The present Volume XI of Edith Steins Werketakes the reader into the spiritual-religious world in which Edith Stein, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, O.C.D., spent the last years of her life. It contains hagiographic essays, meditations, and spiritual texts. Its value in terms of the whole of her works lies mainly in that Edith Stein here makes explicit in various places occasionally directly but mostly indirectly something of which she speaks seldom or never in her philosophical works, her autobiography, or her letters: her own inner life.
Those who want to become more closely acquainted with Edith Stein’s personality may refer to her letters (Volumes VIII and IX in this series). The works in this eleventh volume are all the more significant because they stem from a time in Edith Stein’s life from which very few letters have been preserved.
The autobiography (Volume VII) and the description of the last part of her life by Father Romaeus Leuven, O.C.D., (Volume X) are complemented and deepened by this volume.
This volume was edited by Dr. L. Gelber and by the author of this introduction who has been allowed to continue the work of Father Romaeus Leuven, who died in 1983 and had worked for decades on the legacy of Edith Stein.
Edith Stein observes and describes in a philosophically grounded objectivity. To be sure, she remains the one who observes and describes and so reveals even if indirectly her interior nature.
The last part of her life is stamped by Carmel. So it is no wonder that Edith Stein in her reflections on Carmel, on its history and spirit, its prayer and guiding figures, puts into words insights and experiences that, because of her openness and honesty, also are significant for her own deepest life experiences concerning the relationship to divine life and the “little way,” in regard to the church, Carmel, grace, and the cross.
It is no accident that some great female figures are presented and considered in this volume. Nor is it a biased arrangement by the editors. Edith Stein’s thoughts on women and on their education are here expressed concretely and as true to life. Edith Stein clearly recognized the uniqueness of women, which motivates the contemporary involvement of women in politics and the life of the church in three respects. Their efforts should not be directed toward having but toward being; not toward possession and power, but toward community and humanity. A woman’s actions should not be based on competition and self-importance in all areas of her life, but rather on her feminine uniqueness, on the always personal character of her participation and her interests, on her striving toward wholeness and completeness, on her personality created in the image of God. (See Woman,Volume V in this series.@(1))
Repeatedly Edith Stein writes that what happens interiorly to a person, in that person’s life with God, remains hidden so that no one is to be informed of it. But she also says that the effects of God’s grace cannot remain hidden. By associating with God the human being grows toward his or her perfection. In this growing into oneself and toward God, one inevitably and irrevocably encounters the cross. This is “perhaps a quiet, life-long martyrdom of which no one has any idea,” or more outwardly, “the person zealously striving for God’s glory unfailingly evokes bitter opposition to this plan.”
Edith Stein saw through the events of the time before and during the second world war. She foresaw the holocaust. She had a premonition of her end. Precisely her hiddenness in God gave her the confident inner rest and outer composure with which she understood it, to place it in perspective: “God has not committed himself to leaving us within the walls of the cloister forever” (4 September 1941). “We do not know whether we shall see the end of this year” (6 January 1941).
In this volume, Archivum Carmelitanum Edith Stein, we want not only to present to readers Edith Stein’s conceptions of certain historical developments, graced persons, and a range of themes concerning the spiritual life, but also to facilitate a deeper look into the inner spiritual life of Edith Stein. And, last but not least, to also offer an orientation for one’s own life in the following of Christ.
Michael Linssen O.C.D.
Geleen Carmel, March 25, 1987