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Abiding in Christ: Celebrating the Feast Day of St. Clare – August 11

Abiding in Christ: Celebrating the Feast Day of St. Clare – August 11

 

“Abide in me as I abide in you.” “Abide in my love” (John 15.4-10)

What does it mean to abide?

The dictionary definition is to “accept or act in accordance with…” In other words: to observe, to follow, to uphold, to heed.
It is being caught up in, wrapped up, knowing the closeness of another, the intimacy that comes with being that close to someone. When Jesus gives to his disciples this message of abiding in him and being connected to the true vine, he is inviting them into the depths of his relationship with God. He is encouraging them to stay connected and focused on him and his message. In other words, to follow him into the passion and through to the resurrection. While they stumble along with their focus and determination in this charge, they do abide with him. Even when they deny, doubt or despair still they abide. They are drawn back time and again to remain connected to the true vine. It is the depth of the love of Christ in which they abide and which in turn they carry with them. The same is true for us.

The same can indeed be said of St. Francis and St. Clare. St. Francis so caught up in abiding in Christ that it was contagious and soon his followers were caught up in this abiding love. His abiding in Christ fueled Clare’s desire to leave her comfortable life and abide in the depth of this love and let it shape her way of life. St. Clare’s desire to abide in Christ and in his love peppered her correspondence. In a letter to Agnes of Prague, she wrote: “What a great and praiseworthy exchange: to leave the things of time for those of eternity, to choose the things of heaven for the goods of the earth, to receive the hundred-fold in place of one, and to possess a blessed eternal life.” Clare’s vision, her gaze on Christ was beyond the surface and time constraints in which she lived. They were the depth of her heart, they guided her actions and strengthened her resolve to abide in Christ, her groom, no matter what.

In Hosea (2.16,17, 21-22) we read: “I will espouse you in love, mercy and fidelity, and you shall know the Lord.” This is how St. Clare abided in Christ. She trusted in his love, mercy and fidelity to her. When she felt she was being denied the dignity that was hers she turned to her Beloved who was also denied the dignity which was his. When she doubted, she returned to her Beloved’s gaze once again. When she was filled with despair she went within to the place of true light and her Beloved’s fidelity once again strengthened her branch on the true vine

Last year when I was in Assisi, I was taken by a few places and thanks to inquiries was able to narrow it down to a top five. Two of those top five were San Damiano where St. Clare lived and the Basilica of St. Clare built in her honor.

The Basilica houses the original San Damiano Cross and the remains of St. Clare. Being in this space gave me a true sense of abiding. To gaze, contemplate and consider that cross the same way that Clare and Francis did is indeed an accepting or acting in accordance with the life of our Savior. I was in awe of how captivated this image held me, a sense of being connected to the true branch.

San Damiano, when you can visit without a lot of tourists, allows for deep peace to consume you. To simply be instead of seek, to simply be instead of perform, to simply be instead of defend. As you make your way up the stairs of the cloister and come to the sleeping quarters, one’s breath is taken away as you touch the floor upon which our holy Sister Clare slept and breathed her last breath. This truly is abiding, to give one’s all, one’s whole life to abide in the love of Divine Love.

Dear Sister Clare,
your spirit has been
stirring among us,
touching our hearts,
reminding us to go deeper,
to not get stuck
focusing on the object
rather to focus on Christ
seeing him present
in the places,
the time,
the moments,
the vistas,
the stones,
the relics
to see beyond the man made-ness
and see that all speaks of
Christ calling us to life.

Sister Clare,
you who trusted,
who persevered,
who had vision,
who knew depth of heart,
awaken in us these gifts
so that with you
we may be caught up
in the heart of Christ,
our brother and savior.
Amen.

Sister Clare, pray for us.