Second Mansions — Enemy at the Gates
The Call of the Lord
This chapter is for those who have already begun to pray, but still fall into sin (the poisonous creatures cause them to stumble). At least they realize their position and are trying to flee from sin and get further into the Castle.
“He calls us ceaselessly, time after time, to approach Him; and this voice of His is so sweet that the poor soul is consumed with grief at being unable to do His bidding immediately; and thus, as I say, it suffers more than if it could not hear Him.”
“I do not mean by this that He speaks to us and calls us in the precise way which I shall describe later; His appeals come through the conversations of good people, or from sermons, or through the reading of good books, and there are many other ways, of which you have heard, in which God calls us. Or they come through sickness and trials, or by means of truths which God teaches us at times when we are engaged in prayer; however feeble such prayers may be, God values them highly.”
He is willing to wait for us for “many days, even years”, if we are “persevering and have good desires.”
The Assault of the Devils
“The assault which the devils now make upon the soul…is terrible.”
Before, the soul offered less resistance, as one who has given up hope of victory. “Here the understanding is keener and the faculties are more alert, which the clash of arms and the noise of cannon are so loud that the soul cannot help hearing them. For here the devils once more show the soul these vipers — that is, the things of the world — and they pretend that earthly pleasures are almost eternal: they remind the soul of the esteem in which it is held in the world, of its friends and relatives, of the way in which its health will be endangered by penances (which the soul always wants to do when it first enters this Mansion) and of impediments of a thousand other kinds.”
These earthly pleasures, no matter how enjoyable in the moment, never last, and leave us empty, they are not the full and eternal life Jesus promises us if we follow Him.
Saint Augustine, in his Confessions wrote of a similar experience, of the devils reminding him of what things he would never be able to enjoy again if he turned away from sin and towards God.
Weapons to Vanquish the Devils
To vanquish these devils, we must use the following:
1. Reason — Tells the soul that these earthly things are of little value compared to what it is seeking.
2. Faith — Instructs us in what we must do to obtain satisfaction.
3. Memory — Reminds us that all these earthly things come to an end, and people who derived so much pleasure from these things are now dead. Sometimes they have died suddenly or were prosperous, and we “trample upon their graves”, and “their bodies are now seething with worms.”
4. Will — Inclines us to love the One who never leaves us, but gives us life and being, and has shown us so many acts of love.
5. Understanding — Makes the soul realize there is no better friend than Jesus, for the world is full of falsehood and even the pleasures the devil shows us are full of trials and worries and annoyances, and outside the Castle there is neither security nor peace.
The Mercy of God
We must not fall into vain habits like everyone else. It is like being bitten by a poisonous viper and swelling up. We are like this, but take no care of ourselves. It is only the “mercy of God that will preserve us from death. The soul will certainly suffer great trials at this time, especially if the devil sees that its character and habits are such that it is ready to make further progress; all the powers of hell will combine to drive it back again.”
“Ah, my Lord! It is here that we have need of Thine aid, without which we can do nothing. Of Thy mercy, allow not this soul to be deluded and led astray when its journey is but begun.”
It is good for us to associate with those who have entered into the Castle, and even deeper than we have.
We must have a fixed determination not to be beaten, to be strong and resolute, we are fighting with the devils and there is no better weapon than the Cross.
At this stage we must not seek spiritual consolations, and complain of dryness or aridity. We have just been born spiritually and are only beginning to walk. We must embrace the Cross and carry our Crosses. We must bring our will into conformity with the will of God. We may think spiritual favors are what we need, but we must trust that the Lord knows what we need and not want Him to “do our will and to lead us just as our fancy dictates.” It is often the Lord’s will that we be “persecuted and afflicted by evil thoughts, which we cannot cast out, and also by aridities; and sometimes He even allows these reptiles to bite us, so that we may learn better how to be on our guard in the future and see if we are really grieved at having offended Him.”
Trust in God
“Unless we strive for peace in our own home, we shall not find it in the homes of others.” To fall a second time is worse than the first. “Let them place their trust, not in themselves, but in the mercy of God, and they will see how His Majesty can lead them on from one group of Mansions to another and set them on safe ground where these beasts cannot harass or hurth them, for He will place the beasts in their power and laugh them to scorn; and then they themselves — even in this life, I mean — will enjoy man more good things than they could ever desire.”
Persevere in Prayer
Consult people of experience, do not abandon prayer.
“It is absurd to think we can enter Heaven without first entering our own souls — without getting to know ourselves, and reflecting upon the wretchedness of our nature and what we owe to God, and continually imploring His mercy. The Lord Himself says, ‘No one comes to the Father, but by Me’ (John 14:6) and ‘He that sees Me sees My Father’ (John 14:9).” “Well, if we never look at Him or think of what we owe Him, and of the death which He suffered for our sakes, I do not see how we can get to know Him or do good works in His service. For what can be the value of faith without works, or of works which are not united with the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ?”
“May it please His Majesty to grant us to understand how much we cost Him, that the servant is not greater than his Lord (Matthew 10:24), that we must needs work if we would enjoy His glory, and that for that reason we must perforce pray, lest we enter into temptation (Matthew 26:41).”