Chapter 9 – SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Fr. Marie Eugene begins the chapter with the fact that the divine life in our soul develops like a grain of a mustard seed which, when upon the earth is the smallest of all the seeds, but it grows up and becomes larger than any other herb and puts out great branches. He covers how that growth takes place and by what signs it shall be recognized. It is a mystery which St. Teresa of Jesus tries to give us insight into with her writings.
Perfection consists in perfect union with God, transforming union or spiritual marriage. God is our end and to attain to Him is perfection. The soul is perfect in the measure in which it is near to Him.
St. Teresa explains that these seven mansions are comprised of many more, both above and below and around. She also states that the sixth and seventh mansions might be fused in one – that there is no closed door to separate the one from the other.
Fr. Marie Eugene states that seven is the perfect number and that the first can be considered as the point of departure; the third mansions is where the natural activity of the soul takes place which is aided by grace; the fifth mansion enlightened by the longing for transforming union. He states that the three other mansions are periods of transition or preparation. Dryness dominates the second mansion; the night of the senses in the fourth and the night of the spirit in the sixth. In these transition or preparation mansions, there are more stumbling blocks to be met.
In the first phase – 1st to 3rd mansions – God assures the soul of His ordinary grace or general help. For the soul - attention to Prayer is predominant and correction of exterior faults. The soul exercises its apostolic mission with its natural activity aided by grace.
In the second phase – 4th to 7th mansions –God intervenes progressively in the life of the soul taking the initiative away from the soul and imposes upon it submission and abandonment and finally establishes the perfect rule of God – making the soul a child of God and it now becomes moved by the Spirit of God. For the soul – self-surrender is necessary.
The action of God and the cooperation of the soul in such close dependence on each other produce a real transformation. St. Teresa used the analogy of a silk worm and how it is transformed from a worm into a butterfly.
St. Teresa uses this analogy several times to show the transforming action of charity which divinizes as it develops, creates new virtues, perfects the natural powers and produces a new and perfect type of humanity, a soul transformed in God.
The mystery that surrounds the supernatural and its external signs explains why the inhabitants of Nazareth did not recognize the divinity of Jesus, any more than the high sanctity of Mary and of Joseph. Also mentioned was the holiness of St. Therese among her sisters in the convent. This is found with many of the saints – it sufficed to leave to grace the mystery that envelops it and to assure to the external manifestations of the supernatural the veil of simplicity which is the characteristic of the highest and most pure souls. St. Teresa states: “…in this life of ours, the soul does not grow in the way the body does, though we speak as if it did, and growth does in fact occur.” She also states, “No soul on this road is such a giant that it does not often need to become a child at the breast again. (This must never be forgotten: I may repeat it again and again, for it is of great importance.)” Life, pg. 80
Father Marie Eugene states that it is beyond a doubt that it is the action of God Himself that contributes most to the complexity of this problem or mystery of growth. The Holy Ghost gives to each one, grace in the measure that He has chosen. St. Teresa states, “…the Lord grants to one person less contemplation in twenty years than to others in one.” Life, pg. 237 She also states:
“ But, O my God, how is it that even in spiritual matters we often try
to interpret things in our own way, as if they were worldly things, and distort their true meaning? We think we can measure our progress by the number of years during which Who bestows on us measureless gifts, and Who can give more to one person in six months than to another in many years. This is something which I have so often observed, and in so many people, that I am amazed to find we can act so pettily.” Life, pg. 283
We thank God for these gifts given to us through the writings of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us!
Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene