Quote of the day: 15 February

Edith’s six months of probation passed quickly. On 15 February 1934, she knelt before the assembled community and asked to receive the habit of Our Blessed Lady of Mount Carmel.

Teresia Renata Posselt, O.C.D.

Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite
Chapter 14: In the School of Humility (excerpts)

JOSE-MARIA MORENO GARCIA
José-María Moreno García / Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Very Reverend and dear Mother,
Many sincere thanks for your new gifts of love. Our dear Mother [Maria Josefa of the Blessed Sacrament] had to spend a long time yesterday going through all these treasures with me. They will be shown to the [sisters in the] novitiate—who are currently living in joyful anticipation—on Sunday, since at recreation on weekdays we do manual work, according to the wise direction of our Holy Mother [Teresa of Avila] (for which I am very grateful. You have no idea how little it takes to make Carmel’s children happy, and how munificent your package is for us. I would feel deeply embarrassed by such great love and goodness did I not know that it counts less for my person than for the holy vocation for which I have been chosen without deserving any of it, and which you appreciate so deeply. Therefore, every new token of love is a stimulus to collect all my powers in order to be a less unworthy vas electionis [chosen vessel].
I know well that all I have written to you is colorless. But in comparison with the fullness of grace that each day brings, a poor miserable human soul is so tiny. Yet, compared to what that soul can nevertheless comprehend, all words are inadequate. And when one has to write about this to so many people, one is afraid of making the sacred into something banal.
It would make me so very happy if you were able to come sometime. In the first place because I could then learn a bit more about your concerns that it is possible to put into writing, for you have not ceased to be mea res [my care]. And the more concrete a picture one has, the more one is impelled to come to the aid of our Sisters out there. I think, too, that it would do you good to spend some time with us. Of course, we have nothing great to offer you—no beautiful liturgy at all, or the like. Only our joyful poverty and our peace. These are so much more easily maintained by us than by those who have to go into battle daily and hourly. Therefore I am always glad when someone is able to derive some strength from it for the [ongoing] struggle…
The Feast of the Purification was my Confirmation Day, so it still has particular significance for me. I will be happy if you remember me especially that day. But I ask urgently for prayers in the coming weeks, for I know I will have to earn the holy habit with some severe trials. They have already started in that my mother has begun with renewed vigor to oppose the forthcoming decision. It is so hard to witness the pain and the pangs of conscience of such a mother and to be unable to help with any human means.
In faithful remembrance, your grateful

Edith Stein

Letter 165 to Mother Petra Brüning, OSU
26 January 1934
Excerpts from Edith’s last letter before her petition to receive the habit

Continue reading “Quote of the day: 15 February”

Quote of the day: 28 January

WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?
A CONVERSATION
BETWEEN
EDMUND HUSSERL
AND THOMAS AQUINAS

An imaginary dialogue composed by Saint Edith Stein for the 70th birthday of her mentor, Edmund Husserl (excerpt of the original text, translated from the German by Walter Redmond)

Dramatis Personae

St. Thomas Aquinas
Edmund Husserl

Scene

The study of
Privy Councilor Husserl
Freiburg

Time

April 8, 1929
late evening

 


Husserl (alone): My good visitors meant well with their kind birthday wishes and I certainly would not have missed a one. But after such a day it is hard to relax, and I have always been one for a good night’s sleep. Actually, after all the chatter I would appreciate a decent conversation on philosophy to get my mind back on track.

(A knock) At this late hour?
Come in, please.

A Religious (in white habit and black mantle): I’m sorry to bother you so late at night, Professor, but I heard what you just said and thought I might still chance a visit. I wanted to speak with you today—just you and I, for I do not take part in social gatherings—but since early morning I have not had the chance to be alone with you until now.

Husserl (kindly but somewhat at a loss): You are most welcome, Reverend Father. I’ve had religious as students before, but to tell the truth I don’t remember having any with your particular color-scheme. Could you please help out my poor memory?

The priest (smiling slightly): No, I have never sat at your feet. Only from afar have I followed with great interest how your philosophy arose and evolved. And some of your students have come and told me about you. I am Thomas Aquinas.

Husserl: Well, this is certainly the biggest surprise of the day. Do sit down. Forgive me if I am unsure how I should act. I would be grateful for some advice.

Thomas: Quite casually, please. Treat me like any other visitor who comes to talk about philosophy. That’s why I’m here, you see.

