Thursday, September 25, 2008

On Teresa of Avila's "Interior Castle"

Evangelicals have a one-sided view of salvation. Our understanding of the Gospel is so overly shaped by Pauline justification and his legal metaphor that we often have no room for what Jesus or the author/preacher of Hebrews or the Beloved Disciple has to say about salvation. How does the typical "Romans Road" presentation of the Gospel account for Jesus' response to the Rich Young Ruler? We need a much more biblically nuanced understanding of the Gospel that allows the many metaphors used in Scripture to reflect fully the reality they represent. Basically, I believe we need a more eschatological understanding of salvation. It is imperative that we read the Scriptures to say that salvation is a process that begins at conversion and will not be complete until resurrection. As a 16th-century member of the Spanish Carmelite Order, Theresa of Avila captured the NT orientation of Salvation as a process in her book, The Interior Castle. She understood the soul, when it is united to Christ, as analogous to a great castle with many rooms. Thus, the process of salvation is the gracious movement through each of the rooms until arrival at the center room where the Triune God fully dwells in unhindered love. The presence of God and his grace is evident in each of the rooms ever compelling his child to the center room as the climax of salvation’s process.

Within this castle metaphor, she also compares the process of salvation to the lifecycle of a silkworm. Listen to these words from our amazing sister.
…after the soul has received these favours (God’s gracious gifts that result in saving and transforming grace), it strives to make still farther progress, it will experience great things. Oh, to see the restlessness of this charming butterfly, although never in its life has it been more tranquil and at peace! May God be praised! It knows not where to stay nor take its rest; everything on earth disgusts it after what it has experienced, particularly when God has often given it this wine which leaves fresh graces behind it at every draught.

May God compel in us the grace to engage the restlessness of salvation’s process and to also show mercy to those in our Church community who restlessly struggle with God’s saving grace.

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