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Center for Action and Contemplation

Made in God’s Image

Monday, October 9, 2017

Exploring the Mystics with James Finley

Made in God’s Image
Monday, October 9, 2017

CAC faculty member James Finley continues exploring The Interior Castle in which Teresa of Ávila describes our soul as a beautiful castle with many rooms; at the center of the castle God dwells. As James shared yesterday, the mystics can’t be understood rationally, but must be read slowly, prayerfully, and with an open heart.

Teresa begins her book with the revelation that God creates us in God’s own image and likeness:

I can find nothing with which to compare the great beauty of a soul and its great capacity. In fact, however acute our intellects may be, they will no more be able to attain to a comprehension of this than to an understanding of God; for, as He Himself says, He created us in His image and likeness [Genesis 1:26]. Now if this is so—and it is­—there is no point in our fatiguing ourselves by attempting to comprehend the beauty of this castle; for, though it is His creature, and there is therefore as much difference between it and God as between creature and Creator, the very fact that His Majesty says it is made in His image means that we can hardly form any conception of the soul’s great dignity and beauty. [1]

Teresa then invites us to reflect with her on the far-reaching implications of this revelation. First, to recognize the fact that we’re created in the image and likeness of God is to know that creation is perpetual and absolute.

That is, at this very moment, a God who is Infinite Reality itself is giving reality to us right now. If God would stop creating you into your chair at the count of three, then at the count of three your chair would be empty—because you’re nothing, absolutely nothing, outside and other than God. If at the count of three, God would cease loving the universe into existence, the universe would disappear because the universe is God’s body. The world embodies the Infinite Love that is Reality giving itself away as this universe. This is true of all creation: Brother Sun and Sister Moon, stones and trees and stars and birds and so on.

Teresa says our soul refers to our God-given godly nature. Your God-given godly nature is the infinite reality of you. You’re worth all that God is worth. You are as precious as God is precious. You have a value that cannot be calculated. Teresa says this is why we don’t understand ourselves. To understand yourself you’d have to understand God, who right at this moment is loving you into existence as the very reality of yourself and your nothingness without God. This is crystal clear, isn’t it? No wonder we can’t figure ourselves out!

Although we might not be able to understand ourselves, as humans we do have the unique capacity to be conscious of Infinite Love embodied in us. And in realizing this reality, we’re empowered to assent to it. Love is never imposed; it’s always offered.

As Teresa says, “Let us now then enter this castle.”

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

[1] Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers (Dover Publications: 2007, ©1946), 15-16.

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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