Edith Stein, Finding What is Solid
The opening prayers of Mass can be a bit of a stew. The ingredients remind us that we are unworthy, we are sinners, there is often a plea to strengthen our faith, and hope that we continue the journey that will bring us to eternal life. Other vegetables or a cube of meat are thrown in at times.
Examining this first course of our banquet at the table of the Eucharist I do not like to admit my human fragility or say I am a sinner. Humbly acknowledging how much I need this grace is not so appealing. Faith says much: the unearned, infinite and creative love of the Father, Jesus leading us to the Father, and the Holy Spirit with us. And finally, the journey leading us eternal life. This is a stew, nourishing, some un-tasty tidbits.
I have heard the expression, “I’m in a stew”. It’s not common. It describes a negative feeling we can have. We are swirling around. The events of life are all blending together and the definites of joy, goals, priorities or loves are not setting our compass. Life is just one course, and the solution is not adding a bit more spice!
Our Scriptures this week, today, and the feast day of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, may speak to us in moments when we crave something solid.
This is the week of the Transfiguration. Tuesday, we heard Luke tell that event. Today and yesterday we hear what leads up to the Transfiguration in Matthew’s gospel. There is the first prediction of the passion, the rebuke to Peter after he acknowledges Jesus as Messiah (Peter and the disciples cannot comprehend that Messiah will suffer and so sagely suggest it be omitted!), Jesus then teaches all of us to follow him, taking up our cross. We must lose our life. Can we think of something to exchange for it? These are gospels that swirl us around.
Teresa Benedicta of the Cross had just completed her final book when soldiers came on August 2nd to take her, and her sister Rosa, from the Carmelite convent in Echt, Netherlands. They marched them down the street and put on a train to Auschwitz, their papers stamped, NO APPEAL. The punishment was swift, execution on August 9th. Tangential witnesses tell a little of the events, but we know from other Jewish people who rode the trains to the camps of the degrading treatment and cruelty inflicted on innocent men, women, and children. What a vortex of meaningless horror to be sucked into. Philosopher that she was she must have rewritten in her mind the pages of her last book, “The Science of the Cross” with these final experiences. A witness offers evidence of a commanding presence in a railroad yard at night, calling, really ordering water be bought to help her companions. With Rosa and a Sister of St. Joseph of Trevere, she went into the gas chamber to be one with her Jewish brothers and sisters.
Whatever our ‘being in a stew’ is, may the Scriptures nourish us, and the intercession, life, and death of Edith Stein help us. When life swirls around us, all that nourishes us, perhaps indistinguishable, is here. Take up the Cross, in losing life we will find.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.