Oct 2, 2020
Taught the Way
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat.
And I will give him a white stone,
and on the stone a new name written
which no one knows except him who receives it.
We must be taught the Way. Our joy is found when we find and follow in it, in Him. So many go without someone to show them the Way. Unlike the Ethiopian of Acts 8 who says, “How can I unless someone guides me?” We often go without a Teacher, the Master who gives us this gift, Himself.
Our holy Mother Clare, in her Testament, revels in the mercies of God, shown anew in that lover of the Crucified, Saint Francis. She encourages us to “consider the immense gifts that God has bestowed on us [immensa beneficia Dei in nobis collata] … not only after our conversion but also while we were still in the unhappy vanity of the world” (cf. TestCl 6-11). The gift of God, received from her “teacher” Francis, is a beneficia, a stable patrimony of ever flowing graces, a firm foundation of riches.
As Saint Francis was restoring the house of consolation, the place where he realized that the Crucified was with him in abandonment, that is, San Damiano, our holy father Francis went about, “as if drunk in the Spirit,” begging for oil for the lamps. For the love of God he cried, filled with the oil of joy-full gladness and prophesied of these Ladies who will glorify the heavenly Father (cf. L3C 24, Remembrance 13). This prophecy, opening up the Red Sea, drowning the enemies of our salvation, is fulfilled in Clare and the many who will follow after her.
We might even say that Francis himself begs the oil for the virgins, that they might enter in to meet the Bridegroom. The footsteps of Christ were made visible in the words and works of Francis. Clare heartens us to “consider in this the abundant kindness of God [copiosam benignitatem Dei] to us. Because of His mercy and love, [qui propter abundantem misericordiam et caritatem suam] He saw fit to speak these words about our vocation and election through His saint. And our most blessed father prophesied not only for us, but also for those who would come to this holy vocation to which the Lord has called us.” (TestCl 15-17).
San Damiano, the house of consolation, would soon be a storehouse of the health-full oil of charity and joy, as it is sung in Psalm 45:7: “you love righteousness, and hate wickedness: therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.” The unhappy vanity of the world, which seeks to glorify what is not-God, yields in the true and merciful love Who is Christ to that new path.
In the Testament, Clare spurs on, “Strive always to imitate the way of holy simplicity, humility and poverty and also the integrity of our holy way of living, as we were taught from the beginning of our conversion by Christ and by our blessed father Francis. From them, not by any merits of ours but solely out of the largesse of His mercy and grace [sed sola misericordia et gratia largitoris], the Father of mercies has spread the fragrance of a good reputation…” (TestCl 56-58). Christ embraced poverty, we often wish to flee from it. Personally and in our relations with others we struggle to embrace what we might call in our fallenness the bitter leprosy of existential need. Real sweetness is found only in Cruciformity.