Building a personal Encounter with God – in the Company of Edith Stein

One key aspect of being in the image of God comes from how Edith followed the Carmelite Rule with its instruction to “ponder the Lord’s law day and night and keep watch in prayer” (cf. Psalm 1:2; 1 Peter 4:7). The notion of pondering the law evoked for her the lifelong study of the Hebrew Scriptures within Judaism; but as she now recognised the law to be Jesus himself in person, she advises us never to finish studying the Gospels so that we can try to become like him. Yet “studying”, in this context, can also and even especially mean to contemplate the person of Jesus, who is the fulfilment of the law. In this way, meditation with the mind gradually gives way to contemplation with a loving gaze.

Edith tells us that we truly need to pray the Gospels, as indeed we have since been taught by Vatican II (Dei Verbum25). This point is all the more important as without a relationship with God – a “personal encounter”, as Edith expresses it – the images of Jesus in the Gospels on their own are unlikely to create a deep knowledge of him. It’s rather like being shown photographs of an unfamiliar person: from looking at the surface of an image, we don’t learn a lot about what he or she is like. But if we know the person deeply and intimately, then all the details in the photographs are added to an ever richer, living portrait that we hold within our hearts.

Edith’s teachings on prayer, so as to grow in the likeness of Christ, take us yet further into contemplation. That’s because our own efforts at imitation, however necessary, can only take us so far. Transformation into God’s likeness is always received – in the silence and stillness of prayer in which we remain transparent before God and open to his creative action in the very depths of our being. As Edith writes: “No human eye can see what God does in the soul during hours of inner prayer. It is grace upon grace.”

Source: The Catholic network U.K.

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