Husserl: Then do come and sit over here in the corner of my old leather sofa…

 

Edmund_Husserl_1910s
Edmund Husserl, ca. 1910-1920 | Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

 

 

Stein, E 2000, Knowledge and Faith, translated from the German by Redmond, W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 27 January

We are traveling East.

Saint Edith Stein

7 August 1942
Schifferstadt Railway Station

 


Today we remember the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Concentration Camp on 27 January 1945. The website of the Auschwitz Memorial provides the most accurate detail concerning liberation day:

Soldiers of the 60th Army of the First Ukrainian Front opened the gates of Auschwitz Concentration Camp on January 27, 1945. The prisoners greeted them as authentic liberators. It was a paradox of history that soldiers formally representing Stalinist totalitarianism brought freedom to the prisoners of Nazi totalitarianism.

The Red Army obtained detailed information about Auschwitz only after the liberation of Cracow, and was therefore unable to reach the gates of Auschwitz before January 27, 1945.

About 7 thousand prisoners awaited liberation in the Main Camp, Birkenau, and Monowitz. Before and soon after January 27, Soviet soldiers liberated about 500 prisoners in the Auschwitz sub-camps in Stara Kuźnia, Blachownia Śląska, Świętochłowice, Wesoła, Libiąż, Jawiszowice, and Jaworzno.

Over 230 Soviet soldiers, including the commander of the 472nd regiment, Col. Siemen Lvovich Besprozvanny, died in combat while liberating the Main Camp, Birkenau, Monowitz, and the city of Oświęcim. The majority of them are buried at the municipal cemetery in Oświęcim.

In the Main Camp and Birkenau, Soviet soldiers discovered the corpses of about 600 prisoners who had been shot by the withdrawing SS or who had succumbed to exhaustion.

At the website of the Auschwitz Memorial, you can learn more about the escape of the SS and the final victims, the Soviet documentary film that chronicled the liberation of the camp, the medical assistance provided by the Soviet army and Polish volunteers for the liberated prisoners, the children who were liberated at Auschwitz—including the Jewish twins who were subjects of Dr. Josef Mengele’s experimentation, and Polish commissions to investigate the war crimes.

You can search all of our posts concerning Auschwitz here.

 

Birkenau entrance Kyle Simourd flickr 1951804999
The main and well-known entrance to the Birkenau portion of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp received all the transports of those who were destined to die in the gas chambers | Kyle Simourd / Flickr

Quote of the day: 26 January

Yesterday, when I looked at a picture of the Infant of Prague, it suddenly occurred to me that he is wearing imperial coronation dress and surely it was not accidental that his efficacy should come to the fore precisely in Prague. After all, Prague has been the court of the old German or Roman Emperors, respectively, and the city makes such a majestic impression that no other city known to me can compare with it, not even Paris and Vienna. The Little Jesus came exactly when the political imperial grandeur came to an end in Prague. Is he not the secret Emperor who will someday put an end to all misery? After all, he holds the reins even though people believe they are the rulers.

Saint Edith Stein

Letter 333 to Mother Johanna van Weersth, OCD

 

Jezulatko closeup
The miraculous image of the Infant Jesus venerated in the Discalced Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious, Prague | Credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

 

Stein, E. 1993, Self-Portrait in Letters, 1916-1942, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Discalced Carmelite, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 25 January

We have the Savior not only in the form of reports of witnesses to his life. He is present to us in the Most Blessed Sacrament. The hours of adoration before the Highest Good, and listening for the voice of the eucharistic God, are simultaneously “meditation on the Law of the Lord” and “watching in prayer.” But the highest level is reached “when the Law is deep within our hearts” (Ps 40:8), when we are so united with the triune God, whose temple we are, that his Spirit rules all we do or omit. Then it does not mean we are forsaking the Lord when we do the work that obedience requires of us. Work is unavoidable as long as we are subject to nature’s laws and to the necessities of life. And, following the word and example of the apostle Paul, our holy Rule commands us to earn our bread by the work of our hands. But for us this work is always merely a means and must never be an end in itself. To stand before the face of God continues to be the real content of our lives.

Saint Edith Stein

On the History and Spirit of Carmel (excerpt)

 

40 hours oxford lawrenceop flickr 1642599120
Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

 

 

Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 24 January

As an organized power, the state has the potential possessed by no other social structure to draw all worldly purposes into its realm and either further or to suppress them. The family’s existence and prosperity depend on its protection.

