In her book The Science of the Cross, Edith Stein wrote the following extraordinary summary of the spiritual life. Edith’s influence on my own thinking is more profound than is the influence of any other philosopher. It was this passage that opened the intellectual door for me to realism in general, the difference between Platonic and Aristotelian realism, and the beauty of Carmelite spirituality when framed in what she calls a “holy realism.” Edith Stein bridged the gaps and unified the individual paradigms and axioms that made up the content of my spirituality, religion, and philosophy. Through Stein’s beautiful and expansive mind, it all became a unified whole, a model to share with others and the inspiration for my next movement from potency to act toward the final vision implanted in my heart many years ago.
“The example of the saints demonstrates to them how things should actually be: where there is genuine, lively faith, there the doctrine of faith and the ‘tremendous deeds’ of God are the content of life. All else steps aside for it and is determined by it.
This is holy realism: the original inner receptivity of the soul reborn in the Holy Spirit. Whatever the soul encounters is received in an appropriate manner and with corresponding depth, and finds in the soul a living, mobile, docile energy that allows itself to be easily and joyfully led and molded by that which it has received, unhampered by any mistaken inhibitions and rigidity. Such realism, when it leads a holy soul to accept the truths of faith, becomes the science of the saints. If the mystery of the cross becomes its inner form, it turns into a science of the cross.
Holy realism has a certain affinity with the realism of the child who receives and responds to impressions with unimpaired vigor and vitality, and with uninhibited simplicity…
…But the Crucified One demands from the artist more than a mere portrayal of the image. He demands that the artist, just as every other person, follow him: that he both make himself and allow himself to be made into an image of the one who carries the cross and is crucified.
Expressing the image externally can be a hindrance to doing so internally, but by no means must this be so; actually, it can serve the process of interior transformation because only with the production of the external expression will the inner image be fully formed and interiorly adopted.
In this manner, when no obstacle is placed in its path, it becomes an interior representation that urges the artist to effectively reproduce it in action, that is, by way of imitation, externally.
And yes, the external image, one’s own artistic creation, can always serve to spur one on to transform oneself interiorly according to its meaning.”