Quote of the day, 31 December: St. Edith Stein

I Will Remain With You…

You reign at the Father’s right hand
In the kingdom of his eternal glory
As God’s Word from the beginning.

You reign on the Almighty’s throne
Also in transfigured human form,
Ever since the completion of your work on earth.

I believe this because your word teaches me so,
And because I believe, I know it gives me joy,
And blessed hope blooms forth from it.

For where you are, there also are your own,
Heaven is my glorious homeland,
I share with you the Father’s throne.

The Eternal who made all creatures,
Who, thrice holy, encompasses all being,
In addition has a silent, special kingdom of his own.

The innermost chamber of the human soul
Is the Trinity’s favorite place to be,
His heavenly throne on earth.

To deliver this heavenly kingdom from the hand of the enemy,
The Son of God has come as Son of Man,
He gave his blood as the price of deliverance.

In the heart of Jesus, which was pierced,
The kingdom of heaven and the land of earth are bound together.
Here is for us the source of life.

This heart is the heart of the triune Divinity,
And the center of all human hearts
That bestows on us the life of God.

It draws us to itself with secret power,
It conceals us in itself in the Father’s bosom
And floods us with the Holy Spirit.

This Heart, it beats for us in a small tabernacle
Where it remains mysteriously hidden
In that still, white host.

That is your royal throne on earth, O Lord,
Which visibly you have erected for us,
And you are pleased when I approach it.

Full of love, you sink your gaze into mine
And bend your ear to my quiet words
And deeply fill my heart with peace.

Yet your love is not satisfied
With this exchange that could still lead to separation:
Your heart requires more.

You come to me as early morning’s meal each daybreak.
Your flesh and blood become food and drink for me
And something wonderful happens.

Your body mysteriously permeates mine
And your soul unites with mine:
I am no longer what once I was.

You come and go, but the seed
That you sowed for future glory, remains behind
Buried in this body of dust.

A luster of heaven remains in the soul,
A deep glow remains in the eyes,
A soaring in the tone of voice.

There remains the bond that binds heart to heart,
The stream of life that springs from yours
And animates each limb.

How wonderful are your gracious wonders!
All we can do is be amazed and stammer and fall silent
Because intellect and words fail.

Saint Edith Stein

Scholars believe that this poem, although undated and unsigned, was written for the occasion of the Saint’s departure from the Carmel of Cologne

On 31 December 1938 Saint Edith Stein departed the Carmel of Cologne for fear that her presence was endangering the community. Sister Teresia Renata Posselt, O.C.D. explains in her biography Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite just how the transfer from Cologne, Germany to Echt, Holland took place.

Mother Prioress wrote off to Echt in Holland mentioning that Sr. Benedicta needed a change of air. The good Sisters understood immediately what “change of air” meant in this context and warmly invited her to come and join them.

And so Advent was taken up with preparing for the journey and procuring the necessary papers. A photo was required for a passport, and so they sent for a photographer. He came one afternoon and Sr. Benedicta stationed herself by the open door of the enclosure since she did not wish to leave the enclosure on any account until it was absolutely necessary.

As usual, she wore her threadbare Carmelite habit. When the Prioress, who was present, noticed how heavily darned it was, she took off her own scapular and placed it over Sr. Benedicta, who acknowledged the action with an indescribable look of filial gratitude in her beautiful eyes. The result was that final photograph that is true to life.

The passport photo of Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, C.D. (Edith Stein)

The feasts of Christmas and its octave were saturated that year with grief at the approaching departure. There certainly were optimists who maintained that the separation would not be for long. And there were those who were more far-seeing, Sr. Benedicta among them, who said that it would be forever.

The preparations for the journey were carried out with great caution. In accordance with Sr. Benedicta’s own wishes, demonstrativeness of any kind was discouraged. Even in the hours just before she left she remained strong and calm.

The first sign of emotion was when one of the older Sisters, the tears streaming down her face, thanked her for the good example she had set them from the very first.

“How can Your Charity say that? [the Saint replied.] It is I who must thank God for having allowed me to live with you.”

This was the conviction with which she had entered the Cologne Carmel and with which she left it.

Edith Stein on the day of her clothing in the Carmelite habit, 15 April 1934

Paul Strerath, M.D., a friend of the Cologne community and great servant of God, had offered to transport her across the frontier under cover of darkness. Sr. Benedicta had asked if she might have the consolation of praying for a while before the holy statue of the Queen of Peace.

This wish being granted, Dr. Strerath drew up at the cozy rectory “Vor den Siebenburgen” where Sr. Benedicta visited the shrine and knelt for the last time at this sacred spot, the cradle of the German Carmelites. Four years later, during the year of her death, both the interior of the church and the statue of the Queen of Peace went up in smoke and flames [The Discalced Carmelite monastery was heavily damaged during Allied strategic bombing on 28 April 1942 but was totally destroyed in later Allied strategic bombing during the night of 30-31 October 1944. In post-war Cologne, the nuns returned to rebuild at 6 Vor den Siebenburgen].

A last farewell at the hospitable rectory and the car drove away to the Netherlands. At about eight o’clock the travelers arrived in Echt after a comfortable journey. The community had all gathered in the recreation room and welcomed the poor refugee with the utmost warmth though not, perhaps, without a certain curiosity.

“What immediately struck us as so pleasant about Sr. Benedicta was her simple, modest bearing, along with her delicate tact and her warm-heartedness,” the Sisters said, when describing her later. “Her features were marked by a deep seriousness, that was very noticeable that evening; evidently due to her grief at having to leave her beloved Carmel in Cologne.”

Posselt, T 2005, Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite, translated from the German by Batzdorff S, Koeppel J, and Sullivan J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Stein, E. 2014, The Hidden Life: hagiographic essays, meditations, spiritual texts, translated from the German by Stein, W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

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