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: 4 December

The whole city is truly scandalized.

In our quote of the day for 2 December we remembered the anniversary of the abduction of Saint John of the Cross from his chaplain’s quarters at the monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. We read Saint Teresa’s anguished letter to King Philip II wherein she provided the backstory and described the abduction of Saint John and his companion and fellow confessor, Fray Germán. More important, Teresa begged the king to intervene in the affair.

Saint Teresa’s letter was dated 4 December 1577. We recall that she wrote how the Carmelite vicar provincial “is holding these confessors captive in his monastery after having forced his way into their cells and confiscating their papers” (Letter 218).

 

 

2017-08-17 (1)
Saint Edith Stein wrote the Science of the Cross in the final months before her arrest in August 1942. Did a correlation between Saint John of the Cross’ abduction and the arrests of the Jews come to mind? | Photo Credit: Bundesarchiv (Creative Commons)

 

 

Today we turn to Saint Edith Stein’s Science of the Cross to provide us with more details of his abduction; we refer to her introduction, “The Message of the Cross”. Let us recall that scholars differ on the date of the abduction; by Edith’s calculation, the event occurred on the night of December 3 and Teresa wrote to the king on the very next day. Based on this knowledge, Edith recounts the story:

On the night of December 3, 1577, several of the Calced with their accomplices broke into the living quarters of the nuns’ two confessors and took them away as captives. From then on, John was missing. True, Holy Mother learned that the prior, Maldonado, had taken him away. But where he had been taken was not revealed until nine months later when he was freed.

Nine months. During nine months Saint John of the Cross would be exposed to cruel captivity in Toledo, penned up like a political prisoner. For all intents and purposes, John actually was a political prisoner, a prisoner because of the jealous machinations of the prior in the Carmelite friars’ convent in Toledo, Fray Hernando Maldonado. Maldonado: he of whom Saint Teresa wrote to King Philip, “he is more capable than the others of making martyrs.”

 

French Underground inspects blindfold in Paris Yad Vashem photo record 1460_179
After the liberation, a member of the French underground in Paris inspects a blindfold used on prisoners during interrogations | Photo credit: Yad Vashem (Creative Commons)

 

We will let Saint Edith continue the story of Saint John’s abduction:

Blindfolded, he had been brought through a lonely suburb to the monastery of Our Lady in Toledo, the most important Carmelite monastery of the mitigated Rule in Castile. He was interrogated, and because he refused to abandon the Reform he was treated as a rebel. His prison was a narrow room, about 10 feet long and 6 feet wide. Teresa later wrote: “small though he was in stature, he could hardly stand erect in it.”

At this point, the conditions of Saint John of the Cross’ confinement remind us of Saint Teresa’s vision of hell, where she wrote in her autobiography:

The entrance it seems to me was similar to a very long and narrow alleyway, like an oven, low and dark and confined; the floor seemed to me to consist of dirty, muddy water emitting a foul stench and swarming with putrid vermin. At the end of the alleyway, a hole that looked like a small cupboard was hollowed out in the wall; there I found I was placed in a cramped condition. All of this was delightful to see in comparison with what I felt there. What I have described can hardly be exaggerated (Life 32:1).

Here is what Edith has to say about Saint John’s “cramped condition”:

This cell had neither window nor air vent other than a slit high up on the wall. The prisoner had to “stand on the poor-sinner-stool and wait until the sun’s rays were reflected on the wall in order to be able to pray the breviary.” The door was secured by a bolt.

Small wonder that when Saint Teresa wrote on 4 December to King Philip, she remarked, “I would consider the confessors better off if they were held by the Moors, who perhaps would show more compassion.”

 

Dachau Frans de Wit Flickr 14997966451_3b62cd0105_o
Dachau concentration camp | Frans de Wit / Flickr

 

There was a daily routine of psychological and physical torture, as Saint Edith explains:

At first every evening, later three times a week, and finally, only sometimes on Fridays, the prisoner was brought to the refectory where, seated on the floor, he ate his meal—bread and water. He was also given the discipline in the refectory. He knelt, naked to the waist, with bowed head; all the friars passed by him and struck him with the switch. And since he bore everything “with patience and love” he was dubbed “the coward.” Throughout, he was “immovable as a rock” when they commanded him to abandon the Reform, attempting to bribe him by offering to make him a prior. Then he would open his silent lips and assure them that he refused to turn back “no matter if it cost him his life.”

He bore everything with patience and love. How rich were his counsels to Saint Teresa’s nuns in later years! When he exhorted them to practice patience, they understood that he had the bitter life experience to qualify his counsel:

Serve God, my beloved daughters in Christ, following in his footsteps of mortification, in utter patience, in total silence, and with every desire to suffer, becoming executioners of your own satisfactions, mortifying yourselves, if perhaps something remains that must die and something still impedes the inner resurrection of the Spirit who dwells within your souls (Letter 7 to the nuns at Beas, 18 November 1586).

Saint Edith tells us that “the youthful novices who were witness to the humiliations and mistreatment wept out of compassion and said “This is a saint” when they saw his silent patience.”

 

Juan de la Cruz (silence profile pic 22)
Credit: Portal Carmelitano

 

 

John of the Cross, St. 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Kieran Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O, and Teresa, 1976, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

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

Quote of the day: 2 December

To the King Don Philip II

Avila, 4 December 1577

The grace of the Holy Spirit be with your majesty, amen. I strongly believe that our Lady has chosen you to protect and help her order. So, I cannot fail to have recourse to you regarding her affairs. For the love of our Lord, I beg you to pardon me for so much boldness.

I am sure your majesty has received news of how the nuns at the Incarnation tried to have me go there, thinking they would have some means to free themselves from the friars, who are certainly a great hindrance to the recollection and religious observance of the nuns. And the friars are entirely at fault for the lack of observance previously present in that house. The nuns are very much mistaken in their desire that I go there, for as long as they are subject to the friars as confessors and visitators, I would be of no helpat least not of any lasting help. I always said this to the Dominican visitator, and he understood it well.

Since God allowed that situation to exist, I tried to provide a remedy and placed a discalced friar in a house next to them, along with a companion friar. He is so great a servant of our Lord that the nuns are truly edified, and this city is amazed by the remarkable amount of good he has done there, and so they consider him a saint, and in my opinion, he is one and has been one all his life.

When the previous nuncio through a long report sent him by the inhabitants of the city was informed of the things that were happening and of the harm that the friars of the cloth were doing, he gave orders under pain of ex-communication that the confessors be restored to their house (for the calced friars had driven them from the city heaping abuse on them and giving much scandal to everyone). And he also ordered that no friar of the cloth under pain of ex-communication go to the Incarnation for business purposes, to say Mass, or hear confessions, but only the discalced friars and secular clergy. As a result, the house was in a good state until the nuncio died. Then the calced friars returnedand so too the disturbancewithout demonstrating the grounds on which they could do so.

And now a friar who came to absolve the nuns caused such a disturbance without any concern for what is reasonable and just that the nuns are deeply afflicted and still bound by the same penalties as before, according to what I have been told. And worst of all he has taken from them their confessors. They say that he has been made vicar provincial, and this must be true because he is more capable than the others of making martyrs. And he is holding these confessors captive in his monastery after having forced his way into their cells and confiscating their papers.

The whole city is truly scandalized. He is not a prelate nor did he show any evidence of the authority on which these things were done, for these confessors are subject to the apostolic commissary. Those friars dared so much, even though this city is so close to where your majesty resides, that it doesn’t seem they fear either justice or God. I feel very sad to see these confessors in the hands of those friars who for some days have been desiring to seize hold of them. I would consider the confessors better off if they were held by the Moors, who perhaps would show more compassion. And this one friar who is so great a servant of God is so weak from all that he has suffered that I fear for his life.

I beg your majesty for the love of our Lord to issue orders for them to set him free at once and that these poor discalced friars not be subjected to so much suffering by the friars of the cloth. The former do no more than suffer and keep silent and gain a great deal. But the people are scandalized by what is being done to them. This past summer in Toledo, without any reason, the same superior took as prisoner Fray Antonio de Jesúsa holy and blessed man, who was the first discalced friar. They go about saying that with orders from Tostado they will destroy them all. May God be blessed! Those who were to be the means of removing offenses against God have become the cause of so many sins. And each day matters will get worse if your majesty does not provide us with some help. Otherwise, I don’t know where things will end up, because we have no other help on earth.

May it please our Lord that for our sakes you live many years. I hope in him that he will grant us this favor. He is so alone, for there are few who look after his honor. All these servants of your majesty’s, and I ask this of him continually.

Dated in St. Joseph’s in Avila, 4 December 1577.

Your majesty’s unworthy servant and subject,

Teresa of Jesus, Carmelite

 


In early December 1577, St. John of the Cross was abducted from his chaplaincy at the monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. Sanjuanist scholars disagree on the exact date.

Translator and editor Father Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD indicates that “on the night of December 2, 1577, a group of Carmelites, laypeople, and men-at-arms broke into the chaplain’s quarters, seized Fray John, and took him away” (Kavanagh 1991, Introduction).

Saint Edith Stein, for example, writes, “on the night of December 3, 1577, several of the Calced with their accomplices broke into the living quarters of the nuns’ two confessors and took them away as captives” (Stein 2002, Introduction).

Teresianum professor and Sanjuanist authority Father Iain Matthew simply states this about John’s arrest: “On a cold night in early December, his chaplaincy in Avila was raided. The young man was taken away for interrogation and chastisement. Then he disappeared” (Matthew 1995, p. 9)

Whatever the date may have been, nine long months of physical and psychological torture followed with hardships that most would have found unbearable. Yet out of this darkness emerged the most profound and exquisite poetry that John of the Cross ever wrote.

 

Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.

 

 

Silhouelk Mark Gunn Flickr 27703036162_53bc7c3800_o
Mark Gunn / Flickr

 

 

John of the Cross, St. 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Matthew, I 1995,  The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross,  Hodder & Stoughton, London.

 

Stein, E 2002, The Science of the Cross, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, 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

Quote of the day: 29 September

Edith Stein 1942 Echt
Echt, 1942 | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

Since September 29 we’ve had a new Mother who would like me to write something again.

Echt, 5 November 1940

 

Just now I am gathering material for a new work since our Reverend Mother wishes me to do some scholarly work again, as far as this will be possible in our living situation and under the present circumstances. I am very grateful to be allowed once more to do something before my brain rusts completely.

Echt, 17 November 1940

 

I am going about my new task like a little child making its first attempts at walking.

Echt, 16 May 1941

 

Please, will Your Reverence also pray a little to the Holy Spirit and to our Holy Father John for what I am now planning to write. It is to be something for our Holy Father’s 400th birthday (24 June 1942)

Echt, 8 October 1941

 

Because of the work I am doing I live almost constantly immersed in thoughts about our Holy Father John. That is a great grace. May I ask Your Reverence once more for prayers that I can produce something appropriate for his Jubilee?

Echt, 18 November 1941

 

Dear Mother,

… I am satisfied with everything. scientia crucis [science of the cross] can be gained only when one comes to feel the Cross radically. I have been convinced of that from the first moment and have said, from my heart: Ave, Crux, spes unica!

Echt, December 1941

 

Dear Sister Maria,

… while working on this task it often happened when I was greatly exhausted that I had the feeling I could not penetrate to what I wished to say and to grasp. I already thought that it would always remain so. But now I feel I have renewed vigor for creative effort. Holy Father John gave me renewed impetus for some remarks concerning symbols. When I finish this manuscript I would like to send a German copy to Father Heribert [Discalced Carmelite provincial in Germany] to have it duplicated for the monasteries.

The only reason I write so little is that I need all the time for Father John.

Echt, 9 April 1942

 

My dear ones,

A [Red Cross] nurse from [Amsterdam] intends to speak today with the Consul. Here, every petition [on behalf] of fully Jewish Catholics has been forbidden since yesterday. Outside [the camp] an attempt can still be made, but with extremely little prospect. According to plans, a transport will leave on Friday. Could you possibly write to Mère Claire in Venlo, Kaldenkerkeweg 185 [the Ursuline Convent] to ask for [my] manuscript if they have not already sent it. We count on your prayers. There are so many persons here who need some consolation and they expect it from the Sisters.

In Corde Jesu, your grateful

B.

Westerbork transit camp, 5 August 1942

 

Preface to Science of the Cross
Saint Edith Stein’s opening sentence of the foreword to The Science of the Cross.

 


Mother Antonia Ambrosia Engelmann, O.C.D. was elected prioress of the Carmel of Echt on 29 September 1940.  It is to her that we owe a debt of gratitude for Saint Edith Stein’s ultimate volume, The Science of the Cross. Gelber and Leuven (1993) note that although it was her final work, the manuscript was published as Vol. I in Edith Steins Werke. When Edith and Rosa were arrested in August of 1942, the completed portions of her manuscript had already been sent to a typist. Unaware of the fate that awaited her, Edith asks to retrieve that manuscript as if to continue working on it while in prison.

 

Kreuzeswissenschaft.pdf_page1-750px
Stein E 1954, Kreuzeswissenschaft, E. Nauwelaerts, Louvain. | Wikimedia Commons

 

Gelber L, Leuven R, and Stein E 1993, Self-Portrait in Letters 1916-1942, translated from German by J Koeppel, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

9 August: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

August 9
SAINT TERESA BENEDICTA OF THE CROSS
Virgin and Martyr

Memorial

Edith Stein was born to a Jewish family at Breslau on October 12, 1891. Through her passionate study of philosophy, she searched after truth and found it in reading the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Jesus. In 1922 she was baptized a Catholic and in 1933 she entered the Carmel of Cologne, where she took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was gassed and cremated at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942, during the Nazi persecution, and died a martyr for the Christian faith after having offered her holocaust for the people of Israel. A woman of singular intelligence and learning, she left behind a body of writing notable for its doctrinal richness and profound spirituality. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II at Cologne on May 1, 1987.

From the common of martyrs or of virgins

THE SECOND READING

(Edith Stein Werke (Freiburg, 1987), 11:124-126)

From the spiritual writings of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Ave Crux, spes unica!

We greet you, Holy Cross, our only hope! The church puts these words on our lips during the time of the passion, which is dedicated to the contemplation of the bitter sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world is in flames. The struggle between Christ and antichrist rages openly, and so if you decide for Christ you can even be asked to sacrifice your life.

Contemplate the Lord who hangs before you on the wood, because he was obedient even to the death of the cross. He came into the world not to do his own will but that of the Father. And if you wish to be the spouse of the Crucified, you must renounce completely your own will and have no other aspiration than to do the will of God.

Before you, the Redeemer hangs on the cross stripped and naked, because he chose poverty. Those who would follow him must renounce every earthly possession.

Stand before the Lord who hangs from the cross with his heart torn open. He poured out the blood of his heart in order to win your heart. In order to follow him in holy chastity, your heart must be free from every earthly aspiration. Jesus Crucified must be the object of your every longing, of your every desire, of your every thought.

The world is in flames: the fire can spread even to our house, but above all the flames the cross stands on high, and it cannot be burnt. The cross is the way which leads from earth to heaven. Those who embrace it with faith, love, and hope are taken up, right into the heart of the Trinity.

The world is in flames: do you wish to put them out? Contemplate the cross: from his open heart, the blood of the Redeemer pours, blood which can put out even the flames of hell. Through the faithful observance of the vows, you make your heart open; and then the floods of that divine love will be able to flow into it, making it overflow and bear fruit to the furthest reaches of the earth.

Through the power of the cross, you can be present wherever there is pain, carried there by your compassionate charity, by that very charity which you draw from the divine heart. That charity enables you to spread everywhere the most precious blood in order to ease pain, save and redeem.

The eyes of the Crucified gaze upon you. They question you and appeal to you. Do you wish seriously to renew your alliance with him? What will your response be? Lord, where shall I go? You alone have the words of life. Ave Crux, spes unica!

RESPONSORY

We preach Christ Crucified, a scandal to the Jews
and foolishness to the pagans,
but for those who are called, whether they be Jews or Greeks,
we preach Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The desire of my heart and my prayer
rises to God for their salvation;
but for those who are called, whether they be Jews or Greeks,
we preach Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.

PRAYER

Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

 

Auschwitz_main-gate
On the main gate for visitors to Auschwitz, the Nazis affixed this motto: WORK SETS YOU FREE. But for the millions who passed through the railway entrance, there was no freedom to be found and no truth in the motto.
As St. Teresa Benedicta wrote of the Nazis in a letter dated July 10, 1940:
“one must, after all, tell those poor people the real truth for once.”

St. Edith Stein Novena – Day 7

SCRIPTURE READING
Psalm 131

1 O Lord, my heart is not proud
nor haughty my eyes.
I have not gone after things too great
nor marvels beyond me.

2 Truly I have set my soul
in silence and peace.
A weaned child on its mother’s breast,
even so is my soul.

3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
both now and forever.

MEDITATION
The Science of the Cross 3.C.(3)

Passive Night as Crucifixion

It was mentioned earlier that the active entrance of the soul into the dark night is only possible for her because God’s grace anticipates her, draws her, and supports her along the entire way.

But for beginners this anticipatory and enabling grace does not as yet have the character of the dark night. Rather, God treats them the way a tender mother treats her tiny children—carrying them in her arms and feeding them with sweet milk: in all their spiritual exercises—in prayer, meditation, and mortifications—they receive abundant joy and consolation. This joy then motivates them to devote themselves to spiritual exercises. They are unaware of the imperfections that lie therein and how many faults they commit in their practice of virtue.

In order to be freed from all these defects we must be weaned from the milk of consolations and be fed with strengthening nourishment…. “After beginners have exercised themselves for a time in the way of virtue and have persevered in meditation and prayer and through the delight and satisfaction they experience in this have become detached from worldly things and have gained some spiritual strength in God, which helps them to restrain their appetites for creatures, and for God’s sake are able to suffer a little oppression and dryness without yearning to return to those better times when they experienced more pleasurable satisfaction and gratification… then… God darkens all this light and closes the door and the spring of sweet spiritual water they were tasting as often and as long as they desired…. Now he leaves them in such darkness that they do not know which way to turn in their discursive imaginings.”

PRAYER

Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

melanie-wasser-233297-unsplash
Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash
The Science of the Cross 
The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Vol. 6 
ICS Publications, Washington DC 
© Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc.

St. Edith Stein Novena – Day 6

SCRIPTURE READING
Mark 8:31-38

31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will rise to life.” 32 He made this very clear to them. So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But Jesus turned around, looked at his disciples, and rebuked Peter. “Get away from me, Satan,” he said. “Your thoughts don’t come from God but from human nature!”

34 Then Jesus called the crowd and his disciples to him. “If any of you want to come with me,” he told them, “you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. 35 For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for me and for the gospel, you will save it. 36 Do you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! 37 There is nothing you can give to regain your life. 38 If you are ashamed of me and of my teaching in this godless and wicked day, then the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

MEDITATION
The Science of the Cross 1.I.(6)

Content of the Message of the Cross

We have considered by what ways John penetrated the message of the cross. The following sections wish to show how this message was incorporated into the doctrine and life of the saint. To do so, it is necessary to set the content of the message before our eyes—for the time being, in a brief outline. We set it down here exactly as we find it expressed by the master of the science of the cross: “‘How narrow is the gate and constricting the way that leads to life! And few there are who find it’ (Mt 7:14). We should particularly note the exaggeration and hyperbole conveyed by the word how in this passage. This is like saying: Indeed the gate is very narrow, narrower than you think. . . . This path on the high mount of perfection is narrow and steep, it can only be trodden by wanderers who carry no burden that could drag them downwards. . . .  Since in this, God alone is the goal that one should seek and gain, then only God ought to be sought and gained. . . . Our Lord, for our instruction and guidance along this road, imparted to us that wonderful teaching—I think it is possible to affirm that the more necessary the doctrine the less it is practiced by spiritual persons—. . . . ‘If anyone wishes to be my disciple let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life, will lose it but whoever loses it for my sake, will save it’ [Mk 8:34-35]. Oh, who can make this counsel of our Savior on self-denial understandable, practicable, and attractive! . . . Annihilation of all sweetness in God . . . dryness, distaste, and trial. . . . the pure spiritual cross and the nakedness of Christ’s poverty of spirit. . . . A genuine spirit seeks rather the distasteful in God than the delectable, leans more toward suffering than toward consolation, more toward going without everything for God than toward possession, and toward dryness and affliction than toward sweet consolation, for it knows that in this consists the following of Christ and self-denial, while the other is nothing further than seeking oneself in God . . . Seeking God in God [sic] means. . . for love of Christ, to choose all that is distasteful whether in God or in the world.”

PRAYER

Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

EDITH - Annihilation of all sweetness in God

 

The Science of the Cross 
The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Vol. 6 
ICS Publications, Washington DC 
© Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc.

