Being with Ourselves

Exploring the Mystics with James Finley

Being with Ourselves
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues reflecting on the Christian mystic Teresa of Ávila and The Interior Castle. Again, he invites you into a different kind of reading. Let your rational mind rest and allow your heart to awaken.

Teresa asks, “Wouldn’t it be a pity not to understand ourselves?” The pity is we tend not to. Teresa is writing about healing the sorrow that arises from being exiled from our soul.

Now let us return to our beautiful and delightful castle [which is our soul] and see how we can enter it. I seem rather to be talking nonsense; for, if this castle is the soul, there can clearly be no question of our entering it [since we are the soul we are going after]. For we ourselves are the castle: and it would be absurd to tell someone to enter a room when he was in it already! But you must understand that there are many ways of “being” in a place. [1]

All of us are here (wherever we may be), right here. But the degree to which each of us is here right now—in terms of a deeply awake, grateful awareness of the gift and miracle of being here—varies greatly from person to person. Another way of saying it is that everyone who’s married is married. Some people are more married than others.

The issue is our tendency to get stuck focusing on what my father or mother, wife or ex-wife, children or friends, pastor or boss thinks of me. What if instead we could join God in knowing who God knows I am eternally in God, before the origins of the universe, and know ourselves hidden with Christ in God forever? If I’m so caught up in perceptions of myself—projections and wounds—if I’m caught up in this labyrinth of confusion, it eclipses my view of the God-given godly nature of who I absolutely, invincibly am.

This is how Teresa of Ávila starts her book, The Interior Castle. We’re just on page two, and it’s clear this isn’t going to be a light read! But what’s also clear is it’s not theoretical. The pedagogy of the mystics slows us down enough to catch up with ourselves. How can we ponder the intimate immediacy of what matters most? How can we learn to not treat ourselves like someone we don’t want to spend time with? How can we settle into a quiet, prayerful pondering about who we deep down really are and are called to be? And how can we be more faithful to it?

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

References:
[1] Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers (Dover Publications: 2007, ©1946), 17.

Adapted from James Finley, private retreat on Teresa of Ávila and The Interior Castle, 2016.

Image credit: Mother and Child (detail), Juarez, Mexico, 2009. CAC archives.
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