The Wisdom of The Science of the Cross

Author: Anna Grzegorczyk

 

For Edith Stein philosophy is a path, which is to say that for the philosopher the search for truth represents the supreme goal of his life and thought. This kind of philosophical inquiry led Edith Stein to discover God, who is the Supreme Truth. Because of this Truth, Stein’s vision of the world deepened dramatically and her life took on a wholly new direction.  Christian philosophy became for her a philosophy in which the ways of true thought and authentic living converged.

 

Edith Stein’s way of thinking was foreign to me. I was used to a manner of cultivating knowledge that was far from rooting the truths of reason in Revealed Truth—one that treated religion as merely one aspect of culture. Only afterwards did the vicissitudes of life show me the uselessness of my philosophy in specific situations, where it was necessary to make choices in order to survive. It was then that the life-giving philosophy of Edith Stein revealed itself to me. Upon this fertile ground I was also able to cultivate daily spiritual exercises that enabled me to drag myself out of the existential abyss. Of course, it was not these alone, particularly in any mechanistic sense, that gradually restored meaning to my scholarly work and opened my eyes to the splendor and delight of life. The sureness of Stein’s philosophical path was confirmed in my own life: “Those who seek after the truth, seek God, even without their realizing it.”

The Light received “from above,” the spiritual guidance of sister Adamska and fr. Wojciech enabled me to see the world, other people, and finally my own self in a totally different light—through the window of love. My spiritual awareness was transformed and once again I began to delight in life. The world did not change, but the direction of my philosophical thought did, along with my expectations, my manner of acting in the world, and my relations with others. I owe this miracle of conversion mainly to Edith Stein. She continues to be my constant companion in life.

The advice she imparts to me in matters of finding inner peace, beginning and organizing the day, coping with a crisis, making difficult choices, and dealing with the aversions of those close and distant to me – all this resounds in my ears, and I try to listen to it. I strive to follow it and walk in the footsteps of Christ. It is thanks to Edith Stein that I found this wisest of Philosophers and Teachers.

Although I have been walking this Way for the past fifteen years, I cannot say that my life is any easier or free from suffering and numerous burdens. I often find myself asking Jesus and St. Edith Stein: “Why is it so?  Why do I suffer? Why do we suffer at all, my dearest ones, when we strive so hard to be good? Why must we, despite everything we do that it be otherwise, suffer so much hardship, so much loneliness, humiliation, and lack of understanding? It is then that Edith appears to me with her radiant personality, takes me by the hand, and teaches me in the spirit of that unfailing knowledge—the science of the Cross. It would seem to us that this kind of knowledge could only frighten and discourage—not for us, but rather for saints, which we are not and do not even wish to be. This is what I thought for so long, even while studying the works of Edith Stein. Yes, studying her, but not entering deeply into her life, mind, and message. But this was already a sign of progress in my working on my self.

I remember my wise and wonderful father urging me to read Edith Stein writings. I found myself stubbornly resisting his advice. “You should devote your pen to greater things than these petty rationalistic and methodological studies that lead nowhere” — he would say. “Write about man and God. There you will find things worthy of your philosophical interests.” These “lectures” of my father irritated me; indeed, they made me very angry. When my “scholarly” arguments (Stein’s writings were not philosophy at all; at best they were a throw-back to scholasticism and hopelessly out of date; reason and faith were irreconcilable)—when these arguments proved to be of no avail, I would simply stop up my ears and cease to listen to what my father had to say. Yes, cease to listen—i.e. turn a deaf ear to the call of the Transcendent, to the voice of God; not to obey Him.

I know now in hindsight that listening and being obedient were the most deficient areas of my life. But this a problem that almost everyone experiences and must deal with, if he is to grow as a person. Edith Stein also had to wrestle with this problem, both in her struggle to find her identity and on the level of philosophical inquiry. The result of this struggle was to achieve humility—that most difficult of all virtues, especially for the truth-seeker. Only then did Edith hear the voice that was Truth. As she herself observed: “I was indeed left with a keen insight into the weakness of others, but I did not use it to wound those close to me in the most sensitive areas; instead I tried to spare them. … I came to the conclusion that only in exceptional cases do people learn from their errors when confronted with the ‘truth.’ This only helps when the person earnestly seeks to improve himself and allows another to engage in such criticism.”

Hearing the voice of Truth and Wisdom that flows from the knowledge of the Cross has enabled me to benefit from Edith’s example and not only to rid myself of the “grievances of the ‘I,’” but also to discover the joy of existence and obedience to God. It has also enabled me to understand perfect joy—that gift of joyfully bearing humiliation; and also what is called Easter joy, that is, complete joy, the joy that flows from love lived to the very Cross, the joy that contains and embraces birth and death. A supernatural joy attained through abstinence, humiliation, and obedience—through transcending the self. Only through completing this stage of Edith Stein’s journey and reading her work, The Science of the Cross, have I been able to put fear behind me and understand myself, others, and life itself.

I have come to understand that the greatest realists are the saints. Of this my father tried hard to convince me: that it is precisely they who achieve Heaven—that most important and real of realities—already here, on earth.

 

Dr. Anna Grzegorczyk

 

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