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Saint Edith Stein and the Logic of the Cross

carmelite catholic catholic church catholicism cross dark night of the soul edith stein intercession martyr mortification penance penitential sacrifice suffering Jul 13, 2022

Excerpt from Donald Wallenfang, Human and Divine Being: A Study on the Theological Anthropology of Edith Stein.

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NAB)

The meaning and power of the cross is what sets the Christian faith apart from all other religions of the world. Signified by the term “cross” is expiatory suffering, that is, suffering on behalf of the other in order to atone for the sins and destitution of the other. The cross also signals the act of substituting oneself in the place of the other in order to liberate the other. It goes without saying that the cross refers above all to the passion and death of Jesus of Nazareth outside the wall of Jerusalem some two thousand years ago. If Jesus truly reveals what it is to be human through his life, teaching and, above all, through his paschal mystery, then surely the cross serves as the hermeneutical key to understanding the human paradigm in relation to the divine Trinity.

As we rapidly proceed into the twenty-first century, the term “suffering” tends to be interpreted as having a negative connotation. Suffering is regarded as that which should be eradicated at all costs. The term “suffering” is conflated often with the term “pain,” together interpreted as a meaningless and irksome phenomenon which just needs to go away as expediently as possible. However, the message of the cross presents a formidable challenge to the pretentious impassible lifestyle of self-sufficiency. Through the signification of the cross, the etymological roots of the term “suffering” are recuperated: in Latin, sufferre, “to bear up, to endure.” What does suffering bear up if not the other person? Is this not the happy vocation to love? John of the Cross says as much when he writes that “love is not tried by ease and satisfaction.”[1] Suffering is none other than the vocation to make room for the other at the expense of one’s own self-satisfaction. The exigency of this vocation is initiated by the call of the other and to suffer the other requires something supernatural – that is, something which does not originate with the human being, who is entirely finite and natural. In speaking of the transition from the active night to the passive night of the soul, Edith Stein writes that “one can deliver oneself up to crucifixion, but one cannot crucify oneself.”[2] In other words, the other is necessary for the logic of the cross to run its course. At the heart of the proclamation of the cross is the admission that a power is required which comes from outside of the self – even more, outside of humanity – to humanize and to redeem. In a word, the cross manifests and announces grace.

“Grace,” derived from the biblical Greek term χάρις, in its most basic sense, refers to the concept of gift. Pure gift is that which is given freely in a completely gratuitous way on the part of the giver. The gift is precisely that which its recipient could not procure by his or her own initiative and willpower for himself or herself. Grace connotes the unexpected, the undeserved, the unmerited, the uncontrollable. Christ’s vicarious offering of himself unto death on a cross of wood expresses divine grace to a degree which even surpasses the divine act of creation from nothing (ex nihilo). That the eternal God would become human flesh in order to regenerate this flesh redoubles the grace of created existence. Created being, after degenerating at the behest of human dereliction, is imbued with the seed of resurrected life through Christ. Through the incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth, creation becomes charged with the actualizing potency of life eternal issued in the form of a nuptial covenant between personal beings, human and divine.

Upon entering the Order of Discalced Carmelites, Edith Stein viewed herself as the spouse of Christ. She understood the meaning of the cross and wrote about it frequently. We could not tender adequately an account of the theological anthropology of Edith Stein without concluding with a brief reflection on the place of the cross in a Steinian (and, moreover, Christian) understanding of what it is to be human. Turning our attention to the whole, we realize that the cross is not an arbitrary addendum to a project in Christian philosophical theology which would serve to decorate some more important topic. Rather, the cross is the imperative and integral lens through which to view finite and eternal being in their complex interplay. Apart from the cross we are unable to make the most meaningful sense of the mysterious adventure called “human.”

In order to arrive at a clear comprehension of what is meant by the logic of the cross, we first will attempt an earthy snapshot of the life of Edith Stein in searching for the meaning of the cross in her personal life. Second, we will consider the meaning of the dark night of solitude emerging from Carmelite spirituality in relation to the logic of the cross. Third and finally, we will summarize the distinct character of the logic of the cross by enumerating and describing some of its primary traits. Through these three successive steps we will discover the decisive bearing the message of the cross has for knowing what it is to be human.

1. Edith and the Cross

Born on the Day of Atonement, October 12, 1891, Edith Stein “was especially attracted to the ritual of this particular holy day when one refrained from taking any food or drink for twenty-four hours or more, and (she) loved it more than all the others.”[3] Raised in a Jewish family, Edith was schooled in the ethics of alterity, the dignity of sacrifice, the disciplines of penance, and the priority of the stranger.[4] As attested in her autobiographical account, Edith relished the art of giving up for the sake of the other.[5] Edith – her name meaning “prosperous in the strife” – “found it an intriguing kind of sport to overcome hindrances which were apparently insurmountable.”[6] She readily leaned into a challenge, whether coming from her studies, from family life, or from her occasional bouts with depression and a depreciated feeling of self-worth. In the midst of “nasty human experiences,” Edith contended, “true, the world might be evil; but if the small group of friends in whom I had confidence and I strove with all our might, we should certainly have done with all ‘devils.’”[7] Edith endured tragedy – for example, the sudden death of her father from heat stroke when Edith was only two years of age – and yet witnessed the unrelenting perseverance of her mother and others in her circle of family and friends who refused to back down from persecution and hardship. She came to recognize a bigger picture in life: “a life beyond our own, although it includes ours.”[8] From a young age Edith recognized the interdependence of created existence and the vital interpersonal dimensions of communal life.

Due to her critical and probing mind, Edith drifted away from her Jewish faith during her teenage years only to regain this faith with its Christian extension at the age of thirty. However, in the year 1917, at the age of twenty-six, Edith received the devastating news of the death of her mentor and friend, Adolf Reinach, in battle. Upon visiting his wife, Anna, Stein was perplexed that she was not in despair. As a newly made Christian, Anna radiated with the hope to be reunited with her husband in eternal life. This experience influenced Edith profoundly, so much so that toward the end of her life she commented to her friend, Johannes Hirschmann, “It was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power that it bestows on those who carry it. For the first time, I was seeing with my very eyes the Church, born from her Redeemer’s sufferings, triumphant over the sting of death. That was the moment my unbelief collapsed and Christ shone forth – in the mystery of the Cross.”[9] Edith was so struck by Anna’s faith and hope in the face of darkest tragedy that the same flame of faith and haven of hope began to awaken in her. Edith’s fascination with the power of the cross would continue to grow throughout the rest of her life. Baptized on January 1, 1922, after reading the autobiography of Teresa of Jesus, Edith eventually would enter the Order of Discalced Carmelites to give herself over completely to the cross of Christ. Even thinking back to her student years at Göttingen from 1913–1914, Edith recalls a bare hill on campus “crowned with three windswept trees which always reminded (her) of the three crosses on Golgotha.”[10] Proleptically and prophetically, the cross became significant to Stein before she began to decipher its definitive meaning for her life and for the world.

Adopting the phrase, “How to go about living at the hand of the Lord,” as her ceterum censeo (“However that may be, I think…”) at the end of every speech she gave, Edith challenged each would-be follower of Christ: “Do you want to be totally united to the Crucified? If you are serious about this, you will be present, by the power of His Cross, at every front, at every place of sorrow, bringing to those who suffer comfort, healing, and salvation.”[11] It is the cross of Christ which binds one without relief to the cause of the other. A magnificent vocation to love wells up from the kenotic sanguinity of the cross, inspiring faith to trust in God alone for the provision of all life’s needs and empowering one to live a life of heroic virtue. One who lives according to the pattern of the cross overcomes fear by love, supplants doubt with faith, and flies untethered from the memory of tragedy with hope.

To follow Christ, and especially to be united with Christ crucified, demands the daily crucifixion of sin and self-aggrandizement. To follow Christ is to become attuned so acutely to the plight of the other that one even experiences amnesia concerning one’s own death.[12] The cruciform life, set in particular relief in the religious life, is distinguished by “the total surrender of the whole person and his or her entire life to the service of God.”[13] To become “crucified with Christ” is to give one’s life up for the sake of the other to the point of abandonment.[14] Very often this is accomplished very quietly and without much pomp and circumstance. Prayer is the first and most constant way to give of oneself in loving empathy to the other. To permit the other to trouble one’s conscience night and day is to live the cruciform life in perpetual solidarity with the other. Moreover, to live according to the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience is to live a life dedicated to and responsible for the other.

