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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Speculum sanctitatis

St Clare of Assisi to Bl Agnes of Prague, who was becoming a Franciscan nun to the general disapproval of friends and family.

'Happy, indeed, is she to whom it is given to share this sacred banquet, to cling with all her heart to Him Whose beauty all the heavenly hosts admire unceasingly, Whose love inflames our love, Whose contemplation is our refreshment, Whose graciousness is our joy, Whose gentleness fills us to overflowing, Whose remembrance brings a gentle light, Whose fragrance will revive the dead, Whose glorious vision will be the happiness of all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem.

'Inasmuch as this vision is the splendour of eternal glory Heb. 1:3), the brilliance of eternal light and the mirror without blemish (Wis. 7:26), look upon that mirror each day, O queen and spouse of Jesus Christ, and continually study your face within it, so that you may adorn yourself within and without with beautiful robes and cover yourself with the flowers and garments of all the virtues, as becomes the daughter and most chaste bride of the Most High King. Indeed, blessed poverty, holy humility, and ineffable charity are reflected in that mirror, as, with the grace of God, you can contemplate them throughout the entire mirror.

'Look at the parameters of this mirror, that is, the poverty of Him Who was placed in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. O marvellous humility, O astonishing poverty! The King of the angels, the Lord of heaven and earth, is laid in a manger! Then, at the surface of the mirror, dwell on the holy humility, the blessed poverty, the untold labours and burdens which He endured for the redemption of all mankind. Then, in the depths of this same mirror, contemplate the ineffable charity which led Him to suffer on the wood of the Cross and die thereon the most shameful kind of death. Therefore, that Mirror, suspended on the wood of the Cross, urged those who passed by to consider it, saying, 'All you who pass by this way, look and see if there is any suffering like My suffering!' (Lam. 1:12). Let us answer Him with one voice and spirit, as He said: Remembering this over and over leaves my soul downcast within me (Lam. 3:20)! From this moment, then, O queen of our heavenly King, let yourself be inflamed more strongly with the fervour of charity!'

from the Fourth Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague, ?1253, in R.J. Armstrong and I.C. Brady, ed. & tr., Francis and Clare: The Complete Works, Classics of Western Spirituality (New York, 1982), pp.204-5.

NB The sort of mirror to which the metaphor refers is probably slightly concave polished metal, so different parts reflect the image differently.