Translated from the original by Ana Giménez.
We have several times mentioned the union of the first three mansions. From fourth mansion on, there is a new phase we will soon talk about. At the end of the third mansion we are offered the first joy of living a Christian way. Teresa of Jesus calls it “sweetness”, to differentiate it from “consolation”, characteristic of the fourth mansions
It is a gift of God, as everything we live, but with the need of our collaboration. We have been practising the first three mansions for long and suddenly, we feel happy to be Christians. The gift can be received in prayer or not. It is called “sweetness”, as receiving it has taken also some of our effort, perseverance in recollection prayer, wish to resemble and follow Jesus Christ, growth in virtues, make up our mind to follow Jesus as perfectly as possible, etc. Most of you may very possibly have lived that.
The difference between experiences is sometimes very thin. Sweetness raptures, may come from God but need our collaboration and effort. The favours we might receive from fourth mansions and on, are pure gift of God. Teresa finds a little difference here and makes us understand that, so as not to be misled. The best description of sweetness can be found at the beginning of fourth mansion:
“Returning to what I was saying I would describe here -namely, the difference between sweetness in prayer and spiritual consolations — it seems to me that we may describe as sweetness what we get from our meditations and from petitions made to Our Lord. This proceeds from our own nature, though, of course, God plays a part in the process (and in everything I say you must understand this, for we can do nothing without Him). This spiritual sweetness arises from the actual virtuous work which we perform, and we think we have acquired it by our labours. We are quite right to feel satisfaction at having worked in such a way. But, when we come to think of it, the same satisfaction can be derived from numerous things that may happen to us here on earth.”
That means that these are human experiences, similar to the joy given by certain things in life:
“When, for example, a person suddenly acquires some valuable property; or equally suddenly meets a person whom he dearly loves; or brings some important piece of business or some other weighty matter to a successful conclusion, so that everyone speaks well of him; or when a woman has been told that her husband or brother or son is dead and he comes back to her alive. I have seen people shed tears over some great joy; sometimes, in fact, I have done so myself. It seems to me that the feelings which come to us from Divine things are as purely natural as these, except that their source is nobler, although these worldly joys are in no way bad. To put it briefly, worldly joys have their source in our own nature and end in God” (Interior Castle 4.1.4)
At the end of the second mansion, Teresa has warned us that
there may be a risk in turning spiritual life into a search for delight and gratification. The thermometer of spiritual life is in our personal transformation and in the loving action towards our neighbour. Let´s remember:
“for perfection consists not in consolations, but in the increase of love; on this, too, will depend our reward, as well as on the righteousness and truth which are in our actions.” (Interior Castle 3.2.10)
Having said that, let´s welcome this first gift which shows us the way to a happy life of commitment to others. I remember once, a woman whose husband had abandoned her, leaving her alone with two children, called me at an unearthly hour. She had regained the path of faith in God and she was calling me because after having put her children into bed, she had started her prayers for a while, and suddenly she started a cry of joy. It seems that her tears were hot of joy for her husband´s disappearance, but for her encounter with the Lord. I thought it was normal and a consequence of the prayers she had been practising for a while. In The Way of Perfection we can also find hints to understand this gift due-to some extent-to our effort. We will find that in chapters 28 and 29:
“And now let us imagine that we have within us a palace of priceless worth, built entirely of gold and precious stones – a palace, in short, fit for so great a Lord. Imagine that it is partly your doing that this palace should be what it is -and this is really true, for there is no building so beautiful as a soul that is pure and full of virtues, and, the greater these virtues are, the more brilliantly do the stones shine. Imagine that within the palace dwells this great King, Who has vouchsafed to become your Father and Who is seated upon a throne of supreme price -namely, your heart.” (The Way of perfection 28.9)
“Turn your eyes upon yourself and look at yourself inwardly, as I have said. You will find your Master; He will not fail you: indeed, the less outward comfort you have, the [much] greater the joy He will give you. He is full of compassion and never fails those who are afflicted and out of favour if they trust in Him alone. Thus David tells us that he never saw the just forsaken, and again, that the Lord is with the afflicted. Either you believe this or you do not: if you do, as you should, why do you wear yourselves to death with worry?” (The Way of Perfection 29.2)
“when the soul desires to enter within herself, to shut the door behind her so as to keep out all that is worldly and to dwell in that Paradise with her God. I say “desires”, because you must understand that this is not a supernatural state but depends upon our volition, and that, by God’s favour, we can enter it of our own accord: this condition must be understood of everything that we say in this book can be done, for without it nothing can be accomplished and we have not the power to think a single good thought.” (The Way of Perfection 29.4)
These first joys of being Christians will be more specific over the course of next mansions, till we reach to live-with the help of God-the highest intensity of the party in The Interior Castle 6.6.11, sweetness rapture or great impulse of happiness.
I wish you lots of encouragement and persistence in spiritual life! We are about to enter in mystic life. Just a warning before entering in the fourth mansion. And we will jump to “supernatural” experiences as she will explain us.