St. Edith Stein Novena – Day 4

SCRIPTURE READING
John 2:1-11

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said, ‘Woman why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water,’ and they filled them to the brim. ‘Draw some out now,’ he told them, ‘and take it to the steward.’ They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from – only the servants who had drawn the water knew – the steward called the bridegroom and said, ‘People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink, but you have kept the best wine till now.’

This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.

MEDITATION
A Chosen Vessel of Divine Wisdom:

Sr. Marie-Aimée de Jésus of the Carmel of the Avenue de Saxe in Paris 1839–1874

Nazareth

“A page from the great book of God’s mercy” is what Sister Marie-Aimée called her life. This life is very simple in its external course, but has an inner richness that can only be hinted at in a short biography. Those who would like to know more about it must refer to her own writings.

A delicate face of angelic purity and spirituality, big, soft, and deeply penetrating eyes that have knowledge of the supernatural world as well as of their natural home—this is Dorothea Quoniam, who in Carmel received the name of Marie-Aimée de Jésus. This name tells the secret of her life: “loved by Jesus” with an overwhelming, jealous love that laid total claim to her from her very first day.

Occasionally, [Jesus] revealed himself to her in human form and each time corresponding to her age, so that he seemed to grow up with her. When she was nineteen, her relatives wanted to arrange her future. One day they introduced a young man to her, and, after an opening conversation, let her know that he came as a suitor. Dorothea said not a word. She only smiled, but this smile was of a kind that made the poor fellow lower his eyes, blush, and wish that he had never come. The Lord had revealed himself beside this young man “in the full radiance of his virginal beauty” and said, “Compare!” At the same time, a smile of divine irony played about his lips and evoked its reflection in the face of his bride. The first attempt of this kind was rejected, and she knew how to refuse all thereafter with calm firmness.

She had already known when she moved to her “Nazareth” that her aim was the “desert” of Carmel. But she had to await the Lord’s hour.

PRAYER

Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

Sports for peace
Community members from El Sereif, North Darfur, perform traditional wedding songs in a cultural and sports event organized by UNAMID as part of the campaign “We need peace now”.
Learn more about this photo by Alberto Gonzalez Farran, UNAMID
The Hidden Life: hagiographic essays, meditations, spiritual texts
Edited by L. Gelber and Michael Linssen; translated by Waltraut Stein
The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Vol. 4 
ICS Publications, Washington DC 
© Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc.
EDITH - In dryness and emptiness the soul becomes humble
The earlier arrogance disappears when one no longer finds in oneself anything that would give reason to look down on others; instead, others now appear to one to be more perfect; love and esteem for them awakens in the heart.

St. Edith Stein Novena – Day 3

SCRIPTURE READING
Psalm 63

.2 O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
.3 So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.

.4 For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.
.5 So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands.
.6 My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy.

.7 On my bed I remember you.
On you I muse through the night
.8 for your have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
.9 My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast.

MEDITATION
The Science of the Cross, I.6.(3)

Passive Night as Crucifixion

In the beginning, this being inflamed in love is not commonly perceived. The soul feels rather only dryness and emptiness, sorrowful fear and concern. And if she does feel any of the love, it is as a painful yearning for God, a smarting wound of love…

Now she is to travel on the constricted road, which is the night of the spirit. Of course, few will come so far, yet the advantages of the first night are very great: the soul is granted self-knowledge; she gains insight into her own misery, no longer finds anything good in herself and learns therefore to approach God with greater reverence. Yes, only now is she aware of the grandeur and majesty of God. Precisely this being freed from all sensory supports enables her to receive illumination and become receptive for the truth. That is why we find in the psalm: “In a desert land, without water, dry and without a way, I appeared before you to be able to see your power and your glory ” (Ps 63:1-2).

In dryness and emptiness the soul becomes humble. The earlier arrogance disappears when one no longer finds in oneself anything that would give reason to look down on others; instead, others now appear to one to be more perfect; love and esteem for them awakens in the heart. One is too occupied with one’s own misery to be concerned about others. Through her helplessness the soul also becomes subservient and obedient; she longs for instruction in order to reach the right way. Spiritual avarice is thoroughly healed; when one no longer finds any practice to one’s taste, one becomes very moderate and does whatever one does purely for the sake of God without seeking any satisfaction for the self. And so it goes with all imperfections. All the confusion and unrest disappear with them. Instead, a deep peace and a constant remembrance of God are established. The only care that remains is the concern not to displease God.

