A Garden of Righteousness

Teresa of Avila,

Teresa of Avila, a 16th century Spaniard, is known not only for her mystical raptures but also for her practical activism. The Interior Castle, Teresa’s most famous treatise on the spiritual path, written in 1577, may be seen as more than a prescription for achieving personal union with the Divine - it can serve as a clear set of guidelines for conscious peacemaking in the world.

At 51, Teresa took the reforms she had advocated in the convent out to the rest of the church. "She braved burning sun, ice and snow, thieves, and rat-infested inns to found more convents," writes Terry Matz in The Daybook of Saints. The papal representative called her "a restless, disobedient gadabout who has gone about teaching as though she were a professor." "She often had to enter a town secretly in the middle of the night to avoid causing a riot," continues Matz.

The Interior Castle is the fruit of a vision Teresa had near the end of her life. She perceived the soul as a crystal palace, so radiantly beautiful that the Beloved himself chooses to dwell at its center. Our purpose is to make the journey within, passing through seven dwellings, to achieve union with God. At every step, the single clearest test of our love for God is whether we are loving one another in tangible ways.

Before even entering the castle of the soul, Teresa says, it is important to acknowledge our inherent goodness. We are worthy of taking this journey toward the union of love. We are worthy of doing the work of making this world a more peaceful one.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2005
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