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Friday, July 6, 2012

Writings of St. Clare - 3rd Letter to Bl. Agnes of Prague

The third letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague

To Agnes, most venerable lady and sister in Christ, deserving of love before all other mortals, blood-sister of the illustrious king of Bohemia, but now sister and spouse of the most high King of the heavens, Clare, most humble and unworthy handmaid of Christ and servant of the Poor Ladies, sends her prayer for the joys of salvation in him who is the Author of Salvation and for everything better that can be desired.

I am filled with such great joy about your well-being, your happiness, and your favourable successes through which, I understand, you are thriving on the journey you have begun to obtain the reward of heaven; and I breathe again in the Lord with elation equal to my knowledge and belief that you are supplying in wonderful ways what is lacking both in me and in the other sisters who are following in the footsteps of the poor and humble Jesus Christ.

I am indeed able to rejoice, and there is no one who could separate me from such great joy, since I already possess what under heaven I have yearned for, and I see that you, supported by some kind of wonderful claim on the wisdom that comes from God's own mouth, are formidably and extraordinarily undermining the stratagems of the cunning enemy, the pride that destroys human nature, and the vanity that beguiles human hearts.

I see, too, that you are embracing with humility, the virtue of faith, and the arms of poverty the incomparable treasure that lies hidden in the field of the world and the hearts of human beings, where it is purchased by the One by whom all things were made from nothing. And, to use as my own the words of the apostle himself, I consider you someone who is God's own helper and who supports the drooping limbs of his ineffable body. Who, then, would tell me not to rejoice about such great and marvellous joys? That is why you, too, dearest, must always rejoice in the Lord, and not let bitterness and confusion envelop you, O Lady most beloved in Christ, joy of the angels, and crown of your sisters.

Place your mind in the mirror of eternity;

Place your soul in the splendour of glory;

Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance;

And, through contemplation, transform your entire being into the image of the Divine One himself,

So that you, yourself, may also experience what his friends experience when they taste the hidden sweetness that God alone has kept from the beginning

For those who love him.

And completely ignoring all those who in this deceitful and turbulent world ensnare their blind lovers, you might totally love him who gave himself totally out of love for you, whose beauty the sun and moon admire, and whose rewards, in both their preciousness and magnitude, are without end. I am speaking about the Son of the Most High, to whom the Virgin gave birth and, after whose birth, she remained a virgin. May you cling to his most sweet Mother, who gave birth to the kind of Son whom the heavens could not contain, and yet, she carried him in the tiny enclosure of her sacred womb, and held him on her young girl's lap.

Who would not abhor the treachery of the enemy of humanity who, by means of the pride that results from fleeting and false glories, compels that which is greater than heaven to return to nothingness? See, it is already clear that the soul of a faithful person, the most worthy of God's creations through the grace of God, is greater than heaven, since the heavens and the rest of creation together cannot contain their Creator and only the soul of a faithful person is his dwelling place and throne and this is possible only through the charity that the wicked lack. For the Truth says: The one who loves me, will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and we shall come to him and make our dwelling place with him.

So, just as the glorious Virgin of virgins carried him physically, so, you too, following in her footsteps especially those of humility and poverty, can without any doubt, always carry him spiritually in your chaste and virginal body, containing him by whom both you and all things are contained, and possessing that which, even when compared with the other transitory possessions of this world, you will possess more securely. Regarding this, some kings and queens of this world are deceived; even though in their pride they have climbed all the way up to the sky, and their heads have touched the clouds, in the end they are destroyed like a pile of dung.

Now, I thought that I should respond to your charity about the things that you have asked me to clarify for you; namely, what were the feasts-and I imagine, that you have perhaps figured this out to some extent-that our most glorious father, Saint Francis, urged us to celebrate in a special way with different kinds of foods. Indeed, your prudence knows that, with the exception of the weak and the sick, for whom he advised and authorized to use every possible discretion with respect to any foods whatsoever, none of us who are healthy and strong ought to eat anything other than Lenten fare, on both ordinary days and feast days, fasting every day except on Sundays and on the Lord's Nativity, when we ought to eat twice a day. And, on Thursdays in Ordinary Time, fasting should reflect the personal decision of each sister, so that whoever might not wish to fast would not be obligated to do so. All the same, those of us who are healthy fast every day except Sundays and Christmas. Certainly, during the entire Easter week, as Blessed Francis states in what he has written, and on the feasts of holy Mary and the holy apostles, we are also not obliged to fast, unless these feasts should fall on a Friday; and, as has already been said, we who are healthy and strong always eat Lenten fare. But because neither is our flesh the flesh of bronze, nor our strength the strength of stone, but instead, we are frail and prone to every bodily weakness, I am asking and begging in the Lord that you be restrained wisely, dearest one, and discreetly from the indiscreet and impossibly severe fasting that I know you have imposed upon yourself, so that living, you might profess the Lord, and might return to the Lord your reasonable worship and your sacrifice always seasoned with salt.

Stay well, always in the Lord, just as I very much desire to stay well, and be sure to remember both me and my sisters in your holy prayers.

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