By Fr. William Kraus, OFM Cap.
THE CENTER OF LIFE: JESUS CHRIST, CRUCIFIED AND RISEN
Gaze upon that mirror each day, O Queen and Spouse of Jesus Christ, and continually study your face in it, that you may adorn yourself completely, within and without, covered and arrayed in needlework and similarly adorned with the flowers and garments of all the virtues, as is becoming, the daughter and dearest bride of the Most High King. Indeed in that mirror, blessed poverty, holy humility and inexpressible charity shine forth as, with the grace of God, you will be able to contemplate them throughout the entire mirror.
Look, I say, at the border of the mirror, that is, the poverty of Him Who was placed in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes…. Then reflect upon, at the surface of the mirror, the holy humility, the companion of blessed poverty…. Finally contemplate, in the depth of this same mirror, the ineffable charity that He chose to suffer on the tree of the Cross and to die there the most shameful kind of death (Letter IV).
The motherly invitation of Saint Clare to Saint Agnes and to us, to contemplate Jesus from the circumference of the mirror to its central depths and deepen in us the virtues of poverty and humility and charity, underlines for us a fundamental dimension of our Franciscan-Clarian spirituality: its Christo-centrism. Jesus Christ, Crucified and Risen, is the center of human and salvation history, the only Gospel for the redemption of the world. Saint Bonaventure calls Jesus the “coincidence of opposites” that unites the divine and the human, the eternal and the temporal. Christ is the axis of all the virtues and the force that centers all life.
In the world of physics there are two forces: the centrifugal force that tosses matter outwards, dispersing and dividing it; and the centripetal force, that draws matter to a central point, that gathers and unites it. What might be the centrifugal forces in the consecrated life? Absence from personal and liturgical prayer, lack of reading the Bible and other spiritual literature, jealousy and envy and criticism among the sisters, breaking the enclosure and silence, a wrong use of the television and Internet and electronic communications. These activities and omissions disperse and divide us, and distract us from focusing our attention on Jesus, the center of our life and fraternity.
But Saint Clare was more concerned with nourishing the wheat than with tearing out the weeds, so it is important to concentrate on the centripetal forces in our midst. Fidelity to daily contemplation, liturgical prayer well celebrated, reading the Word of God and sharing faith, practices of penance and reconciliation, the local chapter dedicated to fraternal growth, carrying the cross of sickness and caring for a sister who is ill, working side-by-side for the sustenance of the monastery, thanking and affirming each of the sisters in the community.
These centripetal attitudes and practices not only unite the sisters to Christ and to one another, but also attract other young women to consider our way of life for their vocation in the Church.
In these days of celebrating the Feast of Our Mother Saint Clare and continuing our observance of the jubilee of her vocation, let us gaze with great confidence on the Mirror that is Jesus, the axis and the center of our holiness and our fraternity. May the acclamation of the Book of Revelation be more and more realized in our monasteries: I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb (Rev. 21,22).