Saint Edith Stein

Problems of Women’s Education
Chapter IV: Educators and Our Cultural Heritage

 

Annual medical event invaluable to Valley residents
Texas Military Department / Flickr

 

 

Stein, E 1996, Essays on Woman, 2nd edition, translated from the German by Oben, F, ICS Publications, Washington D.C.

Quote of the day: 23 January

Surrender to Christ does not make us blind and deaf to the needs of others—on the contrary. We now seek for God’s image in each human being and want, above all, to help each human being win his freedom.

Accordingly, we can now also say: the intrinsic value of woman consists essentially in exceptional receptivity for God’s work in the soul, and this value comes to unalloyed development if we abandon ourselves confidently and unresistingly to this work.

Only now have we come to the second part of our theme—the significance of woman for national life. This significance presents itself as a simple conclusion from what has been said.

What is, then, the great sickness of our time and of our people?

There is an inner disunion, a complete deficiency of set convictions and strong principles, an aimless drifting. Therefore, the great mass of humanity seeks for an anesthetic in ever new, ever more refined delights.

Those who wish to maintain a sober level of life, in order to protect themselves from contemporary turmoil, frequently annihilate this level by one-sided professional work; but even they cannot do anything to escape the turmoil.

Only whole human beings as we have described them are immune to the contemporary sickness: such beings are steadfast on eternal first principles, unperturbed in their views and in their actions by the changing modes of thoughts, follies, and depravities surrounding them. Every such individual is like a pillar to which many can fasten themselves, thereby attaining a firm footing.

Consequently, when women themselves are once again whole persons and when they help others to become so, they create healthy, energetic spores supplying healthy energy to the entire national body.

Saint Edith Stein

The Significance of Woman’s Intrinsic Value in National Life (excerpt)
Lecture given at the 15th convention of the Bavarian Catholic Women Teachers in Ludwigshafen on the Rhine, 12 April 1928

 

mothers reaction davidswiftphotography flickr 2200020855
David Swift / Flickr

 

 

Stein, E 1996, Essays on Woman, 2nd edition, translated from the German by Oben, F, ICS Publications, Washington D.C.

Quote of the day: 19 January

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

John 1:29-34

 

John-the-Baptist-bearing-witness_MetMuseum Granacci (3)

 


“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Rv 5:6). When the seer of Patmos had this vision, the unforgettable day on the Jordan when John the Baptist showed him the “Lamb of God” who “takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29) was still fresh in his memory. At that time, he had understood the word and now he understood the image. The One who had once walked along the Jordan and now appeared to him in white raiment with flaming eyes and a judge’s sword, the “first and the last” (Rv 1:17)—he had in truth accomplished what the rites of the Old Covenant had suggested symbolically. When on the most momentous and holiest day of the year the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, into the supremely holy place of God’s presence, he had previously taken two goats from the people: one on which to lay the people’s sins, which were then carried out into the wilderness; the other to sprinkle its blood on the tent and ark of the covenant (Lv 16). This was the sin offering for the people. In addition, the priest had to provide a young bullock for himself and his house as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering. He also had to sprinkle the throne of grace with the blood of the bullock. When he had prayed, unseen by human eyes, for himself and his house and for all the people of Israel, he came out to the waiting people and sprinkled the outer altar to cleanse it from his sins and those of the people. Then he sent the living goat into the wilderness, brought forward his own burnt offering and that of the people, and had the rest of the sin offering burned before the camp (and later before the gates). The Day of Atonement was a monumental and holy day. People remained in the holy place praying and fasting. And in the evening when everything had been accomplished, there was peace and joy in their hearts because God had taken away the burden of sin and given grace…

 

John-the-Baptist-bearing-witness_MetMuseum Granacci (2)

 

But why did he choose the lamb as the preferred symbol? Why did he continue to reveal himself in this form on the eternal throne of glory? Because he was innocent as a lamb and meek as a lamb; and because he came in order to allow himself to be led as a lamb to the slaughter (Is 53:7). This, too, John had witnessed when the Lord permitted himself to be bound at the Mount of Olives and nailed to the cross at Golgotha. There on Golgotha, the true sacrifice of reconciliation was accomplished. Thereby the old sacrifices lost their efficacy; and soon they ceased entirely, as did also the old priesthood when the temple was destroyed. John had witnessed all of this, so he was not surprised at the Lamb on the throne. And because he was a faithful witness to the Lamb, the Bride of the Lamb was also shown to him.