Many times we may feel that we are unable to influence others directly, yet Edith reassures us that “after every encounter in which I am made aware how powerless we are to exercise direct influence, I have a deeper sense of the urgency of my own holocaustum…Let us help one another to learn more and more how to make every day and every hour part of the structure for eternity.”[15] When Edith was enclosed within Carmel, it was for the sake of others and for the Other from whom all otherness is derived. Prayer is always directed to the other, even in the case of praying for one’s self. Edith readily admits sed Deus dat incrementum – “but God gives the increase” – and realizes that she must decrease in order that he might increase.[16] And this is precisely the logic of the cross: “whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”[17] This is a paradox indeed, but there is a consistency of this paradox which runs as a crimson thread through the whole of scripture.

Through prayer we are able to bear not only our personal cross in life, but we are empowered to take up the crosses of others as well. Edith confirms this idea as she writes, “I thought that those who recognized it as the cross of Christ had to take it upon themselves in the name of all. Certainly, today I know more of what it means to be wedded to the Lord in the sign of the Cross. Of course, one can never comprehend it, for it is a mystery.”[18] Such a heroic testimony! Edith assures us of the possibility of taking up the cross on behalf of those who are ignorant of its life-giving majesty. That I can vicariously substitute myself on behalf of the other before the divine summons of responsibility opens the way for atonement and salvation through communal solidarity. Christ’s incarnation is the source of this collective redemption performed by the Church – the communion of angels and saints which has become one with Christ – and all people of faith and good will. As Bride, to be wedded to Christ, the Bridegroom, through the sign of the cross, consummates the salvation of humankind on a cosmic scale. This salvation is manifest externally to greatest proportion, yet its source is in the quiet depths of the human soul and in the Sacred Heart of Christ which is the wellspring of all redemptive activity of the Spirit.[19] 

2. The Dark Night of Solitude

Prayer is not only the source of greatest consolation and communion with God, but it is also an activity of severe trial and anguish. As the Carmelite spiritual masters reveal, authentic union with God is accomplished through much solitude and suffering. The primary metaphors used to describe this experience are desert, night and nakedness. Several divestments take place which refine the soul as in a furnace. Without this process of purification, the soul would not be made capable of receiving the fullness of divine grace and glory. The heart/soul must be expanded according to the measure of the One who is to fill it. By the end of her life, Edith tasted fully the bitterness of the cross as she came to love the cross. For the way of the cross is not bitterness alone but the footpath to the heights of contemplation and blissful union with the Most Holy Trinity.[20]

Even as a child, Edith was called “a book with seven seals” by her older sisters, Else, Elfriede and Rosa.[21] She was the precocious “baby” of the family and exhibited a hidden interiority where she would often withdraw in deep thought and study.[22] Upon completing her examinations at the Oberprima level of secondary school, the principal, playing off the word “Stein” (which literally means “stone” in German), wrote of Edith, “Strike the stone [Stein] and treasures will gush forth.”[23] Indeed, Edith’s interior world was replete with sapiential gems which would gradually pour out into her life and writings. However, even as she aged, Edith maintained a love for childhood, recalling a time (at age twenty) when she “joined in the games the children played on the lawn more than in anything else.”[24] Reminiscent of Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Edith wrote to her good friend, Fritz Kaufmann, in 1927: “Become like a child and lay your life with all the searching and ruminating into the Father’s hand. If that cannot yet be achieved, then plead; plead with the unknown and doubted God for help in reaching it. Now you look at me in amazement that I do not hesitate to come to you with wisdom as simple as that of a child. It is wisdom because it is simple, and all mysteries are concealed in it. And it is a way that most certainly leads to the goal.”[25] It is clear in this passage that by this point in her life Edith had become accustomed to living with the ripe faith of the child to which Christ refers in the Gospels.[26] She encourages her friend to do the same – to regard God as the loving Father who cares for us as his children. She also recognizes that this risk of faith is shrouded in intellectual opacity and assaulted by doubts. Nevertheless she insists that divine wisdom is childlike in character in its simple lucidity which the arrogant mind cannot fathom. This childlike wisdom is the storehouse of divine mysteries and is the unmatchable path which leads to the spiritual ascent of contemplation. One must admit that one knows nothing before one is welcomed into the contemplation of divine knowledge. Clarity is achieved through concealment. For the spiritual life, the paradox of the cross shines with “the brilliant darkness of a hidden silence.”[27] The itinerary of the cross must pass through the dark night of solitude to break through into the unspeakable communion of the blessed in heaven.

