St. Theresa of Avila and the Interior Castle: Christian Meditation
Christian Counseling without meditation is like a well without water-it has no purpose. This is why counselors should frequently seek meditation, prayer and retreats to refresh their souls and strengthen their resolve to help those in pain and mental anguish. St. Theresa of Avila presents an excellent guide in spirituality and meditation in her classic, the Interior Castle.
The text is written in a delightful fashion by St. Theresa in a simple language. A language that makes one feel as if she is purposely writing each word for one’s own sake. This personal style of writing is very pleasing to read and her sanctity is felt through the words.
The primary premise of the text is the various levels of intimate union the soul can experience with God while on earth. St. Theresa refers to these levels as mansions within the castle of the soul. The first mansions are the entry levels into mystical union but are surrounded by the noises of the world. As one progresses deeper into the silence of the soul, the tricks of the enemy or Satan become less influential on it. However, the soul as it becomes more in union with God, releazes a bitter sweet reality; that complete union with something so wonderful is never completed on earth. Eventually, the presence of God becomes more constant in the soul after it passes many spiritual tests. Although the final union and 7th mansion is incomplete, the soul accepts the reality of this eartlhy union, and willfully fulfils the will of God on earth until it can meet God face to face in the Beatific Vision.
A few concepts that struck me greatly included these issues. The first issue regarded how easily the soul falls from the outer mansions to outside the castle, then back in again. In these phases the soul struggles with the illusions of the material world and the reality of God. I think as counselors, we come across people who are “troubled by many things” and cannot retain focus on the Lord. The devil steals the peace of the soul and throws forth the materialisms of the world. These distractions pull the soul back and forth between God and the world. These souls are far from evil, but bound by their fallen nature. Are these not our own battles? and…are these not the majority of people we counsel? Pay special attention to these outer mansions and utilize the knowledge of St. Theresa in helping those who need to progress deeper into their own castle.
The second concept St. Theresa emphasizes is love of neighbor. So many contemplatives sometimes seek solitude to find Christ. They wish not to be distracted but to solely focus on him. St. Theresa reminds the reader that true union seeks to share Christ’s love and to find Christ in everyone. One cannot be completely absorbed in Christ without being part of the life of the church itself. Christian Counselors should take this to heart as well. In counseling, we attempt to share divine wisdom and to help one’s neighbor.
Finally, from a purely Catholic perspective, but nonetheless an applicable hypothesis for non-Catholics as well, one needs to have frequent reception of the Eucharist. Although Protestant brothers in Christ, do not believe in the true presence, they still also share in a symbolic or grace filled belief in the unitative nature of the Eucharist. There is clearly from a minimal perspective a spiritual union. For Catholics, this union is even more indepth and dare I say, a free ticket to the 7th mansion which can be shared for those 15 minutes with Christ. Counselors of any Christian denomination should take use of the spiritual nature of the Eucharist and allow the grace that accompanies it to help one spiritually re-energize and take Christ to the market place.
If you are interested in Christian Counseling Education, please review the program and please also, in the very least, give yourself the spiritual treasure of reading the Interior Castle.
If you would like to learn more about our Christian Counseling Education Program, then please review.
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C