Saint Edith Stein

The Marriage of the Lamb (excerpts)
For the renewal of vows, 14 September 1940

 

John-the-Baptist-bearing-witness_MetMuseum Granacci
Saint John the Baptist Bearing Witness
Workshop of Francesco Granacci (Italian, 1469–1543)
Oil and gold on wood, ca. 1506-1507
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Public Domain)

 

 

Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 18 January

God wishes to let himself be found by those who seek him. Hence he wishes first to be sought. So we can see why natural revelation is not absolutely clear and unambiguous but is rather an incentive to seek. Supernatural revelation answers the questions raised by natural revelation. Faith is already a finding and corresponds to God letting-himself-be-found, not only in the sense that he has something said about himself through his word but that through his word he himself has himself found.

Faith is a gift that must be accepted. In faith divine and human freedom meet. But it is a gift that bids us ask for more. As dark and lacking the evidence of insight [uneinsichtig], faith awakens a yearning for unveiled clarity; as mediated encounter, it awakens a longing for an immediate encounter with God. Indeed the very content of faith awakens desire by promising the beatific vision.

Saint Edith Stein

Knowledge and Faith
Symbolic Theology as Concealing Veil: Seeking God

 

lost in the night Mathias Erhart Flickr 37137144536
Mathias Erhart / Flickr

 

 

Stein, E 2000, Knowledge and Faith, translated from the German by Redmond, W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 6 January

Again we kneel with the three kings at the manger. The heartbeat of the Divine Child has guided the star that led us here. Its light, the reflection of the eternal light, is variously distributed in the rays around the heads of the saints whom the Church shows us as the court of the newborn King of Kings. They allow something of the mystery of our vocation to flash before us…

John at the manger of the Lord—this says to us: See what happens to those who give themselves to God with pure hearts. In return, as a royal gift, they may participate in the entire inexhaustible fullness of Jesus’ incarnate life. Come and drink from the springs of living water that the Savior releases to the thirsty and that stream to eternal life. The Word has become flesh and lies before us in the form of a little newborn child…

And the same Savior, whom the written word presents to our eyes on all the paths he trod on earth in human form, lives among us disguised in the form of the eucharistic bread. He comes to us every day as the bread of life. In either of these forms, he is near to us; in either of these forms, he wants to be sought and found by us. The one supports the other.

When we see that Savior before us with the eyes of faith as the Scriptures portray him, then our desire to receive him in the bread of life increases. The eucharistic bread, on the other hand, awakens our desire to get to know the Lord in the written word more and more deeply and strengthens our spirit to get a better understanding.

Saint Edith Stein

For January 6, 1941 (excerpts)

 

Nativity_and_Saint_John_the_Evangelist_Guerau_GENER
Nativity and St. John the Evangelist
Guerau Gener (Spanish, 1306-1408)
Lluís Borrassà (Spanish, 1360-1425)
Tempera, gold, and gold leaf on wood
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

 

 

Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 5 January

And the kings have a special meaning for us, too. Even though we already belonged to the external Church, an interior impulse nevertheless drove us out of the circle of inherited viewpoints and conventions. We knew God, but we felt that he desired to be sought and found by us in a new way. Therefore we wanted to open ourselves and sought for a star to show us the right way. And it arose for us in the grace of vocation.

We followed it and found the divine infant. He stretched out his hands for our gifts. He wanted the pure gold of a heart detached from all earthly goods; the myrrh of a renunciation of all the happiness of this world in exchange for participation in the life and suffering of Jesus; the frankincense of a will that surrenders itself and strains upward to love itself in the divine will. In return for these gifts, the divine child gave us himself.

Saint Edith Stein

The Hidden Life and Epiphany (excerpt)
6 January 1940

 

Kirk Edge 2008 Therese relic visit Flickr 3984098379_f95ce97c4a_o
Carmelite Monastery Kirk Edge, 2008 | catholicrelics.co.uk / Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

 

Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Surrounded by martyrs

the Crib of the Child is surrounded by martyrs

There are the innocent children, the babes of Bethlehem and Juda, who were cruelly slaughtered by the hands of brutal hangmen. What does this mean? Where is now the rejoicing of the heavenly hosts, the silent bliss of the Holy Night? Where is the peace on earth? Peace on earth to those of goodwill. But not all are of goodwill. For the Son of the eternal Father descended from the glory of heaven, because the mystery of iniquity had shrouded the earth in the darkness of night.

