Holy poverty

Daily Reading for August 11 • Clare, Abbess of Assisi, 1253

As I hear of your holy conduct and irreproachable life, which is known not only to me but to the entire world as well, I greatly rejoice and exult in the Lord. . . . For, though you, more than others, could have enjoyed the magnificence and honor and dignity of the world and could have been married to the illustrious Caesar with splendor befitting you and His Excellency, you have rejected all these things and have chosen with your whole heart and soul a life of holy poverty and destitution. Thus you took a spouse of a more noble lineage, who will keep your virginity ever unspotted and unsullied, the Lord Jesus Christ.

When you have loved [Him], you shall be chaste;

when you have touched [Him], you shall become pure;

when you have accepted [Him], you shall be a virgin.

Whose power is stronger,

Whose generosity is more abundant,

Whose appearance more beautiful,

Whose love more tender,

Whose courtesy more gracious.

In Whose embrace you are already caught up;

Who has adorned your breast with precious stones

and has placed priceless pearls in your ears

and has surrounded you with sparkling gems

as though blossoms of springtime

and placed on your head a golden crown

as a sign [to all] of your holiness.

Therefore, most beloved sister, or should I say, Lady, worthy of great respect: because you are “the spouse” and “the mother” and “the sister” of my Lord Jesus Christ, and have been adorned resplendently with the sign of inviolable virginity and most holy poverty: Be strengthened in the holy service which you have undertaken out of an ardent desire for the Poor Crucified, who for the sake of us took upon Himself the passion of the cross and delivered us from the power of the Prince of Darkness to whom we were enslaved because of the disobedience of our first parent, and so reconciled us to God the Father.

From one of the letters of Clare of Assisi to Agnes of Prague, quoted in Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology, edited by John R. Tyson (Oxford University Press, 1999).

Past Posts