As were the hearts of the first human beings, so down through the ages again and again human hearts have been struck by the divine ray. Hidden from the whole world, it illuminated and irradiated them, let the hard, encrusted, misshapen matter of these hearts soften, and then with the tender hand of an artist formed them anew into the image of God. Seen by no human eye, this is how living building blocks were and are formed and brought together into a Church first of all invisible.
However, the visible Church grows out of this invisible one in ever new, divine deeds and revelations that shed their light — ever new epiphanies. The silent working of the Holy Spirit in the depths of the soul made the patriarchs into friends of God. However, when they came to the point of allowing themselves to be used as his pliant instruments, he established them in an external visible efficacy as bearers of historical development, and awakened from among them his chosen people. Therefore Moses, too, was educated quietly and then sent as the leader and lawgiver.
Not everyone whom God uses as an instrument must be prepared in this way. People may also be instruments of God without their knowledge and even against their will, possibly even people who neither externally nor interiorly who belong to the Church. They would then be used like the hammer or chisel of the artist, or like a knife with which the vine-dresser prunes the vines.
For those who belong to the Church, outer membership can also temporally precede interior, in fact can be materially significant for it (as when someone without faith is baptized and then come to faith through the public life in the Church). But it finally comes down to the interior life; formation moves from the inner to the outer.
The deeper a soul is bound to God, the more completely surrendered to grace, the stronger will be its influence on the form of the Church. Conversely, the more an era is engulfed in the night of sin and estrangement from God the more it needs souls united to God. And God does not permit a deficiency. The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night.
But for the most part the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed.
Saint Edith Stein
The Hidden Life and Epiphany
6 January 1940
Stein, E. 2014, The Hidden Life: hagiographic essays, meditations, spiritual texts, translated from the German by Stein, W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.