Saint Edith Stein

The Mystery of Christmas

 

Holy Innocents_COGNIET_MBA Rennes
Scène du Massacre des Innocents
Léon Cogniet (French, 1794 – 1880)
Oil on canvas, 1824
Musée des Beaux Arts, Rennes

 

Quote of the day: 25 December

Following the Incarnate

Son of God


 

Darkness covered the earth, and He came as the Light that shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend Him. To those who received Him, He brought light and peace; peace with the Father in Heaven, peace with all those who, like them, are children of light and children of the Father in Heaven, peace also in the intimate depths of the heart: but no peace with the children of darkness.  To them, the Prince of Peace does not bring peace but the sword. To them, He is the stumbling block against which they knock and on which they are broken.

This is the bitterly serious truth that ought not to be obscured by the poetic charm of the Child in the manger. The mystery of the Incarnation is closely linked to the mystery of iniquity. The night of sin appears all the more black and uncanny against the Light that is come down from heaven.  

The Child in the manger stretches out His small hands, and His smile seems to say even now the same as later the lips of the Man: “Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened”. The poor shepherds have followed His call, when the radiance of the sky and the voice of the angel had announced the good tidings to them in the fields of Bethlehem, simply saying: “Let us go to Bethlehem” and setting out on their way.

The kings from the far-away East followed the marvelous star with the same simple faith; on them all the hands of the Child poured the dew of His grace, and they “rejoiced with exceeding great joy”.

These hands give and demand at the same time

You wise men, lay down your wisdom and become simple like children; you kings, give your crowns and your treasures and bow down humbly before the King of kings; do not hesitate to take upon yourselves the sufferings and hardships His service entails.

You children, who cannot yet give anything of your own free will, this Child’s hands will take away your tender life even before it has really begun. It cannot be used better than to be sacrificed for the Lord of Life.

These Child’s hands say “Follow me” just as later the lips of the Man will say it. Thus He spoke to the “disciple whom the Lord loved”, and who now belongs also to those around the Crib.  St. John, the young man whose heart was as pure as a child’s, followed without asking where and whither. He left his father’s boat and followed the Lord on all His ways even to the summit of Golgotha.  

St. Stephen, too, heard these words “Follow me”. He followed the Lord to do battle against the powers of darkness, the blindness of obstinate unbelief. He bore witness to Him with his words and with his blood; he followed Him also in His spirit of love which fights sin but loves the sinner, and intercedes for his murderer even in death.

Those kneeling around the crib are figures of light

Those kneeling around the crib are figures of light: the tender innocent children, the trustful shepherds, the humble kings, Stephen, the enthusiastic disciple, and John the apostle of love, all those who have followed the call of the Lord. They are opposed by the night of incomprehensible obstinacy and blindness:  the scribes, who know indeed when and where the Saviour of the world is to be born, but who will not draw the conclusion: Let us go to Bethlehem”. King Herod, who would kill the Lord of Life.

Ways part before the Child in the manger.  He is the King of kings, the Lord of life and death. He speaks His “Follow me”, and if a man is not for Him, he is against Him. He speaks also to us, and asks us to choose between light and darkness.

Saint Edith Stein

The Mystery of Christmas: Incarnation and Humanity
Following the Incarnate Son of God (excerpt)

 

Nativity with saints Ridolfo Ghirlandaio MetMuseum DT235074 (2)
The Nativity with Saints (detail)
Ridolfo Ghirlandaio (Italian, 1483–1561)
Oil on wood, c. 1514
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

Stein, E 1931, The mystery of Christmas: incarnation and humanity, translated from the German by Rucker, J [see WorlCat entry here] 
Our sincere thanks to the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Saint Louis, Missouri for sharing their text with us

 

Quote of the day: 19 December

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. The mystical stream that flows through all centuries is no spurious tributary that has strayed from the prayer life of the Church—it is its deepest life.

When this mystical stream breaks through traditional forms, it does so because the Spirit that blows where it will is living in it, this Spirit that has created all traditional forms and must ever create new ones. Without him, there would be no liturgy and no Church. Was not the soul of the royal psalmist a harp whose strings resounded under the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit?

From the overflowing heart of the Virgin Mary blessed by God streamed the exultant hymn of the Magnificat. When the angel’s mysterious word became visible reality, the prophetic Benedictus hymn unsealed the lips of the old priest Zechariah, who had been struck dumb.

Whatever arose from spirit-filled hearts found expression in words and melodies and continues to be communicated from mouth to mouth. The “Divine Office” is to see that it continues to resound from generation to generation. So the mystical stream forms the many-voiced, continually swelling hymn of praise to the triune God, the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Perfecter.

