Translated from the original by Ana Giménez.
I remember a conversation with an African missionary. Several years have passed and I haven´t ever forgotten it. He explained to me his major suffering in his life as a missionary: to have one single dosis of vaccine against rabies and several persons affected. The fact of having to discern in the most absolute dark who was the one to be elected for the vaccine. It seems that something similar is happening in Spanish hospitals. Confined at home, our mind is in the several hospitals, in its ICUs (Intensive Care Units), in the sick people, in the health personnel who are risking their lives.
We are tempted to drown ourselves in misery and despair and not to understand each other; it seems unbelievable what it is happening: death and wreck. We are in a state of shock. It is happening to us the same thing which happened to the Jewish people when they were exiled. Maybe if you devote a few minutes it could be useful to you what I wrote before the pandemic, a post about the Jewish people in exile in Babylon: Brief introduction of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament (I) ; If you are discouraged, or your hope is at rock bottom, it may help you, A blossomed desert of hope (II) ; If you want to know a little the programme of life that Jesus Christ introduces, I refer to another post, Jesus Christ the prophet. If you want to be in silence and pray, this may help you: Some ways of praying in times of coronavirus.
The priest and prophet Ezekiel also experienced the absence of God. We are not so weird. It looked like God had abandoned him and that He had gone to live beyond celestial vault. It was hard more difficult to enter in contact with Him. If we have the strength to overcome, with God´s help, we will be able to pray and dream and prepare another Church which may come after the virus, God willing.
The confinement in our houses can become a moment of intimacy and can help us think in a future which can´t be as the one we have left behind. In this situation, how can God deny us to live from experience what we already know by faith, that is, that God came to the world with an unconditional love offer?
What I am about to explain is open to all of us in those very hard moments. If we ask Him with humility, He will come to comfort us and will give us strength, so as not to fall into despair and help others in any way we can. The sleep of the faculties is the expression of a religious experience lived by Saint Teresa, which follows others already described in the fourth mansion: prayer of presence, supernatural recollection and quiet. In short, the sleep of the faculties is an extension of the prayer of quiet, to know ourselves loved by God. With the sleep of the faculties, we will close the forms of prayers in the fourth mansion and we will devote to seeking the changes in the heart and its consequences in our behaviour towards our neighbours.
Briefly said, the sleep of the faculties is a way of human love expressed in a divine way. Similar to all the mystical experiences. I can´t find better image than the experience of love between persons, to discover that the mystic, or deep religious experience, is not but experiences of human love lived in a divine way. To understand it and maybe to live it, we only need to have ever loved or to have allowed ourselves to be loved by someone.
With a bit of luck it comes to our lives through our parents in the sign of trust. We learn to love because we are loved. We normally love to the ones who love us. Those early experiences are essential in our lives.
They later develop in different ways with other persons. They give meaning to our lives and are the treasure we hold on to in delicate situations. Either through photographs, or through personal relationship, there are unforgettable relations which are kept in our hearts for good. If we have experienced a positive relationship of love with our parents, it will be really odd that once dead, not to be frequently remembered, very frequently indeed.
Let´s talk now about these human experiences expressed in a divine way. Our relationship with God can be distant, close or somewhere in between. Once we start leading a spiritual life, the God who seemed to be distant becomes closer. Through His son Jesus Christ you can easily become His friend, to meditate the mysteries of His life, learn Little by Little His way of living. That is, He starts to be part of our life.
It is almost a need to pray frequently, to participate in the sacraments, receive Sunday Eucharist in our community, to remember Him. After all, nothing unusual as all this is lived by millions of Christians.
When the time comes and without giving up what has been learnt in the first three mansions, it turns out that our friendship becomes love. We are even thirstier. We learn to live in God´s presence, to recollect our thoughts so as not to be unfocused wandering off the subject… and suddenly one day you experience for the first time that this One you are having a relationship with, the God of Jesus Christ, gives you the gift of feeling His affection. We have frequently ask for it in our prayers, we haven´t given up meditating the mysteries of His life and suddenly we discover that Someone has always loved us.
When the affection experienced lasts a very short time, Teresa calls it quiet prayer. If that loving presence lasts for a while, for one or two days, we are experiencing the sleep of the faculties.
We could say that this love expands, spreads; it is not an occasional experience any more, it comes out from the hiding place of prayer and becomes integrated into daily life. The will, where love is born, keeps in Jesus´ presence and the rest of the faculties, memory, intellect and imagination, are engaged in their responsibilities. You can be walking, working or talking to other people and something from you, very secret, still is in the Lord´s presence. This is the sleep of the faculties.