It has been said, “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.” This observation implies with irony that one indeed must die to enter heaven. The first thing to die in the life of the redeemed person is sin. Edith echoes the constant demand of the Christian Gospel in recognizing the necessity of the cross to arrive at divine glory: “Thus, when someone desires to suffer, it is not merely a pious reminder of the suffering of the Lord. Voluntary expiatory suffering is what truly and really unites one to the Lord intimately. When it arises, it comes from an already existing relationship with Christ. For, by nature, a person flees from suffering. And the mania for suffering caused by a perverse lust for pain differs completely from the desire to suffer in expiation.”[28] Since Christ suffered, we also must suffer with Christ to eradicate sin and to be united with him completely. If we are truly the Body of Christ, then we can say with Paul, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.”[29] This is to say that willful suffering on behalf of another – whether through acts of prayer, sacrifice, fasting, almsgiving, etc. – participates in the redemption of the world wrought through the paschal mystery of Christ.[30] We suffer in Christ to the degree that we are united with Christ and to the extent that we love those for whom we suffer. This is a supernatural occurrence and cannot be explained by laws of physics or the instinctive behaviors of animal beings. It is a defining characteristic of what it is to be human: to suffer voluntarily on behalf of the other. The inspiration to act in such an unnatural (that is, supernatural) way cannot be attributed to self-interest, for the genuine act of voluntary expiatory suffering necessarily involves self-abnegation and disinterestedness.[31] As Edith points out, this kind of heroic suffering is worlds apart from the sadomasochistic practices of vice and destruction. Suffering according to the cross signifies a redemptive and life-giving suffering, paradoxically bringing life to the other and to the self inasmuch as the appetites of the flesh are abrogated in order to awaken the vital impetus of the divine Spirit in the soul. Unless the flesh be spiritualized and transfigured, it cannot partake of life eternal.[32]

The spiritual metamorphosis of body and soul – and of the world – takes place according to the paradoxical logic of the cross by moving in two complementary directions: inward and outward, that is, toward contemplative life and toward ethical responsibility and action. Edith insists, in a 1928 letter to her Dominican friend, Callista Kopf, that “even in the contemplative life, one may not sever the connection with the world. I even believe that the deeper one is drawn into God, the more one must ‘go out of oneself’; that is, one must go to the world in order to carry the divine life into it.”[33] In other words, the further one withdraws into the hidden enclosures of the soul, the more one is compelled to serve others in love.[34] The gift of divine life is uncontainable. Rather it spills over into all interpersonal relationships, yearning to complete and to renew its generative circuits of love.

To become a vessel of divine life is to enter into the mission impossible of the God who makes all things possible: to gather together the People of God from the ends of the earth.[35] While “tarrying in the darkness,” “the work of salvation takes place in obscurity and stillness. In the heart’s quiet dialogue with God the living building blocks out of which the kingdom of God grows are prepared, the chosen instruments for the construction forged.”[36] Just as the shape of the cross is manifest by an intersection of lines running in two different directions, the Christ-life is lived in a simultaneous movement inward and outward – directed toward the other within the self, namely, God, and to the other without, namely, the personal human other. Jesus’s twofold commandment of love is signified by the intersection of the cross. Upon the cross, the crucified Christ – Rabbi par excellence and eternal Word of the Father – is brought to silence and stillness. His dead body is then laid in stillness in the dark and dank tomb. Then from this breath-taking stillness eventuates resurrected life. Just so, the soul must quiet itself in great stillness and silence in order to form a more perfect spiritual kiln for the divine Fire which blazes within. Living stones are made pure and strong through the silent operations of the Holy Spirit.[37]

As a final step for gaining a preliminary understanding of the logic of the cross, we now will attempt to ascertain the integral components of such logic. What comprise the fundamental traits of a human life which adheres to the logic of the cross?

