“I admonish and exhort all my sisters, both those present and those to come, to strive always to imitate the way of holy simplicity, humility, and poverty.” —The Testament of St. Clare
For many of us, simplicity is something that we desire but struggle to achieve. It’s so easy for us to accumulate worldly goods. We can buy things with the click of a button or a quick swipe of a card. But do we really need those things? Do they bring us true joy? St. Clare didn’t think so, and she encouraged her sisters to come to that realization as well. It is in this simplicity, humility, and poverty that St. Clare found herself most able to be open to Christ. She wanted that joy for others, too.
Gaze | Consider | Contemplate | Imitate
The word transformation is not part of our everyday vocabulary, so to understand why it is important to Clare’s spiritual path we need to ask, What does it mean to “transform your being into the image of the Godhead”? The word form refers to a concrete expression of an inner content (or image). Form connotes shape, size, appearance, and other characteristics which express matter or, we might say, inner being.
The way something appears is its form. A cross, for example, may be composed of metal, wood, or iron—that is its content or matter. But it is shaped by two bars perpendicular to each other—that is its form. To transform is to change the appearance or shape of something, from one expression to another. For example, if an iron cross is melted down, it could become a horseshoe. The matter would remain the same (it would still be iron) but the form would change.
When we apply these philosophical categories of “form” and “matter” to the human person, we have something a bit more complex than a horseshoe but the idea that form can change is similar. Clare’s directive to Agnes, to transform her being into the image of the Godhead, is another way of saying “be transformed into the one you love.”
Be changed—not in little ways but in a big way—the way of being a person. Let the life of God be your life. Let the face of God be your face. Become a new incarnation of the Word. Let Jesus Christ live in you. You will not change the genetic makeup of who you are but when the power of God’s grace is at work in you, when love seizes your heart, you will express yourself in a new way, the way of love. –from Clare of Assisi: A Heart Full of Love
May your example and instruction
inspire us to strip away what we don’t
need and embrace the blessings of
simplicity, humility, and poverty.