Let me hasten to say that this motion picture, though spiritual in scope, is also geared to be commercial: no use having a “message” if no one learns of it. And the message in EDITH is loud and strong: this is a time for unity among religions, especially in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Ant-Semitism is madness because to know Christ is to know Jesus the Jew.
That was Edith’s spiritual journey.
But how can this lady represent today a unifying factor among religions. Much of the answer to this is in the reading of the story. But let me briefly say that Edith did not STOP being a Jew to BECOME a Catholic. She did not betray “her people”.
She wasn’t Al Jolson who went vaudeville instead of being a Cantor.
Edith went from being Jewish to losing her faith in God to reestablishing her belief in God through Christ. She says it clearly: “I had given up practicing my Jewish religion when I was a 14- year-old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God.” And this “return” was through, in and with Christ. She, Edith the Jew, returned to the religion of her Fathers by falling in love with a Jew named Jesus.
Her LOVE for Jesus came through spiritual union with Jesus. Not from a priest. Not from the Church. There was no formal “conversion”. It was One-on-One, with her. One-on-One with Christ!
As it was with Simone Weil. In creating and filming this story, we will be working with both the Jewish and Catholic communities to make this a truly ecumenical effort. And in that respect, I hope we will succeed in building bridges that will help lead to peace among peoples of different religious and ethnic backgrounds. My SHAKA ZULU series helped to do that in being influential in instigating the fall of Apartheid in South Africa.
But EDITH is also the story of a woman, – a woman whose search for Truth and Love make her one of the most compelling characters in human history. This is a lady who does not know the meaning of compromise, of mediocrity. In his poem, WHISPERS OF IMMORTALITY, T.S. Eliot describes the fulfillment of mankind’s true nature as “the awful daring of a moment’s Surrender…”, that extraordinary moment in which we dare to abandon the wasteland of inauthentic lives, — lives squandered 8 for the sake of accumulating wealth, fame, prestige, comfort and power. That enchanting moment in which we leave behind us the ponderous and debilitating weight of material gain to surrender ourselves to a whisper of immortality.
And that moment is the moment of Edith Stein: The Moment in which the bliss of true fulfilment can be achieved in “the awful daring of our surrender” to something greater than ourselves. In that effort is the path to true immortality – even if that path leads through Auschwitz.
October 22, 2016