, Teresa insists. It must be a way of life.
The rich young man had great desires, but he didn’t want to leave his comforts behind in order to pursue them.
What is holding you back?
When people subscribe to my blog, I ask them what is holding them back from living fully for God. Are you one of those who wrote back an answer? What did you say? If you didn’t answer in writing, do you know what the answer would be?
What is holding you back from God? What is keeping you from growing in intimacy with Christ?
Could it be:
- Selfishness with your time?
- Desire for material possessions?
- Wasting time with digital media?
- Lack of generosity with prayer?
- Confidence in yourself?
- Worrying and fretting?
If Jesus were to challenge you, “If you wish to be perfect…,” how would he finish the sentence?
Now you know what to focus on for Lent.
Special Sale on Trusting God with St. Therese
If you are struggling with fear, doubt, or frustration over your failures, Lent may be the time for you to read Trusting God with St. Therese. I am running a special sale. Today (Tuesday) only, the ebook is $2.99. It’s $3.99 tomorrow (Ash Wednesday), and back to its regular price of $4.99 Thursday. You can buy a copy here.
If you have a study group that would like to share my book over Lent, I give one paperback free with the purchase of every five. Shipping is included, and I will sign all the books. Please note: this deal is available year round. Also, it applies to U.S. purchases only. if you live outside the U.S. and would like to buy in bulk, please email me at crossini4774 at comcast dot net and I will discuss a discount with you.
God bless your Lent!
2 thoughts on “The third mansions and preparing for Lent”
Connie, love this article. I do have a question concerning the items you mentioned that inhibit a closer union with God.
Is it not a grace from God that moves our desires from the flesh (world) and we alone are powerless to move beyond our faults, insecurities,, etc. without a deep prayer life and a desire for God above all of these things? The very things that hold us back must be healed through an honest relationship with God and alone we can do nothing but persist in our struggles. The root sins of Pride, Vanity and Sensuality are inherent in each person and can be overcome only through the grace of God. Am I correct in my thinking? Thank you.
I am reminded … without Him I am nothing. Every good thought and desire comes from Him.
What you say is true. We can do nothing meritorious without grace. However, in the Purgative Way, we do have to take the initiative and trust that God’s grace will be there to help us. In the Illuminative Way, on the other hand, God leads and we respond. We cannot enter the second stage of the spiritual life until we have worked really hard to overcome our sinful tendencies. Of course, that’s always with common ordinary grace. But hard work nonetheless.