Therefore, it is not a question of placing the inner prayer free of all traditional forms as “subjective” piety in contrast to the liturgy as the “objective” prayer of the Church. All authentic prayer is prayer of the Church.

Saint Edith Stein

The Prayer of the Church (excerpt)

 

_MG_2639
Alex Proimos / Flickr

 

 

Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 16 December

Dr. Roman Ingarden
4 Jabłonowskich
Lemberg (Lwów)
Poland

St. Magdalena, December 15, 1929

I want to send an early Christmas greeting because I do not know whether I can find the time later. I hope all of you can celebrate the holiday in good health. There is a lot to tell, but writing is a great robber of time. With kindest regards,

Your Edith Stein

Postcard to Roman Ingarden
Postmark: December 16, 1929

 

Krippe Philipp Roth Flickr 3140334373_6a62d45d9e_o
Philipp Roth / Flickr

 

 

Stein, E 2014, Edith Stein Letters to Roman Ingarden: Edith Stein Self-Portrait in Letters, translated from the German by Hunt, H, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 8

 The Father spoke one Word, which was his Son, and this Word he speaks always in eternal silence, and in silence must it be heard by the soul. 

Sayings of Light and Love, 100

 

SCRIPTURE

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

John 17:6-19

 

MEDITATION

“What is truth?” (Jn 18:38)

Pontius Pilate’s rhetorical question echoes through the centuries.

St. Edith Stein reminds us that Pilate could have asked a more essential question: Who is truth?

In her meditation, The Hidden Life and Epiphany, Edith touches on this question as she makes use of the Epiphany manger scene to make an analogy for the Church and its development. 

The kings at the manger represent seekers from all lands and peoples. Grace led them before they ever belonged to the external church. There lived in them a pure longing for truth that did not stop at the boundaries of native doctrines and traditions. Because God is truth and because he wants to be found by those who seek him with their whole hearts, sooner or later that star had to appear to show these wise men the way to truth. And so they now stand before the Incarnate Truth, bow down and worship it, and place their crowns at its feet, because all the treasures of the world are but a little dust compared to it. 

“God is truth… he wants to be found… that star had to appear.” Edith, in her matter-of-fact, German way, minces no words. God isn’t hiding after all, he’s in our midst, standing before our eyes, just as Jesus stood before Pilate. Jesus, Incarnate Truth, was standing before the governor who asked him, “what is truth?”

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity seems to be speaking to us when she writes:

I understand that you need an ideal, something that will draw you out of yourself and raise you to greater heights. But, you see, there is only One; it is He, the Only Truth! Ah, if you only knew Him a little as your Sabeth does! He fascinates, He sweeps you away; under His gaze, the horizon becomes so beautiful, so vast, so luminous…. My dear one, do you want to turn with me toward this sublime Ideal? It is no fiction but a reality. (Letter 128)

Are you serious? Where is this horizon? Because in the darkness where we’re hiding, it’s difficult to see. And once again, it is St. John himself who responds:

Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me. What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less or pay heed to the crumbs that fall from your Father’s table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in it and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart. (Sayings 27)

Hiding in glory… there’s a concept that we don’t see or hear every day. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, it seems that God is the one who is doing all the hiding while we’re waiting around for him to show up. Is there anyone who understands what St. John of the Cross means?

St. Thérèse does! The language of “hiding” was one of her favorite concepts, especially in her poetry, and it’s a transferable concept, meaning that it’s not strictly applicable to the cloistered life. For example:

My Sweet Jesus, on your Mother’s breast
You appear to me, glowing with Love.
Love—this is the indescribable mystery
That exiled you from the Heavenly Abode…
Ah! Let me hide under the veil
That hides you from all mortal eyes
And close to you, O Morning Star!
I’ll find a foretaste of Heaven.

(Pn 1)

Here, Thérèse is talking about hiding under the Blessed Virgin’s veil, not necessarily hiding under the veil of a Carmelite nun. Hiding under the veil of the Virgin Mary is an image that is more approachable for us, perhaps. But the Infant is glowing on Mary’s breast, glowing with Love, and is there a hint of glory in that image, too?

Here’s another example from the poetry of St. Thérèse:

The unspeakable gaze of your Son—
Upon my poor soul he deigned to look down;
I looked for his adorable face
And in Him, I want to be hidden.
I’ll have to stay little forever
To deserve the glances from his eyes;
But by virtue of that, I will soon grow up
Under the heat of this heavenly star.