Have a look at the photo heading this post, one of the bulbs is lit, in connection with the Divine through will. The rest of the soul is symbolised by the other bulbs which follow their own way. The will still is captivated by The Lord. It is also possible, although may it not be the usual way that for a short time the memory, the intellect and the imagination may join the party.
Once you can be working in whatever your task may be, and a part of you is with Jesus Christ, Martha and Mary, action and contemplation start to walk together Prayer becomes life and life becomes action. The rest of the itinerary until the seventh mansion will continue lengthening that time, that presence, till it becomes almost permanent.
It can be distinguished from the prayer of union in the fifth mansion because that loving presence of God only affects the will. In the loving union of the fifth mansion, in the case of delectable union, the three faculties gather in the union, they will remain suspended, with no endeavours other than letting mutual love flow. The Way of Perfection, chapters 31.4-5, till the end of the chapter, clearly explains the sleep of the faculties:
“Occasionally, during this Prayer of Quiet, God grants the soul another favour which is hard to understand if one has not had long experience of it. But any of you who have had this will at once recognize it and it will give you great comfort to know what it is. I believe God often grants this favour together with the other. When this quiet is felt in a high degree and lasts for a long time, I do not think that, if the will were not made fast to something, the peace could be of such long duration. Sometimes it goes on for a day, or for two days, and we find ourselves – I mean those who experience this state – full of this joy without understanding the reason. They see clearly that their whole self is not in what they are doing, but that the most important faculty is absent – namely, the will, which I think is united with its God – and that the other faculties are left free to busy themselves with His service. For this they have much more capacity at such a time, though when attending to worldly affairs they are dull and sometimes stupid.”
“It is a great favour which the Lord grants to these souls, for it unites the active life with the contemplative. At such times they serve the Lord in both these ways at once; the will, while in contemplation, is working without knowing how it does so; the other two faculties are serving Him as Martha did. Thus Martha and Mary work together.”
In Relations 5.4 (also called in Spanish Cuentas de Conciencia in some other editions) is also very well explained and compares it with the ecstasy in the sixth mansion and with the prayer of union in the fifth mansion:
“Out of this prayer comes usually what is called a sleep of the faculties ; but they are not so absorbed nor so suspended as that it can be called a trance ; nor is it altogether union.
Sometimes, and even often, the soul is aware that the will alone is in union ; and this it sees very clearly, — that is, it seems so to it. The will is wholly intent upon God, and the soul sees that it has no power to rest on, or do, anything else; and at the same time the two other faculties are at liberty to attend to other matters of the service of God, – in a word, Martha and Mary are together”.
In the book The Life many details can be found. She gives to sleep more importance than in later books, she devotes chapters 16 and 17 to the topic. It becomes the third way to water the garden, that is, they are gifts from God with scarcely effort from the person. The drawback is that she mixes quiet and sleep with the prayer of union of the fifth mansion, as she will clarify in The Interior Castle.
I have left to the end the remark about the Castle where she explains the risks some souls may have. I enclose the text, and I will later explain it my own way.
“…and as soon as they feel any interior joy there comes over them a physical weakness and languor, and they fall into a sleep, which they call “spiritual”, and which is a little more marked than the condition that has been described. Thinking the one state to be the same as the other, they abandon themselves to this absorption; and the more they relax, the more complete becomes this absorption, because their physical nature continues to grow weaker. So they get it into their heads that it is arrobamiento, or rapture. But I call it abobamiento, foolishness; for they are doing nothing but wasting their time at it and ruining their health.” (The Interior Castle 4.3.11).
In my opinion, the risk is to believe that you are praying when you are not. For example, it is dangerous to go to the chapel and stay in front of the tabernacle involved in your thoughts and imagination. You think you are praying and you actually are talking to yourself. While God doesn´t grant with the gifts we are talking about it is always advisable to start with a spiritual reading, or the daily Word of God. Or keep on with the different kinds of prayers we have learnt, vocal, meditation, recollection, quiet and sleep. To finish up, I reproduce the last sentences from the fourth mansion:
“for I have written at great length of this Mansion, as it is the one which the greatest number of souls enter. As the natural is united with the supernatural in it, it is here that the devil can do most harm; for in the Mansions of which I have not yet spoken the Lord gives him fewer opportunities. May He be for ever praised. Amen” (The Interior Castle 4.3.14)
The natural means something due to our effort, united with the supernatural means mere gift from God. Both are mixed.
Next post will be about the “effects”, the changes that have to be generated in our hearts, and the different ways of action that may come from there.
Hugs to all of you.