St. Edith Stein 7: What Only Remains
I’ve ended my Lenten reading of St. Edith Stein with a novena to her which I found at the web site for the Association of Hebrew Catholics. The novena follows the saint’s last days, from the day she was taken from her convent until the day on which she was killed. There is so much that one thinks, and might say, about the significance of these events that I’m not going to say anything at all in this brief note, but will mention only one thing preserved from her conversation during her last days:
The world is made up of opposites, but in the end nothing remains of these contrasts. What only remains is great love.
That last phrase reminds me of a song by the very gifted singer and songwriter Patty Griffin, “One Big Love.” The song begins with an invitation to an impulsive trip to the beach, and seems to be about letting go of inessentials:
Trading in my things
for a couple of wings
on a little white dove
and one big love
That’s very obviously open to a Christian interpretation, although I would guess a generically and conventionally “spiritual but not religious” intention is more likely. But the song as a whole seems to have more to do with giving in to emotions than to anything outside the self.
“One big love” makes me think in turn of Bob Marley’s “One Love,” a more specifically religious song but one still seemingly wrapped up with the idea of surrendering to good feelings:
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Let’s get together and feel all right
It’s one thing to be conscious of one great love in the midst of the pleasure of a day at the beach, or in the haze of a reggae-and-marijuana high. It’s quite another to maintain that consciousness on the way to one’s execution (and it’s clear that Edith Stein knew that she and her companions would not be returning from that trip to the East). If you can do that, you may well lay claim to an understanding of the Cross, and consider yourself somewhat qualified to write a book called The Science of the Cross, which Edith Stein was working on at her death.
I began my Lenten reading of the saint with the sense that her life and work have something important to say to me, and I have certainly found that to be true. I also think they are of particular importance to our time. This, as noted, is a very large subject, perhaps too large for me. For now I note only the way in which the death of this saint exhibits the full fury of Satanic hatred brought to bear against one who consciously embraced and united within herself the two phases of the revelation of God to Israel and to all mankind.
This also is the time to welcome into the Church my friend Dawn Eden who, like Edith Stein, is a Jew who believes that to be a Catholic is the fulfillment, not the negation, of her Judaism. Those who have followed Dawn’s story need no further comment; those who have not can read more at her blog, here and here.
St. Teresa Benedicta, Edith Stein, pray for me, for the Jewish people both inside and outside the Church, for the Church, and for the whole world.