Sunday, August 10, 2014

Collaborative ministry

Having presided this morning and officiated and preached this afternoon, I found myself approaching my desk with a distinct lack of enthusiasm for a homily tomorrow morning.I'm very fond of both John Henry Newman AND Clare of Assisi, but somehow neither of them seemed to strike a chord for me - partly, I think, because I'm not convinced that people actually need a word at 8.30 on a Monday morning.This being so, I appealed to twitter for inspiration - and within minutes tweets had come in from all directions...a non conformist friend pointing me to an RC hagiography, assorted Franciscans recommending pet sites, and at least two wise friends reminding me that Malcolm Guite's poetry is almost always the answer in any search for inspiration.
So, I did some patchwork - and because I am genuinely delighted at what I garnered from my assorted friends, I'm posting it here. Practically every word either comes from Clare herself, or from the collective wisdom of the my apologies if you feel I've borrowed your words without leave. I'm just amazed at what we found together, in the space of 10 minutes on a wet Sunday evening. Thank you all.

We become what we love, and who we love shapes what we become...

Words from Clare of Assisi, whose feast we celebrate today.
Friend and companion of Francis, and founder of the order of the Poor Clares, her love for Christ, her share in the vision of St. Francis and her extraordinary gifts as spiritual director, friend, and leader made her a shining light and a clear mirror of Christ for thousands in her lifetime, and she remains a light and inspiration to Christians from many denominations today.
She was above all committed to the Crucified Christ in His poverty, encouraging her sisters, in this letter to Agnes of Prague,to share the way of poverty as the heart of their vocation.

If so great and good a Lord, then, on coming into the Virgin's womb, chose to appear despised, needy, and poor in this world, so that people who were in utter poverty and want and in absolute need of heavenly nourishment might become rich in Him by possessing the kingdom of heaven, then rejoice and be glad! Be filled with a remarkable happiness and a spiritual joy! Contempt of the world has pleased You more than [its] honors, poverty more than earthly riches,  You know, I am sure, that the kingdom of heaven is promised and given by the Lord only to the poor: for he who loves temporal things loses the fruit of love. 

O blessed poverty,
who bestows eternal riches on those who love and embrace her!
O holy poverty, to those who possess and desire you God promises the kingdom of heaven
and offers, indeed, eternal glory and blessed life!
O God-centered poverty,whom the Lord Jesus Christ Who ruled and now rules heaven and earth,
Who spoke and things were made,condescended to embrace before all else!

If she had been familiar with the concept of a life-verse, hers might have been
Where your treasure is, there your heart is also” and she encouraged her sisters to focus constantly on Christ whatever the apparent cost.

What a great laudable exchange:
to leave the things of time for those of eternity,
to choose the things of heaven for the goods of earth,
to receive the hundred-fold in place of one,
and to possess a blessed and eternal life.

One radiant image in Clare's letters is the mirror. You can gaze at her words as you might gaze at an icon of Christ, tracing your own reflection in Christ’s love, and being transformed little by little into an icon of Christ yourself. Here is a template for the three fold way of prayer which others would express more fully...Gaze, consider, contemplate
or – as her Poor Clare sisters present it today...behold, hold and enfold - the Lord whose likeness you are called to bear in 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 entire being into the image
of the Godhead Itself through contemplation.
So that you too may feel what His friends feel
as they taste the hidden sweetness
that God Himself has reserved from the beginning
for those who love Him”

We become what we love, and who we love shapes what we become. 

Finally, some words by the poet priest Malcolm Guite, from his most recent anthology The Singing Bowl, which is every bit as wonderful as Sounding the Seasons

Santa Chiara, lovely claritas
Whose soul in stillness holds love’s pure reflection,
Shining through you as Holy Caritas,
Lucid and lucent, bringing to perfection
The girl whom Love has called to call us all
Back into truth, simplicity and grace.
Your love for Francis, radiant through the veil,
Reveals in both of you your saviour’s face.
Christ holds the mirror of your given life
Up to the world he gives himself to save,
A sacrament to keep your city safe,
A window into his eternal love.
Unveiled in heaven, dancing in the light,
Pray for this pilgrim soul in his dark night.

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