The Mystery of Israel
Edith Stein does not view her baptism in the Catholic Church as a rupture with her Jewish identity. Quite on the contrary, she progressively discovers her roots after being baptized.
The date of her baptism bears a particular significance: January the first is the feast day of the Circumcision of Jesus. The day of her confirmation, on February second, is the day the Church celebrates the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The Christian initiation of Edith Stein happens on the occasion of these two traditional Jewish events!
Later on, she stands in solidarity with her people, undergoing unprecedented persecution at the hands of the Nazis. She identifies with Queen Esther, a biblical figure who intercedes for the Jewish people with King Ahasuerus. She discovers her mission of reconciliation, staying with her brothers and sisters, offering herself to the heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement for true peace, in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
To Fritz Kaufmann, a Jewish friend, she writes soon after her entry in the religious life, in a letter dated May 14th, 1934:
”Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede to God for everyone.”
Prayer of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross:
You reign at the Father's right hand
In the kingdom of his eternal glory
As God's Word from the beginning.
You reign on the Almighty's throne
Also in transfigured human form,
Ever since the completion of your work on earth.
I believe this because your word teaches me so,
And because I believe, I know it gives me joy,
And blessed hope blooms forth from it.
For where you are, there also are your own,
Heaven is my glorious homeland,
I share with you the Father's throne.
The Eternal who made all creatures,
Who, thrice holy, encompasses all being,
In addition has a silent, special kingdom of his own.
The innermost chamber of the human soul
Is the Trinity's favorite place to be,
His heavenly throne on earth.
To deliver this heavenly kingdom from the hand of the enemy,
The Son of God has come as Son of Man,
He gave his blood as the price of deliverance.
In the heart of Jesus, which was pierced,
The kingdom of heaven and the land of earth are bound together.
Here is for us the source of life.
This heart is the heart of the triune Divinity,
And the center of all human hearts
That bestows on us the life of God.
It draws us to itself with secret power,
It conceals us in itself in the Father's bosom
And floods us with the Holy Spirit.
This Heart, it beats for us in a small tabernacle
Where it remains mysteriously hidden
In that still, white host.
That is your royal throne on earth, O Lord,
Which visibly you have erected for us,
And you are pleased when I approach it.
Full of love, you sink your gaze into mine
And bend your ear to my quiet words
And deeply fill my heart with peace.
Yet your love is not satisfied
With this exchange that could still lead to separation:
Your heart requires more.
You come to me as early morning's meal each daybreak.
Your flesh and blood become food and drink for me
And something wonderful happens.
Your body mysteriously permeates mine
And your soul unites with mine:
I am no longer what once I was.
You come and go, but the seed
That you sowed for future glory, remains behind
Buried in this body of dust.
A luster of heaven remains in the soul,
A deep glow remains in the eyes,
A soaring in the tone of voice.
There remains the bond that binds heart to heart,
The stream of life that springs from yours
And animates each limb.
How wonderful are your gracious wonders!
All we can do is be amazed and stammer and fall silent
Because intellect and words fail.
Take a moment to treasure up all these things and ponder them in your heart (cf Luke 2,19)
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Col 4:6