Like her friend John of the Cross, Teresa of Ávila lamented that more people didn’t make progress beyond simply living a “good Christian life”, relatively stable in the virtues and in their goals, into contemplative prayer. For Saint Teresa, there are many who get to the “third” or (perhaps) “fourth mansion” of the increasingly dense spiritual interior… but no farther. They become relatively stable in virtue (as stable as one gets without tumbling into the action-vivifying depths of contemplation). They cut themselves from mortal sins and their occasions. They live primarily for God. But… something happens and they don’t venture farther inside to find the deepest, highest point where God dwells.
John laments that there are spiritual directors who only know meditative and vocal prayer and insists that their brothers and sisters thump away loudly, while Jesus is asking for a more quiet, contemplative gaze, which, because we let Jesus do the work, can more quickly and easily transform us into our Lord’s likeness.
Teresa says that she would love us to pass beyond meditative and vocal prayer, at least sometimes. Jesus didn’t come only to leave us partly transformed into him. The goal is total transformation, which will, at least sometimes, touch us in contemplative prayer.
Beginning to let oneself be lost to contemplative prayer is a threshold to cross. It really is. And the saints would like more of us to cross it.