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Description of ‘The Interior Castle’ Icon

St Theresa 

The icon is describing, in symbolic terms, the 'interior castle' of our soul, where 'the secret union, or spiritual marriage, takes place in the innermost centre of the soul, where God Himself must dwell' (Interior Castle, Seventh Mansions, Chapter 2, 2).

Above the symbol of the spiritual marriage, and within the castle, a butterfly can be seen - St Teresa used the symbol of the metamorphosis of a silkworm into a butterfly to describe the journey of spiritual transformation. (Interior Castle, Fifth mansions, Chapter 2).

A section of the famous prayer of St Teresa is depicted on the scroll in her hand - 'Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you, all is fleeting, God alone is unchanging, Patience obtains everything, Who possesses God wants for nothing, God alone suffices'.

In the lower left hand section, the four waters of prayer are depicted, through symbols of how a garden is watered and different ways of drawing water. The early stages of prayer are depicted by either the laborious work of drawing water from the well or the slightly easier method of using a water wheel and buckets. The third and fourth waters, or the interior dwelling places of prayer, are depicted by a stream running though a garden or by 'heavy rain, when the Lord waters it himself, without any labour of ours'. (Autobiography of Teresa of Avila, page 78). The figure in the lower right hand section is St Joseph, towards whom Teresa had a particular devotion, and her signature is depicted across the top of the icon.

It was commissioned by Julienne McLean, and painted by the Melkite sisters from the Monastery of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel, in 2005.