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The Interior Castle has been lauded as the “most sublime and mature” of Teresa of Avila’s works, one which “expresses the full flowering of her deep experience in guiding souls toward spiritual perfection.” Rereading some passages this morning, I was struck not by the mystical heights to which her heart soars—and soar it does—but by the practical, lived reality of her spiritual way.

For instance, while discussing the “union of wills” with the Lord, Teresa warns against hyper-spirituality, reminding that “here the Lord asks only two things of us: love for His Majesty and love for our neighbor . . . . If we attain them perfectly, we are doing His will and so shall be united to Him.” The horizontal dimension of holiness, she says, will reflect the vertical: “Believe me, if you find you are lacking in this virtue [of human charity], you have not yet attained union.”

Teresa goes on to describe—or hint at—the ineffable wounding with the arrow of divine love and the mystical marriage to the heavenly Bridegroom. Yet, her final meditations are my favorite—profoundly simple but worth a lifetime of resolve:

Fix your eyes on the Crucified and nothing else will be of much importance to you. If His Majesty revealed His love to us by doing and suffering such amazing things, how can you expect to please Him by words alone? Do you know when people really become spiritual? It is when they become the slaves of God and are branded with His sign, which is the sign of the Cross . . . . Anyone who fails to go forward begins to go back, and love, I believe, can never be content to stay for long where it is.
. . .

I will end by saying that we must not build towers without foundations, and that the Lord does not look so much at the magnitude of anything we do as at the love with which we do it. If we accomplish what we can, His Majesty will see to it that we become able to do more each day.

Teresa’s is an incarnated spirituality, in which the vision of God does not blind us to created reality but, rather, illuminates his presence in ourselves and the world. Translator E. Allison Peers says it well: “There is no life more real than the internal life of the soul; there is no writer who has a firmer hold on reality than St. Teresa.”



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