Edith Stein and the Fifth Marian Dogma

Updated: May 30, 2020


Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, martyr of the Church.


Edith Stein’s Mariology stands in full support for the fifth Marian dogma now under consideration. She writes amply of Mary as Virgin-Mary, Advocate and Mediatrix, and as Co-redeemer of total humanity.


In the face of today’s skepticism regarding Mary as Virgin Mother, a skepticism which stems from pagan intellectualism and a corrupt lifestyle, the testimony of Edith Stein, this pure, holy woman who is considered one of the great intellectuals of the twentieth century, is indeed inspiring.


Purity was her forte in imitation of Mary. And, as we know, impurity is the root of all evils, impurity of mind, soul, spirit, and body.


Mary as Virgin initiated a new form of being—consecrated virginity—which becomes another status in the redemptive order.


Her example is vital to modern womanhood. Promiscuous violations of woman’s sacredness of being bring only misery.


She cites St. Augustine’s belief that Mary was not surprised by the angel’s announcement of the coming virgin birth, for she had already decided to remain a virgin. Her “Fiat” is the strongest act of free will that each Christian is to emulate. The reward is the invasion of a new, powerful higher life—only God fully responds to human self-giving. The more one forgets oneself in this total commitment to God, the more God’s life—the love of the divine heart—fills the soul. This life heals the sick and awakens the dead spirit within others as it cherishes, teaches, and forms.


Mary constitutes the feminine form of the Christian image. Of course, as the first and perfect follower of Christ, she is pertinent to the formation of male Christians as well.

Mary is the symbol of the spiritual maternity of the Church. She leads all humanity to Christ. Our Lady stands with Christ at the crucial point of history. She is the Mother of the living not because posterity comes from her physically, but because the Mystical Body of Christ is embraced by her maternal love. And she is the original cell of this body, the first to be sanctified by Christ and impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Edith Stein writes that before the Son of Man was born of the Virgin, the Son of God conceived this very virgin as one full of grace and God conceived the Church in and with her.


Edith Stein speaks of Mary as Mother of the Church in her writings of the 20s and 30s. In 1965, more than 30 years later, Mary was titled Mater Ecclesiae in the documents of Vatican Council: “In her the Church holds up and admires the most excellent fruit of redemption and joyfully contemplates, as in a faultless model that which she herself wholly desires and hopes to be.”


Edith Stein wrote in 1931:


The Church is that humanity newly created and redeemed through Christ. The original cell of all redeemed mankind is Mary, in whom first took place the purification and sanctification through Christ and impregnation by the Holy Spirit. Before the Son of Man was born of the Virgin, the Son of God conceived of this very virgin as one full of grace, and He created the Church in and with her…. The Church is thus the mother of all the redeemed (Essays on Woman 238-239).


And she refers to Mary as the heart of the church as well as its mother.

Christ is Head of all humanity and redeemer of all creation. Thus all humanity forms the Mystical Body of Christ. Only the Passion of Christ can save the world, Edith Stein writes, and she wanted a share in that Passion. She is known to have knelt for many hours before a picture of Our Lady of Sorrows.


She writes that it is Mary who shows us the path of human participation in Christ’s redemptive action. She cites Mary as Co-redemptrix and our entry into the redemptive order. She wrote this many years before John Paul II describes Mary in Redemptor Hominis as “the point of entry into the divine and human dimensions of the mystery of redemption in Christ.”


She writes that Mary replaces Eve as the true Mother of the Living because she is the first fruit of the reversal from fallen to redeemed n