‘Dating God’ in the Imagery of Clare of Assisi
It has been a while since I’ve spoken specifically about Franciscan Spirituality as it relates to the title of this blog, Dating God. At the core of this theme stands the belief that one way to understand the Franciscan spiritual tradition is to imagine one’s relationship with God as like a dating relationship. Sure, it sounds a little odd, but then again when we look at any metaphor used to describe human-Divine relationship, each comes across as odd and certainly incomplete (God as: Father, Mother, Spouse, Lover, Friend, etc.).
When we look at the writing of St. Clare of Assisi we can see with a clarity unparalleled in other Franciscan sources the intimacy with which the first female Franciscan approaches her Creator. Her reflections on God generally and the person of Jesus Christ more specifically overflows with a sense of closeness and affection that, should one substitute context for a love letter, one would hardly know the difference. In other words, at times Clare seems “head over heels” in love with God.
Here is but one example of her writing that reflects this spiritual worldview. This comes from Clare’s fourth letter to Agnes of Prague.
Happy, indeed, is she
to whom it is given to share in this sacred banquet
so that she might cling with all her heart
Whose beauty all the blessed hosts of heaven unceasingly admire,
Whose affection excites,
Whose contemplation refreshes,
Whose kindness fulfills,
Whose delight replenishes,
Whose remembrance delightfully shines,
By Whose fragrance the dead are revived,
Whose glorious vision will bless
all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem:
Which, since it is the splendor of eternal glory, is
the brilliance of eternal light and the mirror without blemish.
Phrases like “Whose affection excites” and “Whose delight replenishes” seems more Shakespearean than Franciscan, more romantic than prayerful. Yet, this is precisely the point. The poetry of one’s affection for the Creator, Sustainer and Savior of all creation could, perhaps should, express the intimacy of one swept up in the cosmic mystery that is God’s self-emptying love.