(Pn 11)

Now, we are getting more of a sense of how Thérèse has captured St. John’s profound concept of hiding in glory, yet she has expressed it in the language of littleness, that loving gaze of Jesus, and yet at the same time—while remaining hidden—there is light and heat generated by the Lord, having a direct effect on her spiritual life.

This is all very heady stuff. But it seems that for Thérèse, the key to hiding in glory is to be found in the face of Jesus. The Gospel of John and St. Paul testify to this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (…) And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:1-5,14)

All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18)

Well if that’s the case, gazing on the face of Christ and hiding in the face of Christ, must be a key to “growing up” as Thérèse said; growing in prayer, growing in faith, growing in hope, and our goal… growing in love. After all, that’s our aim.

We’ll let St. Thérèse have the last word, then, about hiding in the face of Jesus:

Ah! Let me, Lord, hide in your Face.
There I will no longer hear the trivial noise from the world.
Give me your love, preserve me in your grace
Just for today.

(Pn 5)

Ah…. silence.

 

NOVENA PRAYER

O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.

O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:

mention your request.

Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
Amen.

 

Praying John of the Cross 16-17th c Carmel de Pontoise Palissy POP 95W00984
St. John of the Cross in prayer
French, late 16th-17th c.
Oil on canvas, no date
Carmel of Pontoise
© Ministère de la Culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Diffusion RMN-GP. Used by permission.

 

 

All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem BibleSelections from the psalter appear in the Liturgy of the Hours.

The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.

All of the citations from the Sayings of Light and Love are drawn from The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition (1991), translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Elizabeth of the Trinity, S 2003, The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 2: Letters from Carmel, translated from the French by Nash, A, ICS Publications, Washington DC

 

The English translation of the poetry of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission and proper attribution.

 

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 7

To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look on its greatness, but on the greatness of its humility.

Sayings of Light and Love, 103

 

SCRIPTURE

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge,
O see, in guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit,
a humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favor to Zion:
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
holocausts offered on your altar.

Psalm 51

 

MEDITATION

“O sweetest love of God, so little known, whoever has found this rich mine is at rest!” (Sayings, 16) This is the song of St. John of the Cross, his canticle of love distilled down to its very essence. 

God truly loves us, St. John reminds us through his letters. He tells us that God cannot fit in hearts that are occupied with distractions, that are attached to people, places, or things that mean more to us than God himself. God only fits in hearts that have been emptied to make room for him.

It seems that nada—nothingness within us—isn’t so farfetched after all. Cleansing our souls is like the necessary spiritual housekeeping that must be done prior to any Nativity moment in our spiritual lives; without that soul-cleansing, that housecleaning in our hearts, there will always be a NO VACANCY light shining outside the inn within. How can God find space to squeeze in here?

St. Edith Stein says that the moment we reach the realization that we need to clean house is the moment when we are on the threshold of making the greatest spiritual progress. Recalling the spiritual sense of dryness, darkness, and emptiness that we mentioned in the meditation for our sixth day of this novena, Edith offers this reflection on the state of the soul in her final masterpiece, The Science of the Cross (SC):

She [the soul] is put into total darkness and emptiness. Absolutely nothing that might give her a hold is left to her anymore except faith. Faith sets Christ before her eyes: the poor, humiliated, crucified one, who is abandoned on the cross even by his heavenly Father. In his poverty and abandonment, she rediscovers herself. Dryness, distaste, and affliction are the “purely spiritual cross” that is handed to her. If she accepts it she experiences that it is an easy yoke and a light burden. It becomes a staff for her that will quickly lead her up the mountain. (SC 10)

Accepting the dryness we experience in prayer, the distaste, the affliction, these are all signs that we actually are clearing out space for God within. 

When she realizes that Christ, in his extreme humiliation and annihilation on the cross, achieved the greatest result, the reconciliation and union of mankind with God, there awakens in her the understanding that for her, also, annihilation, the “living death by crucifixion of all that is sensory as well as spiritual” leads to union with God. (SC 10)

And by the way, there is a little voice in Dijon, France who takes up the refrain: it is St Elizabeth of the Trinity, singing so sweetly in the pages of her Last Retreat (LR):

If my interior city (cf. Rev. 21) is to have some similarity and likeness to that “of the King of eternal ages” (I Tim 1:17) and to receive this great illumination from God, I must extinguish every other light and, as in the holy city, the Lamb must be “its only light.”

