The Science of the Crossby Edith Stein
To help celebrate the fourth centenary of the birth of St. John of the Cross in 1542, Edith Stein received the task of preparing a study of his writings. She uses her skill as a philosopher to enter into an illuminating reflection on the difference between the two symbols of cross and night. Pointing out how entering the night is synonymous with carrying the cross,… See more details below
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To help celebrate the fourth centenary of the birth of St. John of the Cross in 1542, Edith Stein received the task of preparing a study of his writings. She uses her skill as a philosopher to enter into an illuminating reflection on the difference between the two symbols of cross and night. Pointing out how entering the night is synonymous with carrying the cross, she provides a condensed presentation of John's thought on the active and passive nights, as discussed in The Ascent of Mount Carmel and The Dark Night. All of this leads Edith to speak of the glory of resurrection that the soul shares, through a unitive contemplation described chiefly in The Living Flame of Love. In the summer of 1942, the Nazis without warrant took Edith away. The nuns found the manuscript of this profound study lying open in her room.
Because of the Nazis' merciless persecution of Jews in Germany, Edith Stein traveled discreetly across the border into Holland to find safe harbor in the Carmel of Echt. But the Nazi invasion of Holland in 1940 again put Edith in danger. The cross weighed down heavily as those of Jewish birth were harassed. Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross's superiors then assigned her a task they thought would take her mind off the threatening situation. The fourth centenary of the birth, of St. John of the Cross (1542) was approaching, and Edith could surely contribute a valuable study for the celebration. It is no surprise that in view of her circumstances she discovered in the subject of the cross a central viewpoint for her study. A subject like this enabled her to grasp John's unity of being as expressed in his life and works.
Using her training in phenomenology, she helps the reader apprehend the difference in the symbolic character of cross and night and why the night-symbol prevails in John. She clarifies that detachment is designated by him as a night through which the soul must pass to reach union with God and points out how entering the night is equivalent to carrying the cross.
Finally, in a fascinating way Edith speaks of how the heart or fountainhead of personal life, an inmost region, is present in both God and the soul and that in the spiritual marriage this inmost region is surrendered by each to the other. She observes that in the soul seized by God in contemplation all that is mortal is consumed in the fire of eternal love. The spirit as spirit is destined for immortal being, to move through fire along a path from the cross of Christ to the glory of his resurrection.
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Jesus saved all of us, but individuals must still be painfully purified before we can unite with God. So says Saint John of the Cross ((Juan de Ypes, 1542 - 1591) as sketched and commented by Saint Edith Stein (1891 - 1942) in her THE SCIENCE OF THE CROSS. Carmelite nun Edith Stein aka Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross completed her manuscript honoring another Carmelite Saint -- John of the Cross -- in 1942, the 400th anniversary of John's birth. Weeks later German Nazis sent Edith and her sister Rose by rail to Auschwitz where they were gassed to death. *** Mysticism has been an honored, orthodox component of Christianity since Saint Paul and of THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS. It is usually recommended by individual spiritual advisors only to a few penitent souls firmly resolved to do EVERYTHING, the MAXIMUM, that God demands, not the bare minimum required for God's freely given gift of eternal bliss. Some saints of the Carmelite School of spirituality were mystics themselves and counseled sinful perfection seekers about the joys, risks, delusions, triumphs and sufferings of union with God IN THIS LIFE sought through meditation, contemplation, the dark night of the soul and begging to share the sorrows of Jeus crucified. *** The Carmelite argument, lucidly described and commented on in THE SCIENCE OF THE CROSS runs: (1) The Original Sin of Adam and Eve ruptured the intended holy, peaceful painless relationship between all mankind and its loving Creator. (2) The Word made Flesh, Jesus, took upon himself all the sins of all men and through unspeakable personal torment made things right again with the Father. (3) But Jesus also left a personal task for each individual: take up your cross daily and come follow me. (4) All humans remain a mess, disoriented, prone to sin, with clouded intellects, radically in need of PURIFICATION. (5) If a minimalist follower of Jesus somehow bumbles through to death, he/she, although saved, is still unworthy of union with God. That soul must first suffer a sense of abandonment by God until pure enough to gaze on God. (6) Even maximalist souls training to receive God worthily must also suffer torments of purification. But they can do most if not all of their purifying suffering here on this earth. *** Edith Stein, step by step, describes Saint John's advice on how to prepare to be purified NOW if God wills and permits it. First, as advised by a good spiritual guide, the soul studies its own nature, including its senses, memory, intellect and will. It learns to convert satisfaction in sensual goods into a turn toward God. Increasingly the striving soul moves beyond sensual joys into purely spiritual joys associated with intellect and will through the virtues of faith, hope and charity. *** But the few lights and joys that God gives beginners in meditation, he increasingly removes from those advancing through contemplation. The supernatural, mystical road to union is through an increasingly dark, frightening tunnel. Suffering becomes intense and resembles those of Jesus who felt abandoned by his Father. *** John of the Cross in both ecstatic poetry and sober prose lays out one approved mystical path through punishing darkness into eternal light. Edith Stein, summarizes John's ideas and filters them through those of modern Phenomenology and her own theories of the soul. Not nearly as difficult a read as you might fear. -OOO-
To think that this book was origionally written before WWI and it is still going now and still as meaningful, thought provoking, and growth for even greater spiritual growth. It is wonderful.