PRAYER

Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

EDITH - In dryness and emptiness the soul becomes humble
Photo by Marko Zupan on Unsplash
The Science of the Cross 
The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Vol. 6 
ICS Publications, Washington DC 
© Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc.

St. Edith Stein Novena – Day 2

SCRIPTURE READING
Psalm 88

Lord God, you are my Savior.
    I have been praying to you day and night.
Please pay attention to my prayers.
    Listen to my prayers for mercy.
My soul has had enough of this pain!
    I am ready to die.
People already treat me like a dead man,
    like someone too weak to live.
Look for me among the dead,
    like a body in the grave.
I am one of those you have forgotten,
    cut off from you and your care.
You put me in that hole in the ground.
    Yes, you put me in that dark place.
Your anger presses down on me like a heavy weight.
    It’s like one wave after another pounding against me. Selah

You made my friends leave me.
    They all avoid me like someone no one wants to touch.
Like a prisoner in my house, I cannot go out.
    My eyes hurt from crying.
Lord, I pray to you constantly!
    I lift my arms in prayer to you.
10 Do you do miracles for the dead?
    Do ghosts rise up and praise you? No! Selah

11 The dead in their graves cannot talk about your faithful love.
    People in the world of the dead cannot talk about your faithfulness.
12 The dead who lie in darkness cannot see the amazing things you do.
    Those in the world of the forgotten cannot talk about your goodness.
13 Lord, I am asking you to help me!
    Early each morning I pray to you.
14 Lord, why have you abandoned me?
    Why do you refuse to listen to me?
15 I have been sick and weak since I was young.
    I have suffered your anger, and I am helpless.
16 Your anger covers me like a flood.
    Your attacks are killing me.
17 They surround me on every side.
    I feel like a drowning man.
18 You caused my friends and loved ones to leave me.
    Now darkness is my closest friend.

 

MEDITATION
The Science of the Cross, Chapter 22

The Doctrine of the Darkest Path

The darkest path is the most secure. This doctrine from The Dark Night is stressed with great emphasis in spiritual direction: “Since your soul finds herself in this darkness and void of spiritual poverty, you believe you are lacking everything, and that everyone has abandoned you. Of course, that is no wonder since you even think God has forsaken you. However, nothing is missing. . . . Whoever seeks God and nothing else is not wandering in darkness no matter how dark and poor you think you are. Whoever does not walk in presumption and does not follow her own tastes whether in what concerns God or creatures, and does not insist on her own will, whether internally or externally, will not stumble now. . . .  Let us live on earth like pilgrims and the poor, like the banished and orphans, in dryness, without a way, and without anything else, but always in hope.”
(Cf. Letter 19 to Doña Juana de Pedraza)

 

PRAYER

Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

 

EDITH - The darkest path is the most secure
All graphics on Elijah’s Breeze are created on Snappa
The Science of the Cross 
The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Vol. 6 
ICS Publications, Washington DC 
© Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc.

 

St. Edith Stein Novena – Day 1

SCRIPTURE READING
1 Kings 17:1-7

At the wadi Cherith

Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead said to Ahab, “As Yahweh lives, the God of Israel whom I serve, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years except at my order.”
The word of Yahweh came to him, “Go away from here, go eastward, and hide yourself in the Wadi Cherith which lies east of Jordan. You can drink from the stream, and I have ordered the ravens to bring you food there.” He did as Yahweh had said; he went and stayed in the Wadi Cherith which lies east of Jordan. The ravens brought him bread in the morning and meat in the evening, and he quenched his thirst at the stream.

 

MEDITATION
The Science of the Cross, Chapter 1

The Message of Sacred Scripture

In Carmel—under the mitigated Rule as well—the remembrance of the Prophet Elijah, the “Leader and Father of Carmelites” lived on. The Institutio Primorum Monachorum set the prophet before the eyes of the young religious as a model of the contemplative life. This prophet whom God commanded to go forth into the desert, to conceal himself by the brook Carith across from the Jordan, to drink the water of the brook and to be nourished by the food which God would send him, is to be the model of all who withdraw into solitude renouncing sin and all sensory pleasures, indeed all earthly things.

 

PRAYER

Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

Wadi Tiwi_Oman
Wadi Tiwi, Oman

 

The Science of the Cross
The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Vol. 6
ICS Publications, Washington DC 
© Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc.

 

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