Should we strive for perfect love, you ask? Absolutely. For this we were created.
“Pure love” for our Holy Father John of the Cross means loving God for his own sake, with a heart that is free from all attachment to anything created: to itself and to other creatures, but also to all consolations and the like which God can grant the soul, to all particular forms of devotion, etc.; with a heart that wants nothing more than that God’s will be done, that allows itself to be led by God without any resistance. What one can do oneself to attain this goal is treated in detail in the Ascent of Mount Carmel. How God purifies the soul, in the Dark Night. The result, in the Living Flame and the Spiritual Canticle. (Basically, the whole way is to be found in each of the volumes, but each time one or other of the stages is predominant.)
He will not fail to give grace if we faithfully do the little we can do
Should we strive for perfect love, you ask? Absolutely. For this, we were created. [Perfect love] will be our eternal life, and here we have to seek to come as close to it as possible. Jesus became incarnate in order to be our way. What can we do? Try with all our might to be empty: the senses mortified; the memory as free as possible from all images of this world and, through hope, directed toward heaven; the understanding stripped of natural seeking and ruminating, directed to God in the straightforward gaze of faith; the will (as I have already said) surrendered to God in love.
The little — taken absolutely, is for us a great deal
This can be said very simply, but the work of an entire life would not attain the goal were God not to do the most essential. In the meantime, we may be confident that he will not fail to give grace if we faithfully do the little we can do. The little—taken absolutely, is for us a great deal. And while we are about it, we have to be careful not to wish to judge for ourselves how far we have come. Only God knows that. That brings me to Psalm 18 (so simple, as I understand the phrase). What we recognize of ourselves, and of our faults and behavior, is only the illuminated surface. The depth they come out of is to a large extent hidden from ourselves. God knows that depth and can purify it. The ab alienis can probably be understood in different ways. I think of it principally as what burdens us through unknown faults. But one could also think of that in which we are implicated by others. Delictum maximum probably is not to be understood as anything definite. To me it seems to point far more to Divine Mercy’s immensity and Salvation’s almighty power, for to them nothing is too great.
Saint Edith Stein
Letter 311 to Sister Agnella Stadtmüller, O.P. (Excerpts)
Written from the Carmel of Echt, 30 March 1940
Excerpt from Edith Stein's Self-Portrait in Letters, 1916-1942, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Discalced Carmelite, translated by Josephine Koeppel (The Collected Works of Edith Stein, vol. 5) Copyright © 1993 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc. Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC