Teresia Benedicta a Cruce

I just wrote a post about Mother Teresa, an article which pointed out the importance that suffering plays in the Christian life.  Suffering has redemptive value and is a gift to the person who wishes to suffer as another Christ. 

Interestingly, I was having a conversation with a group of seminarians over breakfast, and one of them made a very good observation.  Edith Stein’s religious name is often translated, “Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.”  However, anyone with a certain rudimentary knowledge of Latin will tell you that it is a bad translation.  The Latin name that she chose was “Teresia Benedicta a Cruce.”  ‘A Cruce’ cannot be translated ‘of the Cross’ by any stretch of the imagination:  if she wanted her name to be “of the Cross” she would have used the genitive “Crucis.”  The name Benedicta is actually a passive participle, and the “a Cruce” appears to be an ablative of agent (perhaps personifying the Cross).  Thus, a better translation seems to be Teresa, Blessed by the Cross.  This is one of those times when what appears to be a dry, boring academic exercise provides profound spiritual depth.  Edith Stein’s very name makes the beautiful point that the Cross is not something to be avoided, but a source of strength and blessing.  How many of us Christians actually see the crosses we bear as blessings? 

I recently joked with a couple of seminarians that I am the epitome of a Catholic intellectual:  I like to take everything–even my suffering–in an abstracted, non-particularized way.  While I am not always desirous that God give me more suffering, sometimes I ask God to allow me to participate in carrying His Cross to a much greater degree; however, God wisely does not grant my requests as I would like Him to because only He is fully aware of how profoundly weak I am.  He knows that if He gave me too much of His Cross at one time, its weight would crush me.  I complain enough about my crosses as it is; I am only ready to see a Cross upon my back as a blessing in the abstract.

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