Through contemplative prayer, I have prepared my soul to experience Jesus Christ as instructed by Teresa of Avila, a Sixteenth Century Carmelite nun. My preparation and God’s free gift are intertwined as I probe the interior of my soul.
FIFTH MANSIONS This is the state described elsewhere as the Third Water, the Spiritual Betrothal, and the Prayer of Union–that is, incipient Union. It marks a new degree of infused contemplation and a very high one. By means of the most celebrated of all her metaphors, that of the silkworm, St. Teresa explains how far the soul can prepare itself to receive what is essentially a gift from God. Interior Castle, Teresa of Avila
Stages of contemplation
Prayer of this nature is quiet, personal, and meditative. Despite over four hundred years since it was written, Interior Castle still provides valuable advice and instruction on what to look for and how to prepare for a direct experience with Jesus Christ. Using the metaphor of Concentric mansions, and starting with the outer-most mansion, I begin to apply what I have learned and so start my journey into the mansions. At first I can only sit quietly and my mind wanders as I inhabit my own thoughts and distractions. Gradually I get closer to God and begin to feel somewhat more enlightened in my soul. By continued practice and living my life, I intend to become prepared to meet Jesus Christ in this place.
Grace or works
I reject all arguments about grace versus works because they detract from the essential need to become as a little child to receive the kingdom of God. I know that Jesus has a plan for my life. I know that I can prepare a highway for him to come into my heart by becoming like a little child. Paul told Timothy, Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 2 Timothy 2:23
Contemplative prayer requires effort to begin. My effort continues through the first five stages until God Himself comes to me and takes me into the remaining interior mansions. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:4-10
The secret place of the Most High
Contemplative prayer is an opportunity to gain a glimpse of God through Jesus Christ in the secret place of the Most High. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1
Lord Jesus, I desire to experience you within my own soul. I will continue to learn and grow as your grace allows. Help me to stay in your will and to grow according to your plan for me. Amen.