Here faith, the beautiful light of faith appears. It alone should light my way as I go to meet the Bridegroom. The psalmist sings the He “hides Himself in darkness” (Ps 17:12), then in another place he seems to contradict himself by saying that “light surrounds Him like a cloak” (Ps 103:2). What stands out for me in this apparent contradiction is that I must immerse myself in “the sacred darkness” by putting all my powers in darkness and emptiness; then I will meet my Master, and “the light that surrounds Him like a cloak” will envelop me also, for He wants His bride to be luminous with His light, His light alone, “which is the glory of God.” (LR 4)

So there it is: the challenge, the call is to accept, welcome, embrace and—so to speak—hide in the dark and empty spaces within us, not running to another distraction, another attachment, another new idol in our lives to fill up that interior void. It is at the point when we feel (and know) the emptiness within, the void that we are creating and/or that God is helping us to create so that we can spend time and focus on him—whether that is accepting a loss of some sort of attachment, or purposefully choosing to give up a distracting activity in order to spend more time going to daily Mass, making time for daily Scripture reading, or praying the Liturgy of the Hours, or the rosary, or going to Eucharistic adoration, or practicing silent mental prayer instead of (name your distraction here).

At this point when we have a hunger and a thirst for God that is so strong and powerful that we are willing to sacrifice and say, “all for you and nothing for me” (Sayings 111), we also find ourselves crying out to God, “but I can’t do this alone, by myself!” When we are ready to give up and have reached the point of abandon, we’ve reached the most crucial moment of all because…

That is the truth.

“I never sought anything but the truth,” St. Thérèse said in the hours before her death (Yellow Notebook, 30 September).

St. Teresa set the benchmark in the Interior Castle: “To be humble is to walk in truth” (IC VI, 10:7)

And how will we know when we’re meeting the benchmark for St. John of the Cross?

The humble are those who hide in their own nothingness and know how to abandon themselves to God. (Sayings 163)

 

NOVENA PRAYER

O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.

O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:

mention your request.

Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
Amen.

 

Bust of John of the Cross 17th c. Carmel of Pontoise Palissy POP 95W00986
Bust of St. John of the Cross
17th c. French
Oil on canvas, no date
Carmel of Pontoise
© Ministère de la Culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Diffusion RMN-GP. Used by permission.
Latin inscription upper left: QVID TIBI PRO LABOR
Latin inscription at base: PATI. ET. CONTEMNI. PROTE

 

 

All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem BibleSelections from the psalter appear in the Liturgy of the Hours.

The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.

All of the citations from the Sayings of Light and Love are drawn from The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition (1991), translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

of the Trinity, E 2014, The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 1: General Introduction Major Spiritual Writings, translated from the French by Kane, A, ICS Publications, Washington DC

 

Stein, E 2002, The Science of the Cross, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Quote of the day: 21 November

The vow of chastity intends to release human beings from all the bonds of natural common life, to fasten them to the cross high above all the bustle, and to free their hearts for union with the Crucified. This sacrifice, too, is not accomplished once and for all.

Of course, one is cut off, externally, from occasions that can become temptations outside but often much that distracts the spirit and the heart, robbing them of their freedom, cleaves to the memory and fantasy. Besides, there is also a danger that new ties establish themselves within the protective cloister walls and hinder full union with the Divine Heart.

When we enter the Order, we again become members of a family. We are to see and respect, as head and members of the Mystical Body of Christ, our superiors and the other sisters. But we are human, and something all too human can easily become mingled with holy, childlike, and sisterly love. We believe we see Christ in the people we look up to and fail to notice that we attach ourselves to them humanly and are in danger of losing sight of Christ.

But human attraction is not the only cloud on purity of heart. Too little love is a worse offense against the Divine Heart than too much. Every aversion, any anger and resentment we tolerate in our hearts closes the door to the Savior. Involuntary stirrings naturally arise through no fault of our own, but as soon as we become aware of them, we must relentlessly oppose them. Otherwise, we resist God who is love and do the devil’s work.

The song sung by the virgins attending the Lamb is surely one of purest love.

Saint Edith Stein

The Marriage of the Lamb
For September 14, 1940

 

JOSE-MARIA MORENO GARCIA
Clothing day at the Carmel of Consuegra (Toledo), founded in 1597 | José-María Moreno García / Flickr

 

 

Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 18 November

Because of the work that I am doing, I live almost constantly immersed in thoughts about our Holy Father John. That is a great grace.

Saint Edith Stein

18 November 1941
Letter to Mother Johanna van Weersth
Carmel of Beek

 

Juan_writing
Image credit: Discalced Carmelites

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