Sunday, August 9, 2009

Feast day of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, better known as Edith Stein. She's one of my favorite carmelite saints. I admit, there are so many carmelites I love! But she's a special one. For a very nice, biography, visit this site. Please keep in mind that the article was written about a year before her canonization.

I think it's unfortunate that many people feel intimidated by her writings. Yes, some of her works are very profound (like St Thomas Aquinas'). But I can assure you that if you read her letters, you will change your mind and heart right away. The biographies by Hilda C Graef (The Scholar and the Cross:The Life and Work of Edith Stein) and Sr Waltraud Herbstrith (Edith Stein: A Biography) are excellent. Below is an excerpt of one of St Teresa Benedicta's essays.

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us!


"The Savior is not alone on the way of the cross. Not only are there adversaries around him who oppress him, but also people who succor him. The archetype of followers of the cross for all time is the Mother of God. Typical of those who submit to the suffering inflicted on them and experience his blessing by bearing it is Simon of Cyrene. Representative of those who love him and yearn to serve the Lord is Veronica. Everyone who, in the course of time, has borne an onerous destiny in remembrance of the suffering Savior or who has freely taken up works of expiation has by doing so canceled some of the mighty load of human sin and has helped the Lord carry his burden. Or rather, Christ the head effects expiation in these members of his Mystical Body who put themselves, body and soul, at his disposal for carrying out his work of salvation. We can assume that the prospect of the faithful who would follow him on his way of the cross strengthened the Savior during his night on the Mount of Olives. And the strength of these cross-bearers helps him after each of his falls. The righteous under the Old Covenant accompany him on the stretch of the way from the first to the second collapse. The disciples, both men and women, who surrounded him during his earthly life, assist him on the second stretch. The lovers of the cross, whom he has awakened and will always continue to awaken anew in the changeable history of the struggling church, these are his allies at the end of time. We, too, are called for that purpose.

Thus, when someone desires to suffer, it is not merely a pious reminder of the suffering of the Lord. Voluntary expiatory suffering is what truly and really unites one to the Lord intimately. When it arises, it comes from an already existing relationship with Christ. For, by nature, a person flees from suffering. And the mania for suffering caused by a perverse lust for pain differs completely from the desire to suffer in expiation. Such lust is not a spiritual striving, but a sensory longing, no better than other sensory desires, in fact worse, because it is contrary to nature. Only someone whose spiritual eyes have been opened to the supernatural correlations of worldly events can desire suffering in expiation, and this is only possible for people in whom the spirit of Christ dwells, who as members [Glieder] are given life by the Head, receive his power, his meaning, and his direction. Conversely, works of expiation bind one closer to Christ, as every community that works together on one task becomes more and more closely knit and as the limbs [Glieder] of a body, working together organically, continually become more strongly one.

But because being one with Christ is our sanctity, and progressively becoming one with him our happiness on earth, the love of the cross in no way contradicts being a joyful child of God. Helping Christ carry his cross fills one with a strong and pure joy, and those who may and can do so, the builders of God's kingdom, are the most authentic children of God. And so those who have a predilection for the way of the cross by no means deny that Good Friday is past and that the work of salvation has been accomplished. Only those who are saved, only children of grace, can in fact be bearers of Christ's cross. Only in union with the divine Head does human suffering take on expiatory power. To suffer and to be happy although suffering, to have one's feet on the earth, to walk on the dirty and rough paths of this earth and yet to be enthroned with Christ at the Father's right hand, to laugh and cry with the children of this world and ceaselessly to sing the praises of God with the choirs of angels this is the life of the Christian until the morning of eternity breaks forth."

-- Volume IV of the Collected Works of St Edith Stein

Edited by Dr L Gelber and Michael Linssen, ocd

Copyright ICS Publications

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happy Feast Day Sister! Thank you for sharing this post, very nice. I admit I know very little about St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, but the little that I have read or documentaries I have seen are very interesting and her spirituality as you said, "St. Thomas Aquinas like." I do believe that she has something, (message) for everyone. I prayed a Rosary for your intentions, hope all is going well. Please pray for me. John K.