On December 13, 1925, a few days before she celebrated the fourth anniversary of her baptism, Edith Stein wrote to her friend, the Polish philosopher Roman Ingarden. She talks about her university days in Gottingen and Freiburg in Breslau: «I was a bit like someone who is in danger of drowning […], before my soul stands the image of the dark and cold tomb. What else should there be except fright and infinite gratitude for the mighty arm that seized [you] and led [you] to a safe land? ».
How can this young Jewish intellectual, one of the first women to attend German university at the beginning of the 20th century, who was the brilliant student then the assistant of the great philosopher Edmond Husserl, say how to be «familiar with depressions»? And write the 6.10.1918: «The best way to accommodate this pitiful world would be to take leave».
During this terrible First World War, several events have deeply shaken:
– Death on the front of many students and death of the Magister Adolf Reinach
– In her work, the failure of the collaboration with Edmond Husserl
– In her emotional life, non-reciprocity in his love for Roman Ingarden
It took Edith to descend to the lowest point of the parable. It is there that the Lord came to meet her, to grasp her and give meaning to her life. On vacation in the summer of 1921 at her friends’ philosophers home, the Conrad-Martius, she reads the autobiography of Teresa of Avila, the great Spanish saint, reformer of Carmel; she will later write: «No one has penetrated as deep into the soul as those men [and women] who have embraced the world with a burning heart and were then freed from entanglement by the mighty hand of God and trained in their own interiority, in the greatest interiority».
The consequences are not long in coming. 6 months later, she receives baptism on 1.1.1922. To her friend and godmother, the philosopher Hedwig Conrad-Martius who questions her one day about what happened, she answers: «Secretum meum mihi» (= my secret is mine). These words express what Paul says about baptism: «You are dead, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God» (Col 3,3).
The secret of Edith is perhaps contained in the name of religion she received when she took the habit in the Carmel of Cologne, 15.4.1934: Sr Teresa Benedict of the Cross.
– Teresa – because of the influence of Teresa of Avila in her conversion,
– Benedicta – because a special link connects her to the Benedictines and St Benedict.
– «Of the Cross» is finally his «title of nobility» which «indicates that God wants to unite to him the soul under the sign of a particular mystery».
For Edith, Good Friday on Golgotha is the center of world history. In poverty, the loneliness of Christ, she finds her poverty and loneliness. As soon as she takes charge of this Cross («scientia crucis»), she realizes that it is an easy yoke and a light burden. The cross will be for her the stick that will lead easily to the heights.
In the suffering and death of Christ, our sins were destroyed by fire. When we accept this in our faith and receive the whole of Christ in a confident gift, which means that we choose and take the path of the imitation of Christ, he leads us through his suffering and his cross to the glory of his resurrection. It is the crossing of the expiatory fire towards the blessed union of love. After the dark night, begins to radiate the living flame of love.
Peace be with you !
This is the Paschal greetings of the Risen One
To bring peace He became a man […]
So that the Father again directs his gaze on the earth
And let peace come also for those who are lacking.
This was accomplished only by Your death.
As You had completed the bloody work of the Atonement,
And put your spirit in the hands of the Father,
He then stooped down to the earth
And took them away, with you, in His bosom.
Without ever drying up, the river of peace springs …[…]