3. The Cruciform Pattern of the Cross

All of creation – the entire cosmos – adheres to the logic of the cross: the lambent pattern in which life springs forth from death, in which exaltation is conceived in humility, in which hope eternal arises from meaningful suffering. Cosmic order itself is determined according to the logic of the cross. Revealed in Christ is a God who empties Godself out of immeasurable love for humanity.[38] Joseph Ratzinger treasures the epigram of Hölderlin which reflects this very idea:

“Non coerceri maximo, contineri tamen a minimo, divinum est” (Not to be encompassed by the greatest, but to let oneself be encompassed by the smallest – that is divine.) The boundless spirit who bears in himself the totality of Being reaches beyond the “greatest”, so that to him it is small, and he reaches into the smallest, because to him nothing is too small. Precisely this overstepping of the greatest and reaching down into the smallest is the true nature of absolute spirit. At the same time we see here a reversal in value of maximum and minimum, greatest and smallest, that is typical of the Christian understanding of reality. To him who as spirit upholds and encompasses the universe, a spirit, a man’s heart with the ability to love, is greater than all the milky ways in the universe.[39]

Greatness is revealed in highest resolution through humility, suffering and servantship. Jesus reveals this both in the witness of his life and in the subversiveness of his teaching. He insists that the greatest is the least and the least is the greatest, that the master is the one who serves, and that those who humble themselves will be exalted. Does not Hölderlin’s text encapsulate the paradigmatic essence of divinity if there be one at all? Further, does not this paradoxical idea defy human expectation and the tidy reasoning of worldly commerce? The Gospel of John relates Jesus saying, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”[40] The symbolic gesture of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet sealed the constancy of his life and teaching in which he, without hesitation, stoops to serve his Beloved. As Ratzinger suggests, the Christian understanding of reality is a subversive one, turning the common sense logic of the world on its head.[41] The holy reversal whereby that which is esteemed most highly is shown to be void of worth in comparison with this God of humility is central to the Christian kerygma. While appearing to be a “sign of contradiction,” the cross in fact opens the human soul to its greatest potential through the actualizing power of divine Spirit.[42] God’s Spirit is communicated through the channel of the cross. It is the cross which abolishes enmity between God and humanity by bursting the “wall of hostility” built by calloused accretions of sin throughout history.[43] In Christ it is revealed irrevocably that God delights to dwell in the hiddenness, littleness, and fragility of the human soul.

In her final literary work, The Science of the Cross, Edith presents a synthesis of the mystical theology of John of the Cross. Masterfully weaving together select passages from the mystical Doctor, Edith aims at detecting the precise pattern of the cross on display in the lives of the saints. She speaks of this pattern as a “science of the saints” wherein obtains a “holy realism: the original inner receptivity of the soul reborn in the Holy Spirit…(having) a certain affinity with the realism of the child who receives and responds to impressions with unimpaired vigor and vitality, and with uninhibited simplicity.”[44] A comparative examination of the lives of saints reveals a consistent pattern of living. Just as the scientific method yields similar results through repetitive experimentation, the lives of saints demonstrate a consonant ethos and action which suggests a common genealogy of being infected with the passion of the cross.[45] To live a life of heroic virtue cannot be explained by so-called natural causes. Proclaimed by the logic of the cross is a supernatural and divine power which surges through a human person consciously open to the influx of divine will.[46] Accompanying the soul who yearns for God is a radical passivity in relation to divine providence. The saint opens herself without inhibition to the God who gives and takes away – but above all the God who gives. A radical receptivity is exhibited by the soul who, as a child, waits with innocent expectation and wonder before the love of the divine Majesty. Greatest maturity is shown through the most sublime simplicity. The childlike soul then responds with love, adoration and thanksgiving to this God addressed as Abba, Father.

