We are beloved companions on a mystic journey, sharing our solitude and holding the world in the divine prayer of love.

"Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory. Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance. And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation."
- from St. Clare's third letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent Begins at Casa Chiara

I've dedicated this day to Chiara of Assisi, and searching for images of her I came across this one by John R. Howley, St. Clare , a painting that set fire to my heart. Even the brush strokes, seen clearly if the image is enlarged, communicate something of the meaning of her life--her love and devotion to Lady Poverty. At the same time I find the painting a mystical representation. Look at her eyes, shrouded in mystery as was her life. We have legends. Some letters survive. We have her Rule. There's an embroidered robe she allegedly made for Francis. We have reference to her in the first of Thomas of Celano's biographies of St. Francis. And we have the Vatican's canonization document. Other than that we have probably the most vital and clear portrayal of her life: the lives of those who find her as a sister to their own hearts, who live her dreams, who write poetry and music according to her rhythms, who excavate the legends of her for their deeper and purer meanings, who paint her image according to the mirror in their own hearts.

It is said in one legend that she so longed for Christ one Christmas Eve that she was drawn to the chapel in San Damiano to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Her sisters were awakened by a strange sound--the crying of an infant. They hurried towards the sound and found Chiara, standing before the altar, holding the Christ Child in her arms.

It is as Meister Eckhart wrote some years later: "What does it avail me if this birth [of Christ] takes place unceasingly, and yet does not take place within myself?"

Chiara herself wrote in the fourth of her letters to Blessed Agnes of Prague:

"O Marvelous humility
 O astonishing poverty!
The King of angels,
The Lord of heaven and earth,
Is laid in a manger!"

And Murray Bodo, O.F.M. gives us these lines of a poem:

She writes:
      Gaze into that mirror each day
            until you see your own face within it.

That contemplation wherein Jesus' face
       becomes your own
             Adorns your whole body

with the flowers and garments
        which are all the virtues:
              at the border of the mirror

the swaddling clothes of poverty;
         at the surface the laborer's tunic of humility;
                in the depth of the mirror

the nakedness of Love....

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