Lent with St Edith Stein Day 29: The Castle of the Soul

Lent with St Edith Stein Day 29: The Castle of the Soul


“God is in the inmost depth of the soul and nothing that is in her is hidden from Him. But no created spirit is capable by itself of entering this enclosed garden or of getting even a glimpse of it.”

St Edith Stein, The Science of the Cross


               St Edith uses several metaphors to describe the inner workings of the soul, some of which, as she notes, can seem contradictory. For the sake of brevity and to help little souls like myself, I’m going to describe it using one simple metaphor in my own words.

               The human soul is like a castle that we build throughout our lives. At the center of the castle is the hearth, and that is where God dwells within us. As we pass through our life experiences, our castle grows larger. We add rooms full of things that harm us: our fear of rejection, our desire for approval, our envy, our grudges. We also add rooms full of good things: our love for our families, our desire to help others, our determination, our loyalty. But most souls don’t live at the hearth of the castle where God is; we stay in the outer rooms.

               The thoughts of the heart, the first movements of the soul, begin at the hearth, where God lies, which is our center. But since we stay in the outer rooms, these first movements do not come to us pure. They pass through the maze we’ve built for ourselves and are altered by the time we become aware of them. For example, you may see a homeless man on the street with broken shoes. A movement arises in the hearth of the soul to help, but it passes through our suspicion, our greed, our selfishness and by the time it reaches us, it has become disgust.

               Not all external observances make it to our hearth. If our castles are full of sensuality, in satisfaction of the senses, we can block off the hearth of our soul. Things can’t get into that place where God lives. If we live a life of self-satisfaction, we cut off our empathy. A life that is all about pleasing ourselves leaves us incapable of even considering making a sacrifice to help someone else.

               The part of our soul that lives in the hearth is our most authentic self. This is the part of the soul that the angels guard and demons fight to gain access to. This is the part of the soul that Heaven and Hell fight for. It is our innermost self, our pure self. It is who God meant for us to be before all of the heartache caused us to put up defenses. Before seeking self-pleasure shrouded our empathy. And we build such a maze around it and stay as far away from it as we can.

               Growing closer to God is becoming more of ourselves. The closer we get to the hearth of our souls, the less our reactions and judgements are filtered by our sinful nature and our selfishness. And if we can get to that place where we abide in the hearth of our soul, then our actions and reactions will come from a place of purity. We will be united to the Divine Will. We can easily discern our path forward because we won’t have to worry about the first movements of our souls being corrupted by all the sin and personal hangups they had to move through to get to us. We will be able to perceive them in a purer form.

               St Edith writes that “The question is answered once and for all by the one who is drawn by God himself into the soul’s own inmost region and has surrendered there to the union of love. Nothing further is necessary than to allow God’s Spirit to direct and lead, for the Spirit will distinctly urge him on and he will always and everywhere be certain he is doing the right thing.”

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