When Jesus, the eternal Son of God, said of the cross, “‘whoever does not take up his cross and follow me, is not worthy of me,’ or ‘if anyone wishes to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me,’ then is the cross the symbol (Sinnbild) of all that is difficult and oppressive and so against human nature that taking it upon oneself is like a journey to death. And the disciple of Jesus is to take up this burden daily.”[47] It is quite intriguing how Jesus speaks of taking up one’s cross even before he met his execution historically. Jesus makes it clear that following him will necessitate the bearing of a cross – a symbolically charged term which indicates the unnatural vocation of suffering for the sake of redemption, suffering for the sake of the other. This is, as Edith recognizes, none other than a courageous journey to death which is to take place on a daily basis. Yet Christ reassures his followers, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”[48] Such a puzzling paradox accessible only to faith! What is so blessed about the cross and poverty of spirit? The manifestation and proclamation of love and the fruit of redemption are the blessed effects of the cross. In enduring the dark night of solitude and great deprivation, the soul enters fully into the redemptive mystery of the cross. Signifying “extreme abandonment,” the symbols of “cross and night are the way to heavenly light: that is the joyful message of the cross.”[49] When Jesus cries from the cross the opening verse of the twenty-second Psalm, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?,” he recapitulates in himself the human being who is horrifically abused and who suffers in excruciating agony unjustly. He appears and speaks in total solidarity with humanity and, at the same time, exposes the redemptive meaning of his suffering proleptically announced at the Last Supper: “Take and eat; this is my body…Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”[50] To give oneself in complete abandonment for the sake of the other is the highest expression of love. In the abandonment of the Son of God nailed to the cross is simultaneously the self-abandonment of God the Father and God the Spirit. A Trinitarian abandonment transpires through Jesus’s crucifixion – an abandonment which began with the original act of God creating the universe from nothing, loving the entire cosmos into existence. The Trinitarian self-abandonment of God continued through the incarnation of Jesus in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It reached its climax in the hour of Jesus’s passion when he handed himself over, “becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”[51] In other words, God has nothing left to give to his Bride, the Church. All has been given her without remainder. This is the definitive meaning of the cross.

[1] John of the Cross, “Degrees of Perfection,” ¶ 9, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, 729.

[2] Stein, Science of the Cross, 49. Lest the meaning of the “logic of the cross” be misunderstood at the outset, it is important to draw the distinction between meaningful and redemptive suffering and what Levinas calls “useless suffering.” See Levinas, Entre Nous, 91–101. Levinas writes here that “the justification of the neighbor’s pain is certainly the source of all immorality” (ibid., 99). Indeed there is much abusive suffering perpetrated by human beings against one another which must be checked immediately. The logic of the cross does not imply an affirmation or condoning of all human suffering, such as that horrifically met by the Jewish people, in particular, during the German Holocaust from 1940–1945. Neither does the logic of the cross seek to glamorize the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth by glossing over its tragedy and horror. Rather, the logic of the cross illuminates the vocation of the self – me – to suffer for the sake of the other through my radical responsibility for him. The logic of the cross argues that to be responsible for the other implies suffering the other, for the other, with the other. In terms of the scapegoat theory of René Girard, I nominate myself as the scapegoat out of sacrificial love for the other. See Girard, The Scapegoat. In terms of Levinas’s theory of substitution, I willingly accept the call to substitute myself in the place of the other. See Levinas, Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, 99–129.

[3] Stein, Life in a Jewish Family, 71.

[4] See, for example, where Edith speaks about “the old Jewish custom that, instead of keeping for oneself the first of each kind of produce one rather gives them away” (ibid., 40). Edith Stein will be referred to as “Edith” for the remainder of the chapter in order to underscore her personal familiarity with the logic of the cross and her lived experience of suffering and martyrdom.

[5] See, for instance, ibid., 235–36: “My guiding principle was always: give in, in all that is not unjust.” Also, commenting on her disinterested service in the Red Cross during wartime, she writes that “I placed myself unconditionally at their disposal” (ibid., 298).

[6] Ibid., 152.

[7] Ibid., 216–17.

[8] Stein, Self-Portrait in Letters: 1916–1942, 9 (Letter to Roman Ingarden; February 9, 1917).

[9] Posselt, Edith Stein, 49. English translation taken from Herbsrith, Edith Stein, 56.

[10] Stein, Life in a Jewish Family, 242.

[11] Ibid., 435. Cf. ibid., 423, and Stein, Self-Portrait in Letters: 1916–1942, 87 (Letter to Sr. Adelgundis Jaegerschmid; April 28, 1931).

[12] This comment is inspired especially by the philosophy of Levinas, for example, cf. Levinas, Is It Righteous to Be?, 121–29.

[13] Stein, Essays on Woman, 52.

[14] See Galatians 2:19–20: “For through the law I died to the law, that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (NAB).

[15] Stein, Self-Portrait in Letters: 1916–1942, 60 (Letter to Sr. Adelgundis Jaegerschmid; February 16, 1930). Cf. ibid., 101 (Letter to Anneliese Lichtenberger; August 17, 1931): “You are not the only one to make mistakes day after day – we all do it. But the Lord is patient and full of mercy. In his household of grace he can use our faults, too, if we lay them on the altar for him. ‘Cor contritum et humiliatum Deus non despicies (A contrite and humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn)’ (Ps. 50). That, too, is one of my favorite verses”; and 1 Corinthians 3:5–9: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (RSV); and Stein, Self-Portrait in Letters: Letters to Roman Ingarden, 86: “I have great difficulty finding this feeling of absolute powerlessness in myself. Perhaps that is because with very little effort I accomplish things with others. However, sometimes we must have the courage to accurately express powerlessness in order to heal the naïve trust we have in our will and ability – something I definitely possessed earlier” (Letter of February 12, 1918).

[16] See 1 Corinthians 3:7 and John 3:27–30: “John [the Baptist] answered and said, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said [that] I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens to him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease’” (NAB).

[17] Matthew 23:12 (NAB). Cf. Luke 14:11; 18:14.

[18] Stein, Self-Portrait in Letters: 1916–1942, 295 (Letter to Mother Petra Brüning; December 9, 1938).

[19] See Stein, Science of the Cross, 176: “Love’s highest fulfillment is ‘being-one’ in free mutual surrender: this is the inter-trinitarian divine life.”

[20] It is striking to note the symbolic meaning of Edith’s love for hiking in the mountains during her youth as it relates to her eventual Carmelite profession – recall Mount Carmel, the site upon which the Carmelite Order was founded in the late twelfth century AD. For instance, she recalls a time at age 19 when she, Hans Biberstein, and her sisters, Erna and Rosa, “proceeded to Reinerz where the four of us packed ourselves and our luggage into a wagon for the ascent to our destination in the heights” (Stein, Life in a Jewish Family, 133). Little did she know at the time the spiritual heights to which she would ascend later in her life. Cf. Stein, Self-Portrait in Letters: 1916–1942, 19 (Letter to Roman Ingarden; August [7], 1917): “I have been up here since yesterday; it is just beautiful, 1400 meters altitude, very quiet, solitary; and there is a gorgeous view toward the Belchen [Mountain].”

[21] Stein, Life in a Jewish Family, 63.

[22] See ibid., 74, 79: “Within me, however, there was a hidden world. Whatever I saw or heard throughout my days was pondered there…In fact, when not in school, I became so quiet and taciturn that the whole family noticed it. This was probably due to my being so cocooned in my interior world.” Cf. ibid., 278, where Stein speaks of her “solitary battle” in dealing with depression and a lack of self-esteem. Though one must be careful not to equate the mental illness of depression with solitude, it is nevertheless important to show both experiences at work in Edith’s interior world.

[23] Ibid., 179.

[24] Ibid., 209. Cf. ibid., 240: “From childhood on I had loved to make discoveries. When Erna and I were sent out for walks on our own in Breslau or in Hamburg, I used to say, ‘Today, we’ll go somewhere we have never seen before.’”

[25] Stein, Self-Portrait in Letters: 1916–1942, 51 (Letter to Fritz Kaufmann; January 6, 1927).

[26] See Matthew 18:3; 19:14; Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17.

[27] Pseudo-Dionysius, “Mystical Hierarchy” in Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works, 135. Cf. Stein, “Ways to Know God: The ‘Symbolic Theology’ of Dionysius the Areopagite and Its Objective Presuppositions,” in Stein, Knowledge and Faith, 83–134; and Stein, Science of the Cross, 47: “But we must learn to see and hear, and so on, as though we neither saw nor heard.”

[28] Stein, Hidden Life, 92. Cf. Stein, Science of the Cross, 21–22: “He who has decided for Christ is dead to the world and the world to him. He carries in his body the marks of the Lord’s wounds, is weak and despised by the people but is precisely therefore strong because the power of God is mighty in the weak. Knowing this, Jesus’ disciple not only takes up the cross that is laid upon him, but also crucifies himself: ‘Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’ They have waged an unrelenting battle against their nature, that the life of sin might die in them and room be made for the life of the spirit.” Cf. Galatians 5:4.

[29] Colossians 1:24 (NAB). Cf. Stein, Science of the Cross, 65: “Our goal is union with God, our way that of the crucified Christ, our becoming one with him takes place when we are crucified.”

[30] See Stein, Hidden Life, 58 (speaking of St. Teresa of Jesus): “The saint also had no other desire than to live in this separation from the world with her little family, to lead them ever more deeply into the spirit of prayer, into the heroic exercise of virtues – humility, obedience, complete giving of oneself, poverty, the most heartfelt love for God and for people – and to consecrate with them this whole life of prayer, sacrifice, voluntary penance (on which, however, she set a wise limit and so obviated an unhealthy enthusiasm) to the glory of God and his church, for the salvation of souls and as a support for priests who were doing battle with the great errors of the time.”

[31] In addition to sensory goods (let alone lustful appetites), the soul “must divest herself, as well, of all supernatural goods when God grants her any of these” (Stein, Science of the Cross, 59); cf. ibid., 81, 115, 119.

[32] See 1 Corinthians 15:36, 42–44, 50, 53: “You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies…So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one…This I declare, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption…For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality”; and John 6:53–54, 63: “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day…It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life’” (NAB).

[33] Stein, Self-Portrait in Letters: 1916–1942, 54 (Letter to Sr. Callista Kopf; February 12, 1928).

[34] See Stein, Hidden Life, 6: “Carmelites can repay God’s love by their everyday lives in no other way than by carrying out their daily duties faithfully in every respect – all the little sacrifices that a regimen structured day after day in all its details demands of an active spirit; all the self-control that living in close proximity with different kinds of people continually requires and that is achieved with a loving smile; letting no opportunity go by for serving others in love.”

[35] See Matthew 19:26.

[36] Stein, Self-Portrait in Letters: 1916–1942, 307 (Letter to Walter Warnach; April 14, 1939), and Stein, Hidden Life, 15, respectively. Cf. Stein, Science of the Cross, 278: “The darkest path is the most secure.”

[37] See 1 Peter 2:4–5: “Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (NAB). Cf. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, 188: “Jesus deigned to show me the road that leads to this Divine Furnace, and this road is the surrender of the little child who sleeps without fear in its Father’s arms.”

[38] See Philippians 2:5–11.

[39] Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 146.

[40] John 13:12–15 (NAB).

[41] Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18–2:16.

[42] See Luke 2:34 and 1 Corinthians 1:18–25; 2:14–15. Cf. Stein, Hidden Life, 94: “The Crucified One looks down on us and asks us whether we are still willing to honor what we promised in an hour of grace. And he certainly has reason to ask. More than ever the cross is a sign of contradiction”; and Stein, Science of the Cross, 19: “..the relation of the prophet himself to his Lord and God…[which] demands of him complete dedication and unlimited readiness and removes him from the community of people who think only in natural terms and makes him a sign of contradiction.”

[43] See Ephesians 2:14.

[44] Stein, Science of the Cross, 10–11.

[45] See Stein, Self-Portrait in Letters: Letters to Roman Ingarden, 266: “If you are really serious with the search for truth in religious things, that is, with the search for God, not for the proof of religious experience, then without a doubt you will find a way. I can only advise you with what I wrote earlier, that you should consider the writings of the great saints and mystics because they are the best source material: the autobiography of St. Teresa (I would recommend that you begin with Seelenburg, although this is the main mystical work) and the writings of St. John of the Cross” (Letter of January 1, 1928).

[46] See Stein, Science of the Cross, 122, 166: “This dark, loving knowledge is the surrender of the soul through the will (as her mouth) to the loving approach of the still-concealed God: love, which is not a feeling, but rather a readiness for action and sacrifice, an insertion of one’s own will into the divine will in order to be led by it alone…Whoever truly wants, in blind faith, nothing more but what God wills, has, with God’s grace, reached the highest state a human being can reach. His will is totally purified and free of all constraint through earthly desires; he is united to the divine will through free surrender.” Cf. Stein, Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities, 84: “There is a state of resting in God, of complete relaxation of all mental activity, in which you make no plans at all, reach no decision, much less take action, but rather leave everything that’s future to the divine will, ‘consigning yourself entirely to fate.’”

[47] Stein, Science of the Cross, 17.

[48] Matthew 5:3 (NAB).

[49] Stein, Science of the Cross, 30–31.

[50] Matthew 26:26–28 (NAB).

[51] Philippians 2:8 (NAB).

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