- M.B. Anderson
Summary of the Seventh Mansion of ‘The Interior Castle'
Equipped for service in the peace and presence of Christ.
In her spiritual guide, The Interior Castle, Teresa of Avila uses the illustration of seven mansions within the soul of our castle to describe the many “rooms” the soul may reside in during life. Teresa tells us that we will each take our own unique path among the mansions. Some Christians will travel further than others, but this doesn’t make them better, only more able to enjoy the peace and presence of Christ in this life. The Seventh Mansion isn’t the final destination as our soul will return to visit the other mansions during our life.
To summarize the mansions thus far, the soul is called to enter the First Mansion by the gentle voice of God, turning to prayer in the Second Mansion, and finally taking action to reject the deceit of wealth, power, and recognition in the Third Mansion. In the Fourth Mansion, the soul begins to experience God in mystical ways that can’t be explained by intellect or controlled by efforts. The Fifth Mansion is a “spiritual engagement,” when the soul surrenders more fully to union with God’s will.
Teresa says the final Sixth and Seventh Mansions are like two rooms connected by an open door. If the Fifth Mansion was a spiritual engagement, the Sixth and Seventh Mansions “bring the soul union through divine marriage.” In this final chapter, Teresa explains the peace and presence of Christ we can experience, and the service for which a soul in this mansion is equipped.
The second heaven
Teresa describes the Seventh Mansion as a “second heaven” because it gives us a taste of the peace and presence of God we will ultimately experience in heaven. This mansion is the dwelling place of God in the soul. It is where Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is fulfilled - believers become one with him and the Father.
The trials and spiritual experiences of the Sixth Mansion prepare the soul to enter the Seventh Mansion, which is open to “those who travel far enough”. “Perhaps suffering is the means by which God brings the soul to its center, and the Company the soul now enjoys gives it even greater strength.”
In the Seventh Mansion, we have certainty that God is three persons and that the Holy Spirit intends to make their home in the soul of those who love him and keep his commandments. Teresa tells us that even when his presence isn’t sensed, it only takes remembering him to immediately feel the companionship of the Holy Spirit. The soul in the Seventh Mansion is almost always calm. It feels joy in suffering and compassion toward enemies.
Mary and Martha
To experience the presence of the Lord in the Seventh Mansion, Teresa tells us we need to follow the example of Mary and Martha by both serving others and spending time in prayer. In Luke 10, Martha is busy preparing to show hospitality to Jesus, while Mary rests in his company. Jesus tells us that Mary chose better, and Teresa explains that this is because Mary had already done some of Martha’s work before enjoying Jesus’ company. A soul in the Seventh Mansion is busy doing both service and prayer.
Teresa also tells us we shouldn’t dream of service we will do for the Lord, but then never take any action. “Our Lord does not care about the importance of our work but the love with which our work is done.” Teresa reminds us, “Humility is the foundation of the entire castle.”
Strength for service
Experiences in the prior mansions have prepared the soul for the Seventh Mansion. The strength in these souls now overflows and nourishes the weak body for the work prepared by God. Teresa believes the greatest gift we can receive is a life of sacrifice like that of Jesus Christ. She feels certain that “spiritual favors are given to our souls to strengthen our weakness so we are able to imitate Him in His great suffering.”
In this mansion, we forget about our comfort, personal honor, and the approval of men: “All concern should rest only on how we please Him more, and when and how the soul can show its love for Him.” Teresa explains that the spiritual marriage of the final mansions produces the children of good works. Good works are not a requirement for God’s love, but they are the natural outflow of our love toward God.
Written as a spiritual guide for her sisters, The Interior Castle has been treasured by Christians for almost five hundred years. How is your soul? Which mansion has it been spending time in lately? How do you respond to Teresa